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Final Mission

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Final Mission


WASHINGTON D.C. - POTOMAC RIVER

The Soldier pulls his target’s body to the shore of the river painfully, his dislocated right arm making it difficult to swim and hold on to the dead weight, but he can’t confirm death if the body is lost. He drops it on the muddy shore and observes the gunshot wounds bleeding heavily, meaning the target’s still alive. Hear a helicopter, see it turn. The Soldier pulls a slim dagger from its holster, the only weapon left on him, besides his metal arm. He looks down at the man in the bloody red white and blue costume, and an image pops into his head…big and bright Captain America, laughing with…him? He shakes his head, damn distracting hallucinations…

He grips the blade in his metal hand and moves closer to finish the mission. The Soldier looks at the target’s face, and before he can stop himself, he brushes his right hand over the wet blonde hair…and quick picture flashes in his head of doing that before and getting a bright grin…shakes his head…Where do those visions come from?! I need maintenance. Must complete mission.

He watches as the target breathes out, a long rattling sigh, and doesn’t breathe in again. A new feeling comes over him, like his stomach just dropped into his boots. Strange. He takes a deep breath and bends down to put two fingers against the artery in it's neck. Nothing. The mission is done, he should leave, but he just stares at the target’s face. He feels like he's forgetting something, something important, but he can’t remember.

Frustrated, he stands and flips the blade to sheath it, and looks around to orient himself. The helicopter is coming in fast. The funny feeling in his stomach forgotten, he turns and just makes it into the nearby tree line when his right thigh flashes into white hot pain and he lands in the dirt. He’s surprised his leg is so damaged, the steel beam that trapped him must have hurt him worse than he thought. Why did the target set me free. Frown. Push the pain down, get up and keep going. Don't care where, just make some distance.

The sound of the helicopter is loud, and he can hear others coming in. The first one was a sleek black civilian model, but these sound lighter, quieter, probably Apaches or Cobras. With 30mm guns and thermal cameras. Gotta move. Or dig in to keep his body heat from showing up on the thermal imager. He thinks about setting the woods on fire, the heat would hide him, but setting a fire would take too long, and be too much effort. So he concentrates on moving, and avoiding the helicopters.

Going slower now, sweating, pain is making him lose time. His injured leg is trembling and weak, pain isn’t registering as pain, just breath-taking jolts of electric power, blacking out everything, between each careful step. But he keeps moving, watching the angle of the sun to keep heading in the same direction. Can’t move without pain, can’t go any faster. He stops, uses the knife to cut his pant leg to see the injured area. His dislocated shoulder doesn’t help, and the pain of using it combined with the jolts in his leg makes him fall …the world’s spinning. Lay there, focus on your thigh, it's all bruised black and covered with blood.

One of the searching helicopters is coming closer. He looks around and sees a large tree, and puts it between him and the helicopter. He leans against it, exhausted. Thirsty. Losing blood. Shoulder hurts. Leg on fire. He listens to the helicopter fly up, coming close and then going away, doing figure 8’s in a search pattern probably. Hear other choppers, farther away. Where is the back up team? He uses his knife to shakily start cutting the bottom off his black undershirt. Tearing the strip off with his left hand, he ties it tight over the cut in his leg.

Hears barking. Dogs. Damn. Carefully, he turns around to face the tree, and uses it for cover as he checks the surrounding area. He starts to step out from behind it and **PAIN** ...falls back…. darkness...


 

Searching the water for Steve, and keeping away from the disintegrating helicarrier, Fury, Sam and Natasha see a black-clad man dragging something, a body, out of the river. Fury immediately pushes the helicopter towards them. That’s probably the Winter Soldier, Sam says He came out of nowhere on the 3rd ‘carrier and kicked Cap over the edge, then he tore off one of my wings and kicked me off too. Cap hung on, and must have had to fight his way through him to the core. 

Nat looks at him with big eyes. The Soldier! He's back... She looks down at the pair by the water.I hope that's not Steve. We've got to get down there, now she says, her calm voice contrasting with her worried expression.

They watch the black-clad man bend over the still form, then walk quickly for the woods and disappear. They're close enough now to see the patriotic colors on the motionless body. They glance at each other, concern growing. Fury gets on the radio and calls for air support and a search team. He brings the black helicopter as close as he can to hover over the water close to the shore. The trees won't let them get any closer. Sam, followed closely by Natasha, slip out of the side door into the water.

They surface and swim to the shore where Steve lies in the mud, wet with water and blood. Sam runs to him and falls to his knees at his side on the blood-soaked ground, and feels for a pulse. Hey Steve, he says, but there’s no reaction, and no pulse. Sam begins CPR, pressing Steve’s chest and breathing for him.

He's unconscious with no pulse, starting CPR Sam says into the comm unit. Fury replies I put out a call for help, but with the three 'carriers down all emergency services are overloaded. Sam frowns and resolutely keeps on performing CPR. A few minutes later Fury says I have a Coast Guard medevac inbound. ETA 20. Don't stop.

I'm not stopping, even if the Soldier comes back. Sam thinks.


 

Natasha watches Sam begin CPR on Steve, and puts her feelings aside. She looks for tracks in the damp soil. She finds boot prints leading into the trees, and then a larger area of broken underbrush. Looks like he fell, probably injured she thought, but no blood, internal?. She follows the signs in the dirt and brush easily, he had not tried to hide his trail. She tells Fury via the earpiece I’m tracking the Soldier, I think he's injured but we need a special forces team on the other side of the trees, to cut him off. Fury snorts I'll see what I can get, be careful.

Natasha frowns as she follows the trail of disturbed branches and scuffs in the fallen leaves as fast as she dares. He must really be hurt, to not care about the trail he’s leaving, she thinks. Or he's leaving it on purpose. She slows her pace a bit, looking carefully into shadows and up into the branches. She does a 360 every few yards, to check her surroundings. No one trails the Winter Soldier and lives to tell about it.

Nat begins to notice blood drops and stains here and there, never higher than about 2 feet. She figures he must be looking for a place to go to ground, he can't keep going and not stop to take care of himself for very long. She hears helicopters working on both sides of her. Fury, is there a way to tell those pilots that I’m down here too, and not to fire on me? Fury responds I’ll try, but if they see you first, put your hands up. Frustrated sound from Natasha. I know, just don't shoot at them. Fury orders, shaking his head.


 

Sam stops CPR when the Coast Guard helicopter arrives and another medic takes over. There’s still no pulse. Sam uses the medics’ small flashlight on Steve’s eyes to test for any reaction. Nothing. Rescue personnel place Steve in a basket and winch him quickly up into the helicopter. Where are they going? Sam asked Fury in his earpiece Walter Reed, just a few minutes by air Fury says Come down the shoreline about 100 yards, there’s a clearing large enough to land in. Sam meets the helicopter and they take off, flying over the devastation of the 3 crashed helicarriers to Walter Reed Medical Center.

They land on the helipad on the hospital grounds just in time to see the ambulance with Steve inside leave for the hospital. Fury says I have to go back and watch for Natasha, keep me updated. Sam nods, then jumps out and runs across the field to the emergency entrance. He finds the group with Steve and follows them to surgery, where the nurses quickly cut his uniform to clear his upper body and arms. The nurses set a defibrillator next to the gurney and stops CPR, while the doctor applies the paddles to his chest. "Clear!" Zap. Steve's body jerks up. The nurses quietly speak commands and questions to each other, working quickly. Three tries, oxygen, more commands, but there's no reaction.


 

Natasha was having trouble hearing anything useful with the helicopters so close, so she focuses on looking for motion, watching for movement where there shouldn’t be. So far nothing but helicopters, wind in the trees, birds, bugs. She hears dogs barking far away, SWAT team search dogs? Then she hears a branch break, a dry snap, danger close. She freezes in place, slowly kneeling down. She could see through the underbrush, behind a large tree about 10 yards away something was moving.

Fury. I found him. Natasha says, quietly. She knew Fury would use her phone location to direct the police/special forces units. She hears two clicks in her earpiece as confirmation. She watches the log for a while and doesn’t see any more movement, so she creeps silently to her left. As she gets a new angle, she sees an arm, from the black-gloved hand down to the elbow, through the undergrowth. She stays still and watches it. No movement. She waits, still and quiet. Birds begin to land in the area, and hop around without fear, looking for seeds or bugs. She knows how to be still for hours, waiting patiently for just the right moment, and she remembers who taught her. Her breath quickens, remembering how terrifying he was. Is. So she waits and watches.

The helicopters had been called off, and it’s quiet. It’s going to be dark soon. She says softly Fury, ETA. After a minute, Fury responds 45. Nat’s already thinking about being in the dark forest alone trying to find an injured Winter Soldier, and that’s really not an option. So she makes the decision to get close enough to use one of her tranquilizing needles. But just as she stands, he moves. He gets to his feet, unsteady, then sees her.

He draws a knife from somewhere and flips it to his metal hand, so the blade is below his fist. Nat moves to her right, to use his injured leg against him, he can't seem to put weight on it. But he lunges at her, fast and powerful, and she dodges and rolls farther right, with him still coming on like a freight train. In the next split second she fires a Widow's Bite at him, center mass, and he goes down, his momentum sending him crashing down right where she had been. She uses the hypodermic in her wristband on him and after a minute, when he stops moving, she relaxes and takes a deep breath.

Nat radios The Soldier is secure, I used a tranq, but don’t know how long it’ll last on him. Are you OK? Fury asks, thinking that to get close enough to use the tranq it must have been a fight. I’m alright, she says, He's hurt, a broken leg maybe, but he's still fast. Just not fast enough, she smirks.


 

WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER

Sam is standing with Maria in front of a window, looking in at the covered, motionless body of Steve Rogers. The doctors and nurses had quietly shut down the equipment, and respectfully covered the body with a white sheet. One of the doctors entered the room and Maria goes to him, speaking quietly, asking questions about the next steps.

Sam just stands at the window, his silent tears dropping on the cold tile floor.

He hears people arguing, coming closer. Tony Stark and Pepper Potts are walking down the hall, surrounded by unhappy hospital administration types. Tony was almost shouting Where is Cap! Just tell me! He’s an Avenger! We’re the closest thing to family he has! Do I need to set my lawyers on this place just to get a question answered!!

Pepper looks around and sees Maria down the hall with the doctor, and their eyes meet. Maria shakes her head once, just slightly. The combination of Maria’s tired expression and the tiny movement tells Pepper everything. She turns to Tony, who is still arguing, and says Tony, Tony! Stop. Just stop.

What! Tony’s still shouting, his frustration building. Pepper quietly looks at him, and he calms. What? again, quieter.

Pepper leads him out of the group of anxious hospital personnel and over to Maria and the doctor. The doctor introduces himself and shakes Tony's hand. Tony asks "So how is Rogers?

The doctor pauses and takes a breath. "Mr. Stark, I declared Captain Rogers dead, at 1915 hours, I am sorry."

Tony stares at the doctor, while Pepper turns her head and leans into Tony's side. Tony starts "Wha..! What happened?" 

The doctor looks down at his clipboard, then back up to Tony. Captain Rogers was involved in a very violent assault. He suffered 4 gunshot wounds, one hitting his spine and exiting his abdomen. He was in hypovolemic shock from Class 4 blood loss before he arrived. He had also suffered a traumatic brain injury from the repeated heavy blows to his face. The blows also broke his nose, jaw, cheekbone and the supraorbital bone on his right side. He had been submerged and had water in his lungs. Our entire trauma team worked on him, but despite using a breathing tube, continuous CPR, defibrillation, and several drugs to try to restart the organs, all our attempts failed. His heart had stopped and he did not respond to resuscitation.

Tony stares at the doctor, looking like he's about to argue, then just lowers his head and turns away. Pepper puts an arm over his shoulder and touches her head to his and whispers to him, as they stand in the hallway, surrounded by quiet hospital workers.

Sam is still wearing the earpiece comm unit, and he’s followed the back-and-forth between Fury and Natasha, while he’s been at the hospital. He sighs and presses the send button, to tell them what’s happened. He's having trouble talking, so he cuts his statements short. Fury, Nat, the docs just called it, Steve...didn't make it. He lets go of the button, breathe, focus, push button again... Tony and Pepper are here, and Maria has things under control. What’s the situation there?

After a long moment, Natasha responds. We have the Soldier, he's unconscious and injured, we have Fury's helicopter but we need a secure hospital facility to hold him, any ideas? Sam glances at Tony and Pepper standing with the doctor. Wait one, I may have an answer.


Chapter Text

STARK TOWER - TONY'S OFFICE

Tony was sitting at a large desk in his office/lab/workshop in the Tower, glaring at Natasha. You know he can't stay here, right? He's wanted for gee, no one knows how many murders besides Captain America himself?

Yes, but there's no evidence and no witnesses, only rumors. No matter how many he's accused of, they won't stand up in any court. Natasha says.

Except for Cap. As soon as the trial for this helicarrier disaster begins, and the lawyers find out we're holding the freaking Winter Soldier, we'll be dragged into court, possibly for years. Tony spins his chair, frustrated.

Natasha just leans back in the chair, relaxed, legs crossed, and asks "For what? This is the only place that can hold him."

He's secure down in the cell block, yeah, but we can't legally keep him any longer without having him arrested. So everyone will know. My lawyers are working on it. But Nat, I'm curious," Tony says, leaning back in his chair, "why did you let the Soldier live? He beat Steve to death. You've never had the slightest problem killing anyone, so, what’s up?

Nat looks at him, expressionless, then gets up and slowly walks to the window, seeing the city spread out below. I know how this sounds, but he knew the Soldier. Steve wouldn't have wanted me to kill him, he wanted to save his friend. Tony stares at her, disbelief on his face. She sighs.

Steve told me after the fight downtown, that the Winter Soldier was his friend from before the war, Bucky Barnes. Steve said he recognized him during the fight on the highway when he pulled the Soldier's mask off. He was really torn up about it. He believed Bucky was dead after falling from a train during a mission with the Howling Commandos in '45, and there he was, alive. Tony just sits back in his chair and looks at her. Seriously? A Howling Commando? Barnes...the unit's sniper. My dad used to talk about them all the time.

Steve said he looked right at him and didn't know him. Maybe the Winter Soldier just looks a lot like Barnes. Natasha says.

Winter...that's not even... Tony mutters under his breath as he moves to a workspace and gestures to bring up a monitor in the air. JARVIS, show me everything we have on the Winter Soldier.

This information is from SHEILD's files, from information gathered as far back as the early 1950's. Jarvis says. Trained to be an assassin for Department X under the code name the Winter Soldier, he was said to be used only for covert wetwork missions. His kills became increasingly ruthless and efficient over time, but most of the reports of his actions are only rumor, no witness has ever come forward. The Winter Soldier has been credited with over 2 dozen assassinations over the last 50 years. Stories and reports spanning decades made him a legend and a ghost story in the intelligence community. There's only one photo of him, from a camera that was found in the street after the assassination of Jacques Dupuy, the French Defense Minister, in 1956. He can be identified by his left arm, a silver prosthetic, with a red star on the shoulder. The monitor shows a still photo of a man with a long rifle crouching beside the tank of a water tower, aiming at something below and to the left of the photographer, the metal left arm with the star clearly visible.

Ok, a ghost. JARVIS, are there any records of who he really is? A name? Tony asks, walking up to the photo Jarvis had put up in the air. No sir, but it is believed that he was a Russian soldier who volunteered for something called the Winter Soldier project.

The Winter Soldier project? Tony asks.

I found only a single reference, in relation to HYDRA, sir.

Tony spins his chair around to face Natasha So, Nat, you would have been in the right circles, you know anything?

Natasha sits down at the desk across from Tony and rolls a pen through her fingers, thinking. In Russia, when I was young, in training, the Winter Soldier was a terrifying phantom, a name the teacher used to threaten us, the stories that she told us were impossible, frightening even to us, who saw and did frightening things every day. We found out the Soldier was real when he was actually brought in to train us. The best of us. But he was taken away...for other missions, and we never saw him again. She frowns and pauses, thinking if what she remembers is true. That they had been partners on missions, and secret lovers. I didn't see or hear about him for years, only rumors, until he shot me and made me fail a mission, near Odessa. That was about 5 years ago Natasha quirks a smile, remembering. Then nothing. Until he shot Fury.

Tony looks at her thoughtfully. Then he shot you again. Well, you're the lucky one, from what I understand you're his only survivor, and twice! He makes a tight little smile at her. "He must like you." He misses her quick glance at him as he stands up and walks around the room, thinking. So, how can this ghost be Cap's friend from World War Two? Everyone knows from history class that Barnes died. The Commandos were on a mission to capture an enemy scientist, on a train? And Barnes fell off it? JARVIS, give us a history lesson.

Yes, sir JARVIS answers. The following is the original after-action report by Captain Rogers, dated 12 March 1945 0900 hours. Austrian Alps. Howling Commandos Captain Steve Rogers, Sergeant James Barnes and Private Gabe Jones. Mission: Board the HYDRA train Schnellzug EB912 carrying HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola, capture him, destroy the train and return to base. A zip wire was used to board the moving train by landing on the roof as it traveled. Jones moved forward on top of the train, Sergeant Barnes and I entered and began searching the cars. Moments after our arrival we were ambushed and split up by a team of armored HYDRA soldiers. I was fighting a heavily armed HYDRA soldier in one car, Barnes was pinned down by three soldiers in the following car. Barnes was able to kill two but ran out of ammunition. I killed the soldier in my car, opened the door between us and tossed Barnes my own .45, which he used to kill the last soldier. Minutes later another armored HYDRA soldier appeared and fired at us with a Tesseract-powered weapon. I deflected the electric blue beam with my shield, but it blew a hole in the side of the train and knocked me off my feet. Barnes picked up my shield and fired multiple rounds at the soldier, to no effect, and when the HYDRA soldier fired again, the power of the blast on the shield threw Barnes through the hole in the side of the train car. He hung on outside the train to a damaged railing. I killed the HYDRA soldier, then climbed out and tried to grab Barnes' hand, but before we could reach each other the railing gave way, and Barnes fell. It was hundreds of feet down the mountainside, to the iced-over river below, I don't believe he could have survived. Private Jones captured Zola and we stopped the train at the prearranged location. The train was destroyed by the SAS team sent to meet us. Zola was returned to England for interrogation. Sergeant Barnes’ body has not been recovered. JARVIS ends, quietly.


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

He wakes up, instantly aware. There’s no slow gathering of thoughts, just awake. Where am I? He’s lying on a bed under a dark gray blanket. His leg still hurts, but instead of the sharp, direct pain, it’s calmed down to a constant dull ache. I’ve been treated. He moves his arms and legs slightly, to see how he is secured, and is pleased to find that he is free. His shoulder has been reset, and doesn’t hurt anymore.

He lifts the blanket to see that he's in soft shorts, and has a tight wrap around the leg injury, no splint or cast. Except for a slight headache, all of his other injuries seem to have mostly healed. He turns his head to look around, but it he still doesn't want to move, still feeling tired and dizzy.

The room is large, with concrete floor and walls, no windows except a large one in the metal door, no other furniture, just a bright steel sink and a toilet behind a short wall in the corner. It’s dark but there’s a dim light above the sink. It’s like the other place, but no chains on the wall. And a bed. The bed is just a rectangular concrete platform raised off the floor about knee-high, no mattress. He runs his right hand over the side of the platform and quietly accepts that fact. New place, new rules.

There're no cameras that he can see, which is ok, he knows they're there, watching. Always. Room is cold but it's comfortable to lie here unshackled with no pain and have a blanket. He quietly considers what happened, and thinks about where he is. Time passes and he sleeps.

Awake again. No sounds. Room unchanged. This time he swings his legs over and sits on the edge. How much time have I missed. He frowns. The leg feels much better, so he stands gingerly and walks across the room, about six careful steps. Hurts, but it’s healing. He goes to the toilet to relieve himself, then walks back and forth and does a few stretches, then lies down on the bed again. Nothing to do but wait.

He goes over what he remembers of the last mission in his head, pleased that he can report the mission accomplished. His handler had told him that this target was the most important mission he'd ever had, and he must not fail. He thinks about the target, how he fought. A picture flashes in his head of fighting that man, but he wasn't the target then, he was just in the way. Different clothes but it was him. Frowning, he shakes his head, I need maintenance, remembering is not allowed.

Nervous, he gets up again, and goes to the door. Stops about an arm's reach away from it and tries to see out the thick glass window, but it's dark outside the door, all he sees is his reflection. He notices how the door is hung, no hinges on the inside, no bolts or screws. I need to be debriefed, he thinks, why are they waiting?

He listens for a minute, it's quiet except for the rustle of cold air blowing in through a vent in the ceiling. Taking advantage of being alone, even if he is being watched, he lies back down on the platform, closes his eyes and risks punishment by trying to remember. His mission before had been...the woman with red hair. That man, the last target, had attacked him just as he was about to pull the trigger on her. And later she had fired a grenade at him, forcing him to abandon the mission. Wincing, he remembers pain. I failed, and I was punished.

He shifts on the bed, suddenly uncomfortable. He tries to remember if there were survivors from other missions. A quick glimpse of red hair and a quick, vicious smile flashes through his mind. His failed mission. She had followed him through the trees and shot him with something electric, it had hurt (a Widow's Bite) he thinks. Because she is a Black Widow. He holds his breath for a moment to think. How did I know that? Breathing again, he remembers falling to the ground, and then nothing. She captured me. A slight shiver of fear goes through him. Who has me? Will I be punished? Despite the cold room, he starts to sweat.


 

STARK TOWER - TONY'S OFFICE

Natasha shakes her head, her red hair brushing her shoulders. Cap saw him fall. Down a mountain into a frozen river, an area so rough people still haven't gotten down there to search.

Tony throws up his hands and spins his chair. I'm not seeing how these two can be the same person. Are we missing something? If we somehow pretend that Barnes survived the fall and the ice, how's that explain how this man is maybe 30 years old?

Isn't Cap almost 30? He did it by freezing himself in the Arctic ice for 70 years. Maybe... Just then Jarvis cuts off Natasha, saying Pardon me, Mr. Stark asked me to alert him when the Soldier wakes.

Yes, is he functional? Tony asks. Yes sir, this time he walked around and has used the toilet. Put the video in here, this screen. waving his hand at a workstation. Video appeared in mid-air, showing the Soldier lying on the bed on his back, wrapped up in the blanket. Well that's pretty terrifying, Tony snorts. Nat glances at him for a second longer than necessary, narrowing her eyes. I want to talk to him. Natasha says.

Tony leans back in his chair and looks at her over his glass. You should know that the docs reported that he was really messed up inside. Evidently the metal arm moves so well because HYDRA linked it to his brain. With wires. And because the metal arm is so heavy, some of his shoulder bones and ribs have metal reinforcements. The x-rays look like the Terminator. Jarvis, put up the Soldier's images. He also has a body chemistry similar to Cap's with the super-soldier serum, but not the same. He heals really fast and is crazy strong, but his body didn't change like Roger's did. Someone must have used a second-rate serum on him.

Natasha tilts her chin to the side, thinking. So how did HYDRA get a Super Soldier serum? Wasn't your father one of the inventors?

Yes, but the formula was destroyed, you know that, when they used it on Cap and then HYDRA killed the head scientist. They must have tried to create their own. I'll look into that. Jarvis?

JARVIS puts up the x-ray of the Winter Soldier's head and upper chest, next to the monitor of the cell interior. The bones in the image are shades of gray, but the metal implants are bright white. His chest, ribs and right shoulder appear normal, with a few signs of breaks long since healed. But on his left side, parts of his spine and ribs have bright white shapes attached. The side view of the Soldier's head and neck show his cervical spine, in shades of grey, with bright white lines running up it from his shoulder to different points in his brain. боже мой Natasha breathes.

The left shoulder and arm were just a bright white shape, nothing could be seen through the metal. Tony spins the image to show another angle of the head. There are also signs of a severe injury to his head, enough to cause brain damage. The doctor said it was old and had healed a long time ago. But he also said the Soldier has recent burns on his scalp, spots all around his head, and he couldn't guess what made them.

Tony takes a sip of his drink, and continues. And, if that isn't messed up enough, the doctor reported that they found traces of the drugs scopolamine, bromantane and LSD in his blood. Among other things. Evidently, HYDRA wanted to make sure he did what they told him and to not worry about it. He'll be coming down from all that pretty soon, so be careful.


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

Natasha takes the elevator to the ground floor, then changes to a another elevator, this one has its own room, complete with a security guard. She nods to the guard, walks to the keypad and enters a password, and pushes the only button. The elevator descends for almost a minute. When it stops the door opens onto a room with one door, that she opens after entering a code into another keypad. That door opens into a hallway with six alternating steel doors.

She pauses for a second, then goes to door 116 and looks in the window. The Soldier is still lying on the platform, wrapped in the blanket, with his right hand behind his head. Natasha watches him for a second, then says Lights, and the ceiling brightens. The Soldier throws off the blanket and stands up, looking at the door.

Natasha pushes the button to enable the two-way speakers, and says солдат, отчет. (Soldier, report.) The Soldier's expression doesn't change, he stands still and responds in Russian, giving a very direct, concise report on his last mission. Nat watches him as he speaks, he looks forward, at the wall in front of him, and makes fists with both hands. He has a slight accent, but it isn't English.

She tells him стенд перед окном. (Stand in front of the window.) He walks over and stands about three feet away and looks at her through the glass. Nat watches him for any sign of recognition, but his eyes show no emotion, he just stands there. His body looks completely healed, except for the bandage on his leg.

Do you know me? she asks, in English.

Yes. In English, one word, no more.

Do you know who I work for?

SHIELD.

Do you know why you're here?

He frowns, Prisoner.

What is your name. Silence. He just looks at her. If anything his eyes change, now they're even more guarded and expressionless. Natasha asks again, more insistently What is your name, Soldier. He just looks at her, then down at the floor.

Natasha flips her hair, and tries a different tack. About 5 years ago, I was escorting an engineer near Odessa. You shot out one of my tires and we went off the road. I tried to protect the engineer, but you shot him, through me. Do you remember?

He was still frowning, but his eyes were moving, looking down and around. He says No quietly. She shrugs, I knew it was you, it was dark but I could see light glinting off your arm. His fists tighten, but he still just stands there.

Natasha says in Russian "I remember you before that. Do you remember the Red Room?" She stops, seeing the Soldier as he was then, huge and terrifying, teaching the group of young women efficient ways to kill quickly. And many ways to kill slowly and painfully.

She has a flash of memory... the Winter Soldier smiling at her, a quick grin, his hand on her cheek... with a quick shake of her head, she comes back to herself, focusing on the here and now. Natasha looks at the man standing in the cell and asks quietly, Do you remember? He is watching her, but his eyes have no light, no spark of memory. No.


Chapter Text

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

They had fed him earlier, on a shelf that slid out of the door. It was only a foam bowl of soup, no utensils, but it was good, and hot. He drank the broth, then tipped the bowl to his mouth and scraped in the meat chunks and vegetables and washed it down with a large paper cup of water.

But now he wasn’t feeling right. Dizzy. Hot. He’d saved the cup, and refilled it from the sink. Cold water tasted good but he wasn't feeling right. Frown.

He paces back and forth, from the wall to the door, thinking. That was the Black Widow. She remembered me teaching her? I shot her. I would have finished her if that man hadn’t gotten in the way. She’s good, but I had her. He says to himself “She was my mission.”

He stops, not seeing the cell anymore, but a girl, he can see she’s beautifully dressed, standing in front of him on a dark street, saying with a smirk “Oh he’s dead, he just doesn’t know it yet.” She pulls a pin out of her hair, and he watches it spill over her shoulders, glinting red under the street light. He has a rifle slung across his back, he had watched her flirt with the target through the scope.

He leans on the cell wall and closes his eyes…I was overwatch. Sometimes close, sometimes far…with her? He clinches his fists, thinking… teaching men, and teaching…girls? He slides his back down the wall, until he’s sitting on the floor. Girls? Teaching girls to fight? He sees fast little fists flying past his face, followed by swift spins and kicks, skinny legs, skirts. Pain. He remembers hurting them when they made mistakes. Crying girls never came back. He rubs his face. Headache.

So tired. Lean your head back against the wall and close your eyes. Head hurts. Room seems to be turning, slowly. Makes you lean sideways until your natural shoulder is on the cold floor. This feels like it should, like it always has. Except no one has come in to punish you. Sigh. Sleep.

Awake. Nauseous. Move carefully over to the platform and get under the blanket. Dizzy feeling, the whole room is spinning. Was the food laced with something? He feels so tired. Why don’t they come and do what they do…needles…table… I need to be reset, where are my handlers. Rumlow? Involuntary shudder. I’m losing control, I can’t…

Sound! Female voice says “Sorry to wake you, but can we ask you some questions?”

Adrenaline rush helps you jump to your feet even before she stops talking, and you stand still, looking at the window for a moment. There’s a woman’s face there you don’t recognize. Look down, getting dizzy again.

There are questions, but it’s hard to concentrate. Head hurts. Dizziness getting worse.

New voice, in Russian, same face as yesterday. Black Widow. She asks two simple questions, answer. No punishment…no, please… he thinks, trying to stand still. Ah... loses balance, tries to grab the platform but can’t catch it… falling… darkness…


 

STARK TOWER - TONY'S OFFICE

Tony tosses a letter on his desk, cocking his head at one of the lawyers, one male one female, in tailored suits sitting across from him. “Mr. Donovan, yes, I know he’s a “suspect”, and yes, I know he should be arrested. I pay you to work out these details.”

“I’m sorry to do this, but the Department of Homeland Security wants to bring Captain America’s alleged murderer to trial, as soon as the Helicarrier trial against S.H.I.E.L.D. is complete, and until then we’ll need to make sure the accused is held here securely and humanely.” 

The DHS lawyer gets up and stands by the desk. “Since you may be holding this killer, a man, a myth known as the Winter Soldier, I need to establish a few things before we can move forward.”

Tony smiles at her “Ms. Stanfield, is it? We’re more than happy to cooperate, what do you need to know?

“I’ll need documentation on the circumstances of his capture and how he got here. I’ll also need to interview the ones that brought him here, and establish probable cause.”

Tony shrugs and says “Jarvis, are Sam and Natasha in the building?”

“Natasha is here, sir, but Sam has gone home.” Jarvis replies.

“Ask her to come to my office, to give a report on the capture of the Soldier.”

“Immediately, sir.”

“Anything else?” Tony asks.

“Yes, if we establish probable cause, this man will need to be arrested.” Donovan says. “DHS will allow us to hold him indefinitely, if we can see the Soldier, to confirm he is securely confined, has had medical attention and is being fed and well treated.”

“That’s possible.” Tony says. “Do you want to speak to Natasha first, or see the Soldier?”

“Let me see him first, then I can update DHS.” Ms. Stanfield said.

“Ok, Rhodes, can you escort them down, and Jarvis, let the guard know they’re coming, and update Natasha.”

Rhodes and both lawyers take the elevators down to the cell block level. When Mr. Donovan sees the concrete walls and steel doors, a worried expression appears on his face.

“What do you know about the Winter Soldier?” he asks, nervously.

“All I know is rumors. That he’s a killer. The best. But he’s also a ghost story, made up to frighten children.” Rhodes shrugs. “I’ve only seen him in here, on the security cameras. He’s done nothing but eat and sleep.”

The guard escorts them down the hallway with the alternating steel doors, and stop at number 116. “He’s in there, don’t worry, this cell block was designed by the same company that did the latest Fed prison in California. Tony made sure it has all the best in modern security systems.”

Rhodes activates a monitor set into the wall next to the door. A wide angle image of the inside of the cell as seen from the door appears.

Just then the door at the end of the hall opens, and Natasha walks in.

“Ah, Agent Romanoff, the Avenger who brought in the Winter Soldier.” Rhodes says, introducing her to the two lawyers.

They shake hands, and the lawyers introduce themselves. Natasha asks “Have you seen him?”

Mr. Donovan shakes his head, “We just got here” as he motions to the other lawyer to look at the monitor. “It looks like he’s sleeping.” Ms. Stanfield says. “Can we wake him?” She looks at Rhodes, questioning.

Rhodes shrugs, “Push the “talk” button and say “Wake up”.

She looks at the button inset into the wall, and pushes it. She looks in the window and says “Sorry to wake you, but can we ask you some questions?”

From her angle Natasha couldn’t see the monitor, but she saw the lawyer’s eyes widen. “He has a metal arm!” Stanfield says as she turns. “Why? Is it real?”

Natasha says “Yes, it’s a prosthetic, it works like a regular arm.” She stops with that, no need to go into detail.

Ms. Stanfield swallows and looks in the window again. “Hello, I’m Ms. Karen Stanfield, a lawyer with Homeland Security. I just need to make sure that you are being taken care of. Have you eaten today?” Ms. Stanfield asks. No reply. “The schedule shows that you were given a bowl of soup, was the food good? Was it enough?” Still no response.

Ms. Stanfield turns to the others, “He won’t answer? Doesn’t he speak English?”

“Do you mind if I try? In Russian? I spoke to him yesterday.” Natasha said.

Ms. Stanfield shakes her head and steps back. Natasha takes her place at the window, and pushes the button.

“Hello Soldier” she says in Russian. The Soldier looks at her, but doesn’t say anything. He looks sweaty and pale, and sways as he stands.

Natasha watches him for a minute, then says “How are you feeling?”

No reply, he just looks at the ground, swaying. Natasha asks “Did you get enough to eat?”

“Yes” he says, softly. “Do you have any complaints?” “Hot” softly. “Dizzy.”

“What did he say?” Ms. Stanfield asks.

“He said he ate enough, but he feels hot and dizzy.” Natasha replies.

“Hot and dizzy? Why? Is he sick?” Ms Stanfield asks, alarmed.

Mr. Donovan remarks “It must be 60 degrees down here.”

Rhodes says “He’s not sick, the doctors said he had an assortment of drugs in his system, and he’ll be coming down from them for the next week or so.”

They look back at the monitor just in time to see the Soldier going down, reaching for the platform but collapsing to the floor. “Oh no, he fell!” Ms. Stanfield cries.

“Aw geez” Rhodes says, looking in the window. “Jarvis, call the docs down here code red.”


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE MEDICAL FLOOR

He wakes up, on a bed. Can’t move, straps? Deep breath. Ok. Across his chest and thighs. Should be alarmed, but too tired, no energy. No pain. Where am I? Blink eyes, everything’s blurry. Hospital room. Alone. Machines beeping. There’s a dim light somewhere. Light, somewhere. Ceiling. Light…light…don’t care…sleep.


 

The doctors watch their patient carefully, Rhodes had requested that they handcuff the Soldier’s flesh arm to the bed, and they had, and used straps over his body and metal arm to hold him down. He had woken up, and after some initial confusion, he began shouting in Russian, fighting the straps and making it difficult if not painful to get close to him.

Rhodes and Maria watched the Soldier struggle on a monitor in Tony’s office. Rhodes had notified Tony of the new developments, but hadn’t heard anything back yet.

“The docs say he’ll be this way for a few days, if not weeks.” Rhodes says, watching Maria. “I don’t know what Tony was thinking, letting Sam talk him into keeping that monster here.”

Maria looks at him, and says seriously, “If he hadn’t, more people would be dead now. Do you know of any other hospital that could hold him?

“Yeah, well I’m going to talk to the doctors about sedating him. This is ridiculous.” Rhodes says, sounding determined.

“Well,” Maria says, “the DHS lawyer, Ms. Stanfield, is coming back with a US Marshall to arrest him. Sedating him will have to wait, I think.”

"We better hope he doesn't break free before they get here." Rhodes says, frustrated.

They watch as the security guards try to keep the Soldier from tipping the gurney over as he fights the straps, throwing his weight side to side and yelling. “What language is that?” Maria asks.

Rhodes replies “He was shouting in Russian earlier, but I don’t know what that is. JARVIS, what language is that?”

"Romanian, sir."


 

GRACE GARDENS NURSING HOME

After making sure the Soldier was taken care of, and after giving her report to the lawyers, Natasha went to see Peggy Carter. She felt she owed it to Steve, to make sure she was ok. It was still early, so Peggy was awake, and remembering more. She had learned about Steve’s death on the news, and was still not really believing it. But when she saw Natasha, she gave a little smile, and said “So it’s true? Is my Steve really gone?”

Natasha held Peggy’s slight form while she cried. She had lost him twice, now. “He kept those carriers from being hijacked, they could have killed thousands of people.” Natasha says, softly.

“He decided to save the world, and leave me again” Peggy sobbed, “And he’s really gone, this time… why did he have to die?” Natasha could only hug her, and softly wipe away her tears. Her own tears would have to wait. Natasha thought Oh Steve, who made you a target for the Winter Soldier?

Natasha stayed with Peggy until she fell asleep, then headed out to make flight reservations, pack and take care of a few details. She had a new mission.


 

WASHINGTON D.C. - SAM'S HOUSE

Sam came in the back door of his house, he’d watched the news on TV at the VFW hall, and all he wanted to do was sit down with a drink and relax. He hadn’t known Steve Rogers very long, but he was still pretty shaken up about what had happened.

His wings had been destroyed by the Winter Soldier, and it was a miracle that he had survived the attack. He had already been contacted by Homeland Security, they didn’t know he had used the wings, but there would be a hearing, he was sure.

He went around the corner and CRAP - Natasha was in his kitchen, leaning against the pantry door.

She smiles brightly and cocks her head at him. “Hey, sorry for this, but I need your help.”

Sam puts a hand on his chest, trying to recover from the surprise, and frowns at her, concerned. “I’m in enough trouble from helping yesterday.” he says, pulling out a chair and sitting down. “But, you might as well have a seat and tell me why you’re creeping around my kitchen.”

Natasha walks to the table and leans on the edge across from Sam. “I have a lead on some information on the Soldier, and I need you to watch out for him while I’m gone.”

Sam’s forehead wrinkles up, concern and doubt on his face as he tilts his head to the side. “How am I gonna do that? He’s in the Stark Tower basement SuperMax, he’s fine and has lots more qualified people than me to watch him.”

“Yes, but someone who knows what the Soldier, what Bucky, meant to Steve should watch over him, and make sure Tony doesn’t let Homeland Security take him. Or worse, let him just “disappear”. I need to go, well, overseas. I have a lead there to someone who was in a position to know about the Winter Soldier. I have a few debts to call in.” Natasha pulls out a chair and sits down, leaning towards Sam.

“I don’t know how long this will take, but I’ve arranged with Rhodey and Pepper for you to go and check on him every day. And you’re in luck, Pepper arranged for you to have an apartment in the Tower, so you won’t have to go back and forth. Just pack a bag for two weeks, and get to know the Soldier.” Natasha smiles.

“Great” Sam says, “Why do I have a bad feeling about this? What do I do? Just look in the window and make sure he’s there?

“That’s about it.” Natasha says. “Keep your ears and eyes open, and talk to him. He’s having a hard time now, he’ll be in withdrawal for the next week, at least, so he probably won’t be very talkative, but watch him, don’t let him be moved, anywhere. Here’s a burner phone, it only has my number in it, you can reach me anytime.” She pauses, seeing the doubt on Sam's face.

“I know it’s hard to care anything about him, after all he’s done to you, but I owe it to Steve to find the truth. If this man somehow is Bucky, I want to know what happened to him. You didn’t know Cap very long, but perhaps, if the Soldier turns out to be his old friend, we can help him. Steve would want that.”

Sam turns in his chair and puts his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands. “Alright, for Steve.” He sits up. “I’ll do what I can, but what if he doesn’t remember?”

“Well, just talk to him, get him to remember Steve. Show him one of the flyers from the Smithsonian exhibit. Find old photos in history books. Tony has a few artifacts his father collected, you might ask him if you can borrow a few things.”

She stands and gives him a slow smile, comes closer and touches his cheek. “Thanks for this, Sam. Look after him for me.” Sam looks into her beautiful green eyes and nods. She quietly goes to the door and is gone.


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE HOSPITAL FLOOR

He's still strapped down to the gurney, he’s been fighting to get free, but the straps are strong, and the doctors keep sliding needles into his IV, putting in…something. It’s difficult to stay awake, to keep fighting, but somehow it’s easier to think. Clearer. He’s still dizzy, and it’s hard to focus his eyes. He keeps them closed as much as he can, which makes it even harder to stay awake.

He listens to the doctors talk, they’re scared of him, but they always are. When will they put me in the chair? I’ve been out too long. If they wait, they’ll make a mistake and I’ll kill them. They'll punish...

He lies still, trying not to fight against the straps anymore. He looks up at the ceiling, the lights are blurry. He sees blurry people in white lab coats, looking at him. Seems like hours pass by as they examine every part of him, touch him, stick things to him, in him, until he can’t lie still anymore, anger building…

Fight! He strains and fights against the straps, rocking the gurney…guards rush in…he yells at them, fighting the straps…one is coming loose! Metal arm is almost free…White coat! No! No no no no…needle into IV….fighting…fading….darkness…


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

Sam walks with Rhodes as they go down to the cell block. “So, how is he?” Sam asks.

“He’s been fighting. The only thing keeping him down is the tranquilizers.” Rhodes says. “We had to call in security guards this last time to hold him down until the nurse could tranquilize him again. He goes through that stuff so fast it’s scary.”

“Yeah, I heard about the pharmacopeia of drugs he was on, that's messed up.” Sam replies, shaking his head.

“He’s been hallucinating, shouting in different languages and fighting everything and everyone, I guess from coming down from them.” Rhodes says. “But he’ll recover soon, he seems to heal so quickly it doesn’t seem possible. The doctors are really confused about that, he had a cracked femur when he got here, 36 hours ago, and now it’s healed so much he can walk on it. The docs want to do a bunch of tests on him, to try to learn how this is happening.”

“Steve could heal fast too, I watched it happen, it was amazing”. Sam says.

They leave the elevator and greet a security guard and a nurse who are sitting at the desk just outside the elevator talking, and continue down the hallway to cell 116. Rhodes turns on the monitor, it shows the Soldier, still strapped to the gurney. The gurney had been folded down close to the floor, and was fastened to metal rings inset in the floor. There was a bag hanging on the wall with an IV line down to his right wrist.

There was another line to a bag hanging below the gurney, with a catheter, since he couldn’t get up to go to the toilet.

He was wearing a hospital gown, they could see how the straps cut tightly into his thighs and chest. The metal arm had three straps of its own. The Soldier seemed to be awake, staring at the ceiling.

Rhodes show Sam how to use the button to talk, and the red button for help. “You can stay here as long as you want, I’ll be back in a little bit with lawyers who need to talk to him too, and the nurse is just outside if he needs a tranq.” Rhodes said.

“Oh, speaking of that, the Soldier hasn’t had any tranquilizers in the last 2 hours, so he’ll be aware. Have fun!” He grins as he turns to leave.

Sam sighs as the door closes, leaving him alone in the sterile hallway. He looks at the monitor, takes a deep breath, breathes “Here goes”, and pushes the talk button.

“Sergeant Barnes” he says. He’d spent the prior evening reading some history online, and had decided to try calling him by his name. If that’s who he really is. “How are you feeling?”

The Soldier turns his head to the window, sees him and frowns. Sam swallows, and says “We met, on the helicarrier. I was the one with wings. You ripped one off and kicked me over the side, remember?”

No reaction. The Soldier turns his head to look back up at the ceiling. Sam sighs again. This is going to be loads of fun. He makes a mental note to bring a chair next time.

Just then, Jarvis says “His heart rate is rising, Mr. Wilson.” Surprised, Sam looks around for a speaker, sees none. “Ok, thanks Jarvis. I didn’t know you were listening.”

“I try to be discrete, sir. Mr. Stark asked me to watch the Soldier’s condition, I was warned that he can conceal his intentions.”

“Ok, glad to have you on my six. I’m going to ask more questions, let me know if he get angry.”

Sam looks back in the window at the tied-down Soldier and pushes the button. “Hey, I’m not here for revenge or anything, I just want to talk. The doctors told me that you had a lot of drugs in your system, and that’s why you’re feeling strange, they’re wearing off.”

No reaction.

“Once you’ve recovered, they’ll let you off the gurney. But for now try to relax. Nothing is going to happen to you, we won’t hurt you.” At that, the Soldier does turn his head to look at him, before looking at the ceiling again.

Maybe he does understand English, Sam thinks.

The door at the end of the hall opens, and two security guards enter, followed by Rhodes, a well-dressed woman and two men wearing badges.

The woman approaches him and holds out her hand. “Hello, I’m Ms. Stanfield, DHS.” she says. “This is Marshall Johnson and Deputy Rivas, here to formally arrest the Winter Soldier.”

Sam shakes their hands, and looks at Rhodes, who nods and introduces him as Dr. Sam Wilson. “We can’t hold him any longer without arresting him.” he says. “Is he awake?”

“Yes, but he’s tied to a gurney, and not very talkative.” Sam says.

“Yes, well, Jarvis, open the door.” Rhodes says, gesturing to the two security guards to go in first.


Chapter Text

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

The steel door unlocks with a buzz and a loud metallic clank.

Watch as two men in police uniforms enter. One has a taser. They move to stand at each end of the gurney. A woman and two other men enter. Study each one through narrowed eyes. What are they going to do. Test the straps again, slowly. Still tight. They stop just inside the door and look at him, uncomfortable. One man steps forward. Large man, older, looks official. Nervous.

The large man says "What is your name?" The second man says "как тебя зовут" with a terrible accent. Frown.

The large man waits, then turns, questioning. The female says "His real name is unknown, we only know him as "Winter Soldier".

The large man turns back, takes a step closer. "Ok, 'Winter Soldier', I am U.S. Marshall Johnson, and you are under arrest." He shifts some papers to his left hand, shows a badge with the other. Clears his throat. "You're under arrest for your part in the destruction of the three helicarriers, including the murder of 16 crew members, the murder of SHIELD Director Nick Fury, the murder of Agent Jasper Sitwell, and the murder of Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America". He waits while the one with the terrible accent says it all again in Russian.

Stare. What is this. They were missions. The men keep talking, but he's stopped listening. They are going to punish me for completing the mission. Breathe deeply and shake your head.

JARVIS says "His pulse and temperature are rising". What. Confirm. The large man looks at him, in the eyes. Give an unblinking glare back, think of all the ways you could kill him. Test the straps over your arms again, this time making the straps clang sharply against the metal frame of the gurney.

The woman squeaks, and the large man backs up, still looking at you until finally turning away. They disappear out the door. The guards back out carefully. Another man, the man who's been sitting outside his cell every day, steps inside. He says "Don't worry". What. Stare. The man frowns. "SHIELD captured you, but they won't hurt you." Noise at the door, other people asking the man to come on. The man looks at him, says "My name is Sam, I want to help. I'll be outside every day. Starting a new book soon.” He gives a quick smile and leaves.

Help. Help what. Notice the door doesn't close. He takes a deep breath. Frowns. I want out of here. Look at the open door and throw all your strength into breaking the straps. The gurney bounces but doesn't tip over. The straps are strong, but whatever is holding the gurney down gives good leverage. After a second he can feel the strap over his left wrist start to give. Put all your energy into the left arm. The strap is pulling loose, and the gurney bars are bending. Glance at the still open door. The gurney comes apart, his arm is free, use it to pull apart the strap across his chest. Door still open... Stop. Hear voices. Work faster, pull the straps loose.

The door swings towards him and slams shut. BAM.

Rip off the last strap, slide the handcuff off a broken pipe, pull off the tubes and cables, ignore the pain, rip off inefficient backless clothing. Free. Go to the door. Look out the window. A doctor looks up, sees him and backs up in fear. Punch the window with your metal hand. The doctor runs. Frustration. Pace the cell. The talking man no - Sam, said they weren’t going to hurt me. Why? SHIELD has me. Will I work for them. Will they return me to HYDRA. Not bothered by being naked, tear what remains of the gurney into smaller pieces. 


 

SOKOVIA

Natasha sits on the bed, next to her target. He's naked, half asleep, but she can hear contented hums coming from him occasionally as she moves the tips of her fingers across his back. She's gained a lot from this one, from his brain and from his safe. She takes a second to appreciate the evening. There's more than one way to get information out of someone. She didn't even have to inflict pain. She smirks. Well, maybe a little.

She gathers her clothes, the light from the remains of the scattered candles providing more than enough light. As she pauses in the living room to throw on her dress and shoes, she reconsiders her plan to leave the target alive.

He's nobody really, just a low level bureaucrat, but he's also the grandson of one of the high level scientists who worked on the Winter Soldier program. Evidently the scientist liked to take his work home, and liked to talk about it. It’s a wonder he lived as long as he did.

She shakes her head and pulls her long blonde hair to one side. No, this one's death would raise more questions than just having a drunken night with someone he picked up in a bar. Besides, if he's alive they won't find traces of the drugs in his system. He’ll blame his bad memory on the 5 empty bottles of vodka. Natasha's lips twitch into a little smile as she turns and walks out the door.

Finally, after all the phone calls, secret meetings, quick lunches with "friends", late night “parties” and one short torture session, she has a lead. This trail has led her all over Europe, and now it's taking her back to where she started.

Natasha calls Sam while she waits in Paris for a commercial flight back to the states.

Sam answers the phone with "This better be good".

Natasha raises her eyebrows. Her eyes narrow as she purrs into the phone, "Hmmmm, just good?"

Sam makes a strangled noise on the other end. "Nat! Damn, sorry, Tony has been driving me crazy, I thought it was him again". He pauses, "Are you ok? When will you be back?"

"I'm coming back today, but I need your help with a few things when I get there. Can you meet me at our usual place, 1300 tomorrow?"

"Um, sure, should I be worried?"

"Well, we're going someplace fun, so be prepared." Natasha says, with a bounce in her voice.

"Ok, great, see ya." Sam hangs up, sits back in his chair and sighs. “Someplace fun” means it will be a fight. Taking a deep breath to slow his pulse, he wonders what she's found. He should pack his gear now, just in case.


 

STARK TOWER

Sam stands and walks to his monitor. Maria let him in the secure line to watch the Winter Soldier from his room. He really should take her to lunch or something, to say thanks for all she's done for him. People here are nice, he thinks. Except Tony.

Sam wonders why Tony has been so aggravating, dropping in unannounced, calling at weird hours, asking awkward questions, being nothing but a pain. No reason, except his questions always get around to if he knows who the Soldier really is.

The answer is always “I don’t know, and I don’t care”. Tony won’t say why he’s interested, just that he’d like to know the killer in his basement. Sam thinks that he's been cool so far, allowing him and the Soldier to stay rent free in his building (although he suspects Tony is charging the government for housing the Soldier). Tony believes that Sam's trying to help the Soldier, since he has experience with the VA talking to vets. And that's true, to a point. He's glad this is almost over.

He gets up and gathers a few things. Might as well go do the afternoon therapy in the hallway. Good thing Natasha will be back soon, because he's getting tired of this whole deal. When she left, about two weeks ago now, he thought watching the Soldier would be pretty boring (and frankly a little scary). He had shamefully been a little cruel at first, holding pictures of Barnes' family to the small window that he knew would be hurtful, if the Soldier was who Nat thought he was, but there was never a reaction.

He’d done some searching for more info on the Winter Soldier, but found nothing really, only theories. Mostly excuses for deaths that hadn’t been resolved yet. When someone important was murdered, or died mysteriously, and the killer was never found, these deaths were blamed on the “Winter Soldier”. There was no evidence this Winter Soldier even really existed, and wasn’t just an excuse made up to explain the unexplainable. Here I am, searching for information on a ghost and a 70 year-old dead man. And talking to himself in a sterile, locked down hallway. I must be crazy. He sighs as he gets out of the elevator, and nods to the guard at the desk there.

Tony had a small but comfortable chair moved here for him, so he settles in and gets the current book out of his bag. He checks the monitor and notices the Soldier doing sit-ups. After he calmed down after he had destroyed the gurney, he had been given a white/grey striped button-up onesie to wear, with socks. He looks warmer, and it's not as disturbing to look at him now that his chest is covered. The area where the steel arm meets flesh is red and scarred, it's difficult not to stare at it and wonder how it must feel. He shakes his head. 

He's been reading aloud from an old library book about the Howling Commandos. It tells of their missions, with a short background on each member. Sam sighs, puts in the earbud, finds his bookmark, and continues, starting with "Hey, I'm back, here's chapter five." The chapter's about Barnes' youth in Brooklyn, going to school and later work after his dad died, and how he supported his mother and sisters. Growing up dirt poor, then being drafted and torn away from his home. How he fought on the front lines in Africa and Italy for two years before being captured.

Sam lowers the book to his lap and looks at the monitor. It bothers him to read this stuff, but the Soldier doesn't seem to care. He shrugs. Aggravated now, he snorts. It doesn’t matter, there's no way this is really Barnes. When everyone sees that the Soldier really is a mindless Russian assassin, I can go home.

The Soldier has steadily ignored him, and the pictures. He had seemed curious at first, but then lost interest. Sam knew he could hear him, he had an earpiece that had a wireless connection to the speaker in the cell, so he kept on reading while the Soldier did exercises, pushups, sit-ups, all kinds of calisthenics, pacing, jogging in place, it was tiring to watch. Except for never speaking, the Soldier seems more functional, less like a machine, now the drugs have worn off.

It's strange the the Soldier can be so threatening, so intimidating and confident (even in a backless hospital gown), and the next minute shake like a kicked puppy. Sigh. Serious mental issues.Then he smiles, remembering how frightened the doctors had been, telling the story over and over about how the Soldier had freed himself while destroying the gurney he'd been tied to. Don't piss the man off, Sam thinks, and shakes his head.

That was pretty amazing too, the docs said he'd be messed up for a couple of weeks, but it was really only a couple of days. All his wounds are gone, even the broken leg seems completely healed now. And he's impossibly strong, tearing himself out of the restraints like that. Weird. I wonder what their tests found out.

He shakes his head. Gotta finish this book then I can go back upstairs. So he looks at the book again, hunting for where he left off.

"Ok, where were we. Oh yeah." He continues, "But close to Azzano, the 107th was pinned down by a vicious German assault, where they fought until they were captured by HYDRA forces. The prisoners were taken deep into Austria, to the Krausburg weapons factory, where they were forced to work as slave labor. The prisoners were mistreated, malnourished and many died from starvation, disease, torture or were killed by the guards." He pauses for a second and checks the monitor. The Soldier's just lying on the floor with his legs bent up, like he's taking a break from doing sit-ups, his arms stretched out on the floor.

Frowning, Sam looks back down at the book and continues. "Steve Rogers, being on tour in Italy with the USO, learned of the capture of the 107th and his friend James "Bucky" Barnes, but was denied permission to lead a rescue attempt, due to the location of the camp so far behind enemy lines. But Steve went AWOL, and with the help of friends with a small airplane they flew from Italy to Austria, where Rogers jumped, alone, into enemy territory close to the factory. After weeks with no word Colonel Phillips was about to declare Captain Rogers MIA, when the Captain marched in the gate at the head of a column of over 400 rescued soldiers, including Sgt. Barnes, with many captured enemy vehicles and weapons, to surrender himself for military justice."

Sam pauses. I need a drink. He puts the book down and looks up. The Soldier's face is in the window, staring at him.

Surprise! Sam doesn't take his eyes off the Soldier, and slowly stands. The Soldier doesn't move, just looks at him. Then he says, in perfect English, "It was Red Skull, and we were in Kreischberg".

Sam's eyebrows go up. He speaks! "Do you remember?"

The Soldier's eyes look to the side, then he bends his head down, his long hair falling forward. "I remember...working, being sick, and...needles..." He turns away from the window and leans against the wall next to the door.

Sam goes the window but can only see the side of his head, still bowed, his long hair hiding his face. "They made us work. They starved us, laughed at us, killed us. I tried to help a kid but was beaten. I was already sick, thought I was gonna die. Then they took me away. To..." He stops and glances up at Sam in the window, then turns to face the door again, head hanging. Speaks again but in Russian this time, a long sentence. Stops and just stands there.

Sam doesn't know what to say. The killer can speak English. And Natasha was right, the Soldier really could be Sgt. Barnes. But what happened to him? This is messed up.

"I don't know Russian, sorry. I just want to help you remember who you are." The Soldier is looking at him again.

Out of the air, JARVIS says "I can translate for you, if you'd like."

"Oh hey, yes, please."

"He said, 'My programming needs to be reset. I'm sorry, it's breaking down, I can't help it. Remembering is forbidden I'm sorry.'"

"What does that mean?" Frown at the Soldier. "Will you talk to me?"

But he sees the shutters come down in the Soldier's eyes. Sam asks more questions, but gets no reaction. "Well ok, I'm going to finish this chapter and go home, think about what I said, we just want to help you." Sam looks at the man standing there, his posture and demeanor showing resigned submission. What happened to this guy. "I'll be back tomorrow, same time." There is a person in there, maybe he really is Barnes. The implications are staggering, but he concentrates on finishing the chapter before going upstairs. Nat's gonna laugh at me for doubting her.


 

WASHINGTON D.C. 

A week into his watch, he had coffee with Maria one afternoon and she had asked how his "project" was going. Since he knew that Maria probably knew more than she was letting on, he swore her to silence and told her Natasha’s theory about the Soldier’s true identity. How he was using photos of Bucky and Steve together to maybe jog the Soldier's memory, and how difficult it was to find anything with the two of them. She'd suggested that Cap probably had pictures of him, and perhaps other items as well. She said she'd watched his place sometimes, when Steve was off on missions, so she had a key. So the next day they'd gone over to Steve's place in Washington D.C. The apartment was quiet, the holes in the wall from the Soldier shooting Fury through it were still there, badly patched.

It was hard to look through Steve's things. Besides making him really sad again, it had been awkward, like Cap would come in any second and ask him what the hell he's doing. Since he was so uncomfortable being there, he brought a couple of Steve's photo albums back to his apartment to look through, and a few small items that might mean something. A WWII lensatic compass with a picture inside, a postcard of the Cyclone roller coaster, and a set of Steve's dog-tags. The postcard didn’t seem like anything, but who knows. Steve must've thought it was special, since he saved it.

Like a lot of people, Sam had a stack of albums, full of family photos and events, and people and places from his time in the service. But Steve’s album was more like a scrapbook, articles and bits of things. Dogtags on a chain, papers from the army, certificates for medals awarded posthumously. An old postcard showing the Stark Expo, 1937. No photos of family or anything from before the war. The other album did have photos, all since he “woke up”. Shots of him doing charity events, articles about him saving the day somewhere. Avengers publicity shots.

Then he mentally kicked himself, of course he has no old photos, it’s not like he took them into the ice with him. They’re gone at least 70 years now. He wonders if Steve has any family alive who might still have any. He makes a note to look into that, later.

So when he gets back to his room in Stark Tower after leaving the Soldier, he gets into comfortable clothes, makes a pot of coffee and settles in to look through the albums. He starts with the one that’s a scrapbook, it seems to be filled with earlier stuff. There's a copy of an article from a 1934 newspaper (The Brooklyn Eagle) about the roller coaster at Coney Island. The picture above the article shows two young men with wide smiles, the taller one with his arm around the smaller one's shoulders as they posed for the photo in front of the big Cyclone gateway arch.

That explains the postcard, it must have been a great day, for Steve to collect these little things. Sam leans back in his chair and holds the coffee mug, lost in thought. The caption only said something about the Cyclone being so safe children could ride, nothing about the boys in the picture. The smaller one had Steve's face. Sam knew about Steve being small and unhealthy when he was young, and about the serum, since Captain America had been all over the news when they found him in the ice. But who was the taller one? He was handsome, grinning, with his short dark hair neatly combed. Then it hit him like ice water. "Damn, I bet that's Bucky" he said aloud. Perhaps he should be studying Steve and not the Winter Soldier. Sam thought about the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian, maybe he should go see it. Soon.


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

The Soldier was dreaming. He'd stretched out on the bed, covered up with the blanket, and his eyes had closed. Talking Sam was gone for today. He'd been ignoring him and his stories. But one time he paused in his exercises he'd heard something he remembered. If that's what that was. Yes, I was there, it was me. The short man with round glasses (involuntary shiver) was there. "HYDRA", he said, aloud. Pain. His breath lets out, and he feels a rush of adrenaline, seeing images in his head of a man in a white lab coat, moving a syringe close to him, out of his sight. Screaming.

He lies still, letting the images run through his head. He sees little bits of events, different pictures, like turning pages in a magazine. He's watching through a scope, over a battlefield. Naked, getting hosed off with cold water. Laughter. He's next to a campfire, friendly faces. Moving quietly through a house, killing people in their sleep. A skinny blonde kid with a bloody nose, grinning at him. A General, his handler, must please him. Being left in a dark room, starving. Surgeries, doctors, more pain, pain, his arm is gone...why...they cut off my arm oh god my arm

He jolts awake and sits up, sweating. Still caught up in the dream, he leans against the cold wall and looks at his left arm. Flexes his elbow and wiggles his fingers. I had a real arm, but it got torn off. How? He gets up and paces back and forth, trying to think, but nothing comes. Only memories of pain, of being afraid, of hurting deep inside like he was on fire. Of being punished. Of the....of the... He spins and hits the metal door with his left fist, making a loud resounding BOOM.

Before the sound fades, the lights come up. He jumps to the middle of the cell and stands still, trying not to show any aggression, head down, hands by his sides, like he'd been taught. They'll be here to punish me now. Why did I do that? Adrenaline makes him begin to tremble all over. I'm losing my programming, I need to be put away why are they waiting, why why why

He expects punishment, because that's what happened every time he did anything on his own initiative. It was so ingrained in him it was something he always remembered. Outbursts like what he'd just done were rare, because he knew that unless he restrained himself punishment would soon follow. And there was no way to know what form it would take, the handler would say. Usually, the guards were ordered to beat him until he passed out and was left broken and bleeding on the floor. Or left in a dark room for days, weeks, who knew how long after a while. Ordered to let the guards do what they wanted to him. Chained to a wall and whipped. Forced to kill innocents. Some handlers didn't want him damaged, some didn't care.

And always, the chair.

A male voice over the speaker inquires calmly and politely "Do you need assistance? Are you injured?”

He freezes. What. No. "No" he says. “No repairs needed.” Grimace. Hold breath, keep head down.

The voice says "Very well, if you do need something, just ask me, I am called "Jarvis."

The lights return to their former dim glow. The Soldier lifts his head. Testing. Nothing happens. Area is silent, no approaching footsteps. I can ask a question. He shakes his head. He said I can ask a question but it's not possible, don't do it. Shake your head again, fight the voices. Take a breath and say to the empty room, "Will I be punished." Grimace. Wait.

The voice, Jarvis, says “For hitting the door? You did no harm.”

The Soldier stands and thinks about that. No punishment. Why. "Question, please?" he says, starting to tremble again.

"Yes?" JARVIS says.

"Can the talking man come back, now?" Speaking to the floor, shaking.

"Do you wish for Mr. Wilson to come and speak to you now, or would you like to set a later time? It is 0250 hours."

What. "Who is Mr. Wilson?"

The one you call Talking Sam is Sam Wilson, also known as Falcon. I will contact him with your message immediately."

The Soldier's eyes get big, and another rush of adrenaline courses through his body. I asked and I didn't get hurt, and he's sending my message! Disbelief. 


 

I can't believe this. Sam says to himself, as he pulls on some clothes. To the air, "He really asked for me?"

"Yes sir, he had been very agitated, and struck the door with his metal fist. He is unharmed, and is calmer now." Jarvis says.

"What could he possibly need to talk about at 3 in the morning...(yawn). He didn't say what he wanted?"

"No, sir".

Ok, this is weird. Sam goes to the elevator, which Jarvis already has waiting. Ride down, shrug at the question on the guards' face as he signs in. He puts the earpiece in as he gets to door 116 and looks in the now cracked window. The Soldier is standing where he left him, in the middle of the cell with his head bowed.

"Hey, I'm here, what's going on"?

The Soldier doesn't look up. He asks softly "What will happen to me?"

Sam sighs and leans against the wall. "I don't know, man. You've been arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder. One very famous person in particular, who was my friend. The judge will decide, after you're arraigned, if they do that, and if you go to trial." Sam tilts his head and quirks his lips. "I guess this is new, huh, you've never been caught, before."

His friend. My mission was his friend. Why is he not trying to hurt me. The Soldier says, to the floor again, "Will I be...frozen..."

"What? Frozen? No, wow, you won't be frozen. Might spend the rest of your life in a jail cell, but not frozen. Why do you say that?

The Soldier trembles. "They put me in a freezer, after missions."

Shocked, Sam says "What? A freezer? Why?"

"If I'm allowed to stay out, I become unstable." Pause. "I start to get confused, think about things I've never done, places I've never been, people..." Another pause. "That's what's happening now, I need to be frozen and... the chair... or I'll...fight. Don't want to go back in..." His voice fades to silence.

Sam looks at the Soldier, considering if that can be true, and if so, that explains a lot. If he really is Barnes, that could be why he still looks so young. And why the strongest man he’s ever seen, except Cap, is standing there shaking in fear.

"Well hell, I feel pretty safe in saying that as long as SHIELD has you, you won't be frozen." Sam watches the Soldier as he stands there, trembling. "Can I get you something? I'll have them bring down something if you're hungry." Sam frowns, Why am I asking that? He killed Cap, he's a monster. But..

The Soldier looks up, no expression. He says "I'll get worse. Will I be punished."

Sam just looks at him. "Well, that depends on what you do. If you hurt someone, you probably will be. But you won't be punished with physical force, it will be in the form of limiting your food choices, or moving you to a smaller cell. They might even take away your socks." Sam gives a little grin, glancing at the Soldier and tilting his head.

The Soldier looks at him, and Sam sees the tiniest twitch of a smile.

They can try.


 

Chapter Text

STARK TOWER

Tony sat at the head of the huge table on the 86th floor of his Tower, in its largest executive conference room, facing a room full of high-ranking people. Steve Rogers had asked Tony to be the executor of his Will, and Tony was going to do it right. On his own, he had contacted the President the day after the helicarrier disaster, and it had been easy to persuade him that Captain America deserved a State Funeral, artillery, aircraft, horses, the whole nine yards. It would make the President look good, too.

But the process had to be set in motion, and officers from each service branch, government representatives, law enforcement officers, lawyers, various clergy members and a few of the remaining Avengers gathered to lay the groundwork for what will be a huge, world-encompassing event. Steve wouldn't appreciate it, Tony thought, shaking his head with a little smirk, but the whole world needs to honor him, so he's gonna get this.

Deciding on a date for the funeral to begin took most of the morning, then they got into the details. The funeral procession, which route it should take. Arranging for the horse-drawn caisson to carry Steve to the capitol to lie in state. After one day, the casket would be carried on another horse-drawn caisson to the National Cathedral where the service would be held, then on to Arlington National Cemetery. That procession to the cemetery would have two fly-bys, the first one with modern jets, performing the "missing man" formation over the procession. The second one, WWII vintage aircraft flying over the funeral itself, as many as could come.

Planning the police escorts, the military bands, how many guns in the salute, closing government offices, closing the airspace, choosing the place of internment, the monument, who would speak, these details took the rest of the day, and just touched the tip of the funeral iceberg. It went on until late in the evening, with plans to repeat on a daily basis until it was done.

Even after all that, Tony was still wired and needed to get away, so he headed for the elevator to go to his workshop, but Pepper waylaid him.

"No. You are not going up there before you eat." She said, standing in the elevator lobby with her arms crossed.

"But..." Tony stops and looks at her, standing there under the lights, looking beautiful. "Ok."

Pepper raises an eyebrow and looks at him. "Did you really just say Ok?"

"No I just realized," coming closer with a little swagger, "that I have another meeting."

He comes close to Pepper and stops, reaching out to twirl a lock of her hair around his finger. Pepper slowly puts her arms around his neck, and asks "I hope it will be over dinner," she smiles, softly. Tony gives a crooked smile, and says, "Well, there may be some food involved..."

Later, watching Tony fuss with the remains of dessert, Pepper reaches for her glass of wine and leans back in her chair. Tony had been distant over dinner, and quiet. It wasn't like him, unless he was sick or something was bothering him. Probably the latter. "So, are you going to tell me?" Tony looks up at her, raising an eyebrow. "It's been a long day, did something happen?"

Tony puts his fork down and rubs his hands on the napkin in his lap. He fiddles with the silverware, sighs and says "Yeah, well I read Steve's Will yesterday. Captain Perfect left a Last Will and Testament, and what did it say? That he wanted everything he had, his money, his home, his shield, his title and everything he was, to go to one James Buchanan Barnes."

Pepper scrunches up her face. "Who? Barnes? Wasn't he in World War Two with Steve? But he died!" She turns her head to the side as she considers that. "Why would he do that?"

"That's the stupid part." Tony rolls his eyes and stands up abruptly. "Cap KNEW his friend was dead, he said he saw him die, 70 something years ago. So, why? Wishful thinking? Delusions? One last 'beyond the grave' jab to mess with me?" He shakes his head and drops his hand on the table, hard enough to make the silverware jump.

"And you don't know what to do with his stuff now." Pepper says, understanding. "You don't have to do anything. Let the probate lawyers take it and do what is normally done with estates when the beneficiary is dead." She sighs. "Perhaps they can find Steve's family's descendants."

Tony throws himself back into his chair, looking at the table top but not seeing it. "But I can't. You know who we have in the basement jail." Tony rubs a hand over his face and looks up at Pepper.

Pepper nods, "The HYDRA assassin who murdered Steve." She frowns at him. "How does he have anything to do with this?" She knows Tony, he must be really upset and is trying to hide it by changing the subject. She narrows her eyes at him.

Tony sees the look on her face and leans forward, looking off to the side. "Well, yeah, Natasha has reason to believe, due to her own unique way of getting information, that the Russian Terminator in the basement could be Barnes."

Pepper's mouth falls open in shock, "What?!"

"I can't deal with Cap's stuff until I know for sure our Jason Bourne isn't really Barnes, somehow. So, yeah, don't get me wrong, I don't care about Cap's stuff, but I stupidly agreed to be the executor of his will, and now here I am, with the goddamn Winter Soldier in my Tower, and even if he is Barnes, he's not allowed to have anything, much less Cap's stuff." He looks at Pepper, tilting his head.

Pepper stands and walks around the table to Tony. "Why don't you have his house packed up, have it stored here in the Tower for awhile, until you can decide what to do with it. It's not like it will take a lot of space, he didn't have much." She stands behind him and rubs his neck and the tops of his shoulders. "Get the funeral planning done, and when it's over then we can think about what to do next. Did anyone ever find his shield?"

Tony didn't really want anyone to know, but he had had the river searched until the shield was found, and had it cleaned, carefully packed and put into his private safe. "Yes, it's here, in the safe." Tony sighs. "You're always right, you know. I just want to...don't think...I just want to do this, all red, white and blue, and righteous." So he would approve. Tony looks at Pepper out of the corners of his eyes.

Pepper tilts her head and looks at him, a small smile playing on her lips. "And you're doing this for Steve, because underneath all the fuss, you respected him, and he respected you." Pepper wrapped her arms around him from behind. "I promise I won't tell," she says, softly, her lips just brushing his neck.

"Damn straight", Tony says, holding her arms and turning his chair towards her. "No one would believe that anyway. How are you always right?" he says, lifting his chin up to kiss her, thinking of all the things he should do for her, right now. She knew him better than he knew himself. She knew how impossible it was for him to admit that Steve had been a good man. Even if he was a pain in the ass.


 

NEW YORK

Natasha watched Sam walk up the street and go into the coffee shop. She stayed where she was, across the street and down a few doors, to see if anyone followed him. When no one caught her eye, she walked around the building and watched the back door for a minute. Nothing. She walks back around to the front and looks up and down the street again before going inside.

She walks up to Sam's booth and slides in. "Oh hey!" Sam says, surprised. Natasha smiles at him and says "Hey Sam, sorry I'm late, did you order yet?"

"Na, just some coffee, do you want something? I'll catch the waitress..."

"I'd love a coffee, the drive here was terrible." She says, rolling her eyes. Sam catches the waitresses' eye, and Natasha orders a coffee. They make small talk, until Sam puts his cup down and looks at her. "I learned something about him, yesterday, but I need somewhere less public to talk about it."

"I learned some stuff too, and that's just what I was going to suggest. But coffee first." The waitress returns with Natasha's coffee, and they sit in silence, just enjoying this little peaceful time with caffeine. "If you don't mind, can we leave your car here and take mine?" Natasha asks, raising her eyebrows. At Sam's nod she said "It should be ok here until tomorrow."

Sam raises an eyebrow but doesn't ask any questions. They finish their coffee and pay the check, and leave by the side door. Natasha leads him through the alley and takes a zig-zag route a few blocks to a sweet dark blue Range Rover. Natasha asks "Do you mind driving? I want to check my computer while we're still in town."

"Oh yeah, you're going to have to really twist my arm to drive this...wait, no! Just kidding!!" Sam was laughing and smiling as he twisted to turn with her, she had jumped behind him, taking his right arm behind his back.

Smiling, Natasha opens the locks and settles into the passenger seat, gets her laptop out of her bag and gets comfortable. Sam adjusts his seat and learns the control locations, checks the fuel level. As they pull out onto the street, Natasha asks while logging onto her computer, "So, what did you learn?

Sam shifts his hands on the steering wheel and glances over at Natasha. "You won't believe this. Last night he asked JARVIS to call me. At 3 am."

Natasha turns to Sam and cocks her head, an amazed expression on her face. "The Soldier, called you." Sam looks at her with a grin and a little shrug. Natasha wrinkles her forehead and makes a little huffing sound. "Whatever for, and how did he know he could do that?"

"Well, it was weird. When JARVIS woke me up he said the Soldier had been upset, and had punched the door. When Jarvis asked if he was hurt, the Soldier said no, but then he asked for me." Sam shakes his head and continues. "When I got down there and asked what was up, he wanted to know, get this, when he would be frozen. He said we should do it soon or he would become unstable." Sam shakes his head. "I actually started to feel sorry for him. He was pretty upset, he was afraid he would be punished for remembering things."

Natasha looks at him, and thinks for a moment. "Well, he's not wrong." Sam glances at her, his eyebrows going up. "One of the things I 'found' while I was out there" waving her hands in the air vaguely, "was a folder, containing a partial record of the programs and methods used for the Winter Soldier Project". Natasha folds her arms over her chest, and looks out the windshield. "The very first photo was of a man, in a metal tube, frozen. That man looked a lot like the Soldier." She pauses. "And Barnes."

Sam glances at Natasha. "He said he was frozen between missions. I still can't believe that. They'd really just thaw him out when needed?"

"That's exactly what they did. Turn left here. They froze him until they needed someone killed, then he was thawed out, given the mission and turned loose. That's why he was a ghost, he was frozen and stored in a basement somewhere. Each mission had its own parameters, and he was 'programmed' to follow instructions to the letter. Like leaving no witnesses, including children. Sometimes using torture on the target and family members to extract information, then killing them. That's just a start. If he didn't complete a mission, or messed it up somehow, he was punished. The recommended way was to chain him to a wall and beat him, and then put him in something called the мозг аппарат, the brain machine, and electrocute him." 

Natasha gave Sam instructions where to go, and then told him why. "There's going to be a man flying in today, we need to grab him and all his luggage, and get him to one of my safehouses." Sam's eyebrows raise as he turns to look at her. He stares at her for so long Natasha considers grabbing the wheel. "You want me to help you kidnap someone!? Seriously?!"

"Yes. What? I don't want you to kill anyone. We're going to grab an ex-Russian army officer named Vasily Karpov. He's an agent of HYDRA who was in charge of the Winter Soldier program for awhile. We need to get a book from him, a code book. Evidently the Soldier can be triggered by hearing certain words, and those words are in that book, and in Karpov's head. We need to know those words, and then they should both be destroyed." Natasha tucked a leg under her other leg, even with the seatbelt on, and looked at Sam, who was frowning at the road ahead.

"Don't give up on me," Natasha says, softly. "This man did some horrible things. Before I got out, I heard stories about him, and once I saw the results of one of his experiments. They told us they gave their lives for a great purpose." She snorts. "Great purpose. How was mutilating and killing those people 'great'. He helped turn this man into a brainwashed killer. Who knows how many people Karpov killed over the years, using the Soldier, possibly Steve's best friend, as a 'point and shoot' weapon, and freezing him between missions? After reading what's in that folder, whether this is Barnes or not, I want to find everyone still alive who had anything to do with this project and kill them. And destroy all their research. I am an Avenger. And I know who to start with."

Sam glances at her and tightens his hands on the steering wheel, twisting them to make a squeaking sound. He remembers that Rogers had trusted her alone, out of all the Avengers. "I'm with you. Yeah, what the hell, for Steve."


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

Doing inclined push-ups with toes up on the bed, thinking. Thinking about that target. Black Widow. They told me that she had joined the enemy, and must die. But she shot my goggles, shorted out my arm and ran. Then I had her but that man protected her, and caused the mission to fail. I did get the other target, Sitwell, Jasper. Remember the target info sheet. Highly trained agent, skilled fighter and expert in scientific issues, level 6. He was easy. But she didn't die.

Frustrated, put more energy into the push-ups. Suddenly, a flash (memory?) of her, the Black Widow, smiling at you. Angry, jump to your feet and hit the wall, spin and jump to the far wall, shove off it to jump to the other wall, over and over. Finally stop, breathing hard. Slide my back down the wall to the ground, lean your head back against the wall and close your eyes. Take deep breaths, try to calm your heart rate.

The memory returns, and you let it play. See another cell...no a room. It's dark. I'm lying prone on a bed, with a long rifle, and she's there. It's quiet. Ignore her, concentrate on the target through the scope. Target is a woman, she's speaking to a group at a conference table. She's on the 5th floor of an office building, range 109.728 meters. Make the shot. Let my breath out and watch to confirm the kill. Done. I turn my head and look at her, Natalia. She lowers the binoculars, turns and smiles at me. I roll away from the Dragonov and sit up, feel the mattress shift as she moves on the bed behind me and puts her arms around my chest, softly kissing the back of my neck and my ears, her soft red hair falling over my shoulders. Sigh.

Rub your face with your right hand. She turned against us. She was my mission. But I failed and she got away. Lower your head and rest it on your knees. But I knew her, we fought together, we were a team, sometimes. Why did she leave? Grimace. See black-clad men holding her, she's fighting, I'm fighting, in a dark hallway, brick walls, too close...hit with darts, tranquilizers. Start to go down, hear her crying out, reaching for you... growl. Jerk back to now, scan the cell. Nothing.

Stand up and move to the bed, gather up the blanket and wrap it around your shoulders and sit, back to the corner, knees bent up.

I'm hallucinating, I need maintenance. Why do they wait? Why don't they take me to the....the... Stare up at the ceiling, but see a black metal chair, devices held above it like wings, waiting to fold down, waiting... The banks of computers surrounding it. Techs in white coats. A hypo, drugs to make me comply. Try to stop but the soldiers are strong. You're beaten, dragged to the chair, forced down, held down. Clamps close over my arms, legs. The wings fold down around my head with a whirring, crackling sound....then unbelievable, indescribable pain...

NO! Jump up, slam my hands on the door. Lean on it with outstretched arms, shake off the...memory? Hallucination? I'm not there anymore, I'm not hurt. There's no handler for me here. I need to return. I need to get back or I'll be punished. Consider how to get out of the cell. Steel walls, steel door. Weakest point...the window. The cracked glass hasn't been replaced.

Step back, shift slightly, lean forward and put your body weight behind your left-handed swing and hit the window again, and again, and again, the crack is getting larger. Hit again, again same spot. Hear a voice, pause to listen, it's Jarvis. "Stop", he says. Frown. Hit again, again, again finally the glass breaks. Hear alarm. Pull glass shards from the frame. The guards are outside, the ones with Tasers. Grip top edge of the window, swing legs up and throw yourself feet first through the hole, hit the closest guard full body smash, spin and face the other one, just as he fires his taser... Chërt! Jump on the shooter and hit him until he doesn't move anymore.

No more guards. Turn for the door and pull out the taser darts but Iron Man is there, holding out his hand like he wants me to stop, showing the bright light in his palm. Repulsor. Stop, narrow eyes, measure distance. More guards behind him. Only one way out, now blocked. The cell door to the left clanks open. Step away from it, watch Iron Man. "Go inside", he says. How to get past him. Mentally go through info on Iron Man. Power: Arc Reactor Mark II; Weapons: Repulsors in hands and feet, shoulder-mounted missiles, rockets, lasers, clamps, EMP, sonic pulse, light flash. Armor: Gold-Titanium alloy. Breathe out. Quickly think best attack options...nothing...only speed...I must get out! Launch full power at Iron Man, try to get left arm around his neck, but there's a bright flash and the world goes black...blinding white hot pain...crash to the floor...nothing...


Chapter Text

NEWARK LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Vasily Karpov checks his watch, he’s been awake for the entire 11 hour flight from Moscow to Washington D.C., and he’s ready to get on the ground. His protégé, Aleksander Lukin, has invited him to stay in Washington at his estate for a few days to 'catch up', before he continues on to Cleveland. It will be good to be able to relax for a bit before continuing. After the helicarrier disaster, he had been forced to abandon his place in Russia with HYDRA. He found a new home in America, of all places.

The Aeroflot 777 lands and taxis to the gate, right on time. He collects his carry-on, a metal briefcase, from the overhead bin and joins the slow line to de-plane. It takes some time to get through customs, but he finally leaves the airport’s secure area and meets his escorts, two men sent by Lukin to protect him. They have already collected his luggage from the baggage carousel.

As they walk out to the curb in the pleasant evening air, one of the men speaks quietly into a short-range radio, while the other carefully observes the surroundings and the people coming and going. After a few minutes a black Mercedes sedan pulls up to the curb and the trunk pops open. The first guard puts the luggage in the trunk while the other one opens the passenger-side rear door and glances inside. He holds the door open for Karpov to get in, with a grin on his face.

Karpov, made wary and curious by the guard’s smile, looks into the car. There’s a woman seated inside. She’s beautiful, her dark red hair upswept in a French twist, the red almost the same shade as her very short, tight dress. He smiles, gets comfortable in his seat and openly admires her. He assumes that she is the “gift” mentioned by Lukin the last time they talked.

The door closes and the car begins to move just as she extends her left hand gracefully and greets him, in soft Russian. “Colonel Karpov, I hope your trip was pleasant.” she says, smiling, but not holding his eyes, looking almost shy. He relaxes, thinking his opinion of Lukin has just gone up.

The two guards watch the car pull away for a second, then look for their own vehicle, which should have been right behind the car, but it’s nowhere to be seen. They curse, shout into the radio and watch in frustrated anger as their boss’s car disappears down the busy airport terminal drive.

Karpov takes her hand, but just then his phone rings. He frowns and says to her, “Yes, yes, just a moment.” He puts the phone to his ear, “Da”. He pales as he listens and looks quickly back at the woman next to him. She’s still smiling, but now she’s casually pointing a Makarov pistol at his stomach.

“Give me the phone.” she says in English, low and threatening. He narrows his eyes, frantically trying to think of a way out of this. The driver, a white man wearing sunglasses, looks over his shoulder and says “Man, I’d do what she says.”

He looks back at the woman, who sweeps her left hand across her face, removing a holographic veil. His eyes widen as he gasps “Black Widow!” She stops smiling and tips the muzzle of the Makarov at his phone.

His hand shakes as he hands it over. Natasha ends the call and hands it to the driver, over his shoulder, and he removes the card and throws the phone out the window. They sit in silence for a few minutes until the driver pulls the car over in a roadside rest area. It’s too small to attract much traffic, there’s not even a street light.

They pull Karpov out of the car and search him thoroughly before handcuffing him to one of the handles inside the Mercedes. The handles are hard plastic, meant to be a handhold to facilitate entry to the vehicle, and they make a convenient hard point for handcuffs.

Natasha pulls some fabric from her handbag and says, “Put this over his head.” The driver unfolds a black silk pillowcase and grins wryly. He leans over and forces it roughly over Karpov’s head, snorting a laugh as Karpov tries to jerk away and hits his head on the side window.

After the hood is secure, the driver drags a hand across his face, pulling off his holographic veil, revealing his true self. “I’m glad to get that off, it was hot.” Sam says. He looks at Karpov, thinking. “Should I put a gag on him too?” He remembers Steve mentioning that captured HYDRA members would commit suicide by breaking a cyanide capsule hidden in a fake tooth.

“No, it doesn’t matter if he dies.” Natasha says, casually. Karpov stiffens. Sam’s eyebrows raise but he says nothing. Natasha smiles back at him in the rear view mirror. “Get comfortable, it will be about 2 hours.”

Later that night they arrive at a small house, one of Natasha’s safe houses, in the country. The nearest small town is 15 miles away. The house is comfortable but dusty, the furniture covered with white sheets. Natasha and Sam leave Karpov in the car, and transfer the luggage to the house.

Sam takes a minute to go through the cabinets and refrigerator, checking out what’s possibly still edible. Natasha laughs at him and reminds him about the soft-sided cooler in the back of the car, so he goes out and lugs it inside. They wash up and Sam checks out the cooler. Sam frowns when all he finds at first are bottles of wine, some bread, olives and cheese, but his smile returns when Natasha reaches in and brings out two bags of Italian takeout. He pulls the covering off the kitchen table and locates two glasses and a corkscrew.

“You were amazing, getting that car, what did you do with the driver?” Natasha asks, curiously.

Sam laughs as he uncorks the wine, “It was easier than I thought! When you talked to the guards and sent the driver in my direction, I choked him out and locked him in the storage closet in the stairwell. It was two seconds to program the veil with his image, take his jacket and walk back. But I don’t think the guards even saw me, thanks to your first-class distraction!”

Natasha gives a wry smile as she pours the wine. “Well, it was easy, those guards were stupid. I should have killed them as a professional courtesy.” She laughs at Sam’s shocked look. “I’m going to get out of this dress, be right back.”

After they eat and change clothes, Natasha carefully goes over the luggage, looking for any traps or surprises hidden in the handles or hinges. Finding nothing, they line the suitcases up in the living room. ”We’re looking for a book, like a journal. It’ll have a red cover with a black star on it.”

Sam looks at her, thinking. “What’s so special about it?” he finally asks.

Natasha glances at him. “It’s basically an instruction book for the Winter Soldier.” Sam’s eyebrows go up. “It has info on how to take care of him. What and when to feed him, how to maintain him physically, the most efficient correctional methods, how to assign targets, how to program him to keep his mind on his mission. How to stay safe working around him. His drugs. Also his trigger words.”

“Trigger words?”

Natasha nods. “I had them too. People can be brainwashed into responding automatically to a pre-programmed sound. Like saying a certain word to me would make me pass out.” She cocks her head and grins at him. “And no, you don’t need to know that word.” Sam grins and rolls his eyes. She pauses to examine a case. “HYDRA does it to keep control over their 'assets'. If someone goes rogue, they need to be able to shut them down without injury, to themselves or to the asset.”

Sam shakes his head. “How did you overcome it? The programming?” he asks as he looks at the row of luggage.

“I didn’t. I just made sure everyone who knew them was dead.” Sam looks at her with a worried expression. He can never tell if she’s bullshittin’ him or not. She smiles brightly at him and turns to put her glass down.

Sam sighs and bends to pick up a hard-sided bare metal case with a lock. Lukins’ carry on. But how to unlock it. Hear Natasha say "Let me." He looks over in time to see her reach under her shirt and pull a small black soft case from her waistband.

Natasha picks the lock easily, and opens the case carefully. It’s full of folders, notebooks and large brown envelopes, their contents making them stiff and fat. “We can stack them on the table and go through each one.” Sam says. “It’s a lot, but if we stay focused and look only for a red book, this should go pretty fast.” Natasha nods and moves to the other side of the table, taking her glass of wine and making herself comfortable.

As they sort through the pile, Sam asks, “So, what’s your plan for Karpov?” Natasha shrugs, “Do you really want to know?” Sam frowns, thinking. “No, on second thought, no.” shaking his head. Sam had learned enough about the Black Widow from Steve to realize what a stupid question that was. “It’s better that way,” Natasha says. “He knows too much.”

“HYDRA brainwashes their people with a mantra,” she continues. “’cut off one head and two more grow back’, but his replacement won’t know what he does.” Sam frowns but nods his head. “That’s the price of keeping secrets.” He turns his attention to dumping out the contents of another manila envelope, and mixed in with other papers a red book with a star on the cover slides out onto the table. Sam looks up at Natasha and smiles. “Well look at that!”


STARK TOWER - SECURE MEDICAL SECTION

Wake up, on a soft surface, in a bright room. There’s a light hanging above, shining on his metal arm. There’s a mask over his nose and mouth, hooked up to...air? Hear people moving around, out of sight...try to move, but nothing responds. Can't feel straps, not tied down, just can’t move...strain every muscle, let out a blast of air with the effort but no sound comes out. A man with shaggy dark hair comes into view, pushes some buttons on a beeping machine until it quiets, and looks down at you.

“Tony, he’s conscious. Respiration and pulse are rising.” he says. The man comes to the side of the bed and adjusts something behind your head, then turns and goes out of sight. What are they doing... Panic rising, Why can’t I move?!

Concentrate, breathe, focus on turning your head to see what they’re doing... Nothing happens. Only his eyelids can move, slowly. There’s nothing to see except part of a machine, the light and the ceiling. Hear people moving, talking softly. Feel the weight of a blanket on your legs and stomach. There’s no pain. I can breathe and my heart beats, why? What are they doing?!

Hear something heavy being rolled closer, gradually part of another machine comes into view, hear someone moving. What?  Close your eyes, remember a similar room, a similar bright light, injections and pain. Try to move, to fight no no no no no no MUST GET OUT

A different man’s face comes into view, above him on his left. Dark hair, goatee, piercing eyes. Mission briefing takes over: Stark, Anthony Edward, aka Tony, Iron Man. Threat level high. He shot me. Start to sweat, I can’t move, can’t talk, Stark...no no no no... they'll experiment...on me... I can’t move, I'm afraid...

“He’s getting agitated, we need to speed things up.” Tony says.

Hear someone moving right behind your head. The other male says, “Tony, beyond the mechanical, the internal system in his arm is joined by direct neural-prosthetic interface to his natural shoulder. We can look but I’m afraid if we start disconnecting leads we won’t be able to put them back, or manage the pain that could result.”

They’re going to take my arm while I’m awake! Because I tried to escape, I attacked those guards, I’m sorry sorry I’m sorry... Cold drops of sweat run down his sides. I can’t make them hear me!

Hear Tony moving behind him. “The Soldier uses the prosthetic as a weapon. I can’t see any way to control him as long as it's functional. We have to find a way to remove  or deactivate it, since Ross wants him physically in the courthouse.”

They’re afraid. They don’t know how to control me so they’ll take me apart... they’ll take me apart and I can’t...they don’t want to hear... no no no no... Flashback to another time, tied down to a cold metal table, hear the doctor laughing with the guards about not really needing to paralyze him, he just got tired of hearing him scream.

“...I don’t understand why he can’t be happy with a video link. This stunt of having the Soldier over there, I guarantee will be a disaster. With or without the arm.” Tony’s voice, angry, from across the room.

“Remember, his metabolism is so high, the neuromuscular-block will wear off very quickly.”

“Ok, get ready, let me tell him what to do. Is the knock-out gas ready?” Hear an affirmative from the voice behind your head. Tony’s face comes into view again, his concerned face splits into a grin and he turns to look at the man behind me. “He’s crying!” Sharp bark of laughter. Sarcastic “Oh man, that just tears my heart out.” Hear the other voice say “Must be your bedside manner.” More laughter. Feeling this has happened before, other faces, laughter.

The face returns. “Hey, calm down, I need you to tell me if this hurts. I know you can’t talk, just blink. Once for no, twice for yes. Got that?” Stare at him. Blink twice. He steels himself, preparing for the hurt he knows is coming. Nothing to do except blank his mind, and wait ‘till it’s over. He’s no one, nothing, pain doesn’t matter. Deep breath.

“Ok, Soldier, does this hurt?” Feel one of the plates on your left arm being moved. Blink once. “This?” Blink once. Feeling of pressure on arm, clinking sounds, jerking. Sudden spike of pain. Blink blink, blink blink...”Stop, he says that hurts”, and the pain fades. Tony disappears. Hear the technical discussion of what happened, don’t care...try to move right arm...fingers move, just slightly. Keep moving them. Try small movement of wrist, elbow, wiggle toes. The mask hides his tiny smile.


SOMEWHERE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK

Natasha and Sam share a relieved grin over the pile of paper between them on the table as Sam picks up the red book and hands it to her. She sits back and opens it, confirming that it’s the one they’re after. Sam takes a sip of his wine, and looks around at the rest of the luggage. “Should we look through the other suitcases too, just in case? he asks. “Might as well, you start and I’ll look through these papers. There might be all kinds of secrets in here.” Natasha says and shrugs.

Sam drags a large suitcase into the light. It has locks too, but Natasha pulls a TSA key out of her lockpick kit and opens it easily. Sam shakes his head and shrugs. Professionals, he thinks as he begins to unpack it. He shakes out shirts, pants, underwear, sweaters, shoes, personal toiletries, all the normal stuff you expect to find in a suitcase.

It was the same for the next one, and the next one. “Looks like nothing’s here.” Sam says, looking over the large pile of clothes. Natasha looks over. “Cut out the liners.” Sam quirks his lips and raises an eyebrow, cocking his head to the side. Oh yeah. “Damn professionals.” he mutters as he reaches for his pocketknife.

The knife is sharp enough to cut immediately by pulling the tip over the soft fabric. He cuts around the outside edges of the case so the fabric comes open in one large flap, exposing one half of the shell. The first shows nothing but the hard metal of the case, with the built-in handles and recesses for the wheels. He cuts open the other side, still nothing.

Sam cuts open the next suitcase liner, and it reveals another manila envelope. “Bingo!” Sam grins as he takes it to Natasha at the table. “Lets see what the next one has to offer.”

Sam cuts open the liner of the final suitcase, and sees immediately that this one has been modified. The handle extension bars have been removed and a small metal box has been installed in their place, so it’s flush with the rest of the case. Sam feels for a crack with his knife blade, but no luck. It’s a solid block, with no seams or openings. “Hey Nat, check this out.”

Natasha comes around the table and looks at his find. “Hmmm, look on the other side.” Sam turns the case over, and just barely noticeable is a keyhole on the outside of the suitcase, right in the middle. Natasha takes a few minutes with her lock pick set to open the hidden door. Inside, just the perfect shape of the hidden compartment, is a VHS tape.

They both look at it for a minute. The tape has a sticker with a date, December 16, 1991. “We don’t have anything that can play that.” Sam says. Natasha glances at him. “I’ve had this house a long time, you might be surprised.” She gestures toward the living room, where the shape of an old tube television can be seen under a sheet. Sam goes in and turns on the light, and removes the sheet from the TV. On the shelf under it are a few black electronic devices, but nothing that might be a VHS player. He says as much. “Look on the TV, silly,” Natasha says, from the kitchen. Sure enough, built into the bottom of the TV is a VHS player.

“Ok, let’s see if it still works!” Natasha says as she brings the tape and pushes the power button. The TV comes up with static. “That’s ok, we don’t need a signal to watch the tape.” Natasha says as she slides the tape into the player door. It automatically starts to play, and they both stand back to watch.

It’s security camera footage of a car wreck. The car hits a tree and the front end crumples around it, as a motorcycle flies by in the background. An older man opens the car door and falls out on the ground, obviously injured. The motorcycle returns and stops. A man in black gets off and walks to the trunk of the car, easily forcing the lid up with his metal arm. Natasha and Sam glance at each other. The Winter Soldier walks around the car to the man on the ground, ignores his pleas to help his wife, and pulls him up by his hair. Faintly, the injured man says "Sergeant Barnes?” The Winter Soldier just looks at him, and then strikes him twice in the face with his metal fist.

“That was Tony’s father.” Natasha says softly. Sam glances at her. “Howard? Oh, hell.” he breathes.

They watch as the Winter Soldier lets the body fall, then drags it to the car and puts it back in the driver’s seat, leaning Howard’s bloody head against the steering wheel. As he casually walks around the car to the passenger side, a woman’s voice can be heard, faintly calling Howard’s name, and for someone to help. The Winter Soldier stands by the passenger side door, reaches through the broken window with his natural arm, and the cries stop.

“He strangled her! Tony’s mom! S***, Tony will...” He lets his words trail off, not wanting to finish that thought. The tape keeps playing.

The Soldier walks back around the car and notices the security camera. He walks closer and looks at it with dead eyes as he brings a handgun up and fires. The video goes to static.


STARK TOWER - SECURE MEDICAL SECTION

“Gee Tony, love what you’ve done with the place.” Natasha says, standing in the doorway, quirking one side of her mouth into a smirk. Tony rolls his eyes and crunches through the debris on the floor. “Yeah, laugh it up. JARVIS, remind me to install a safe room with the remodel.” He stops and brushes broken glass off an object on the floor.

“I’m impressed that Bruce made it out before things got, well...” Natasha waves a hand at the destroyed room.

“If JARVIS hadn’t warned us that he was just faking it, lying there with no indication the block had worn off... I managed to activate the restraints on the gurney, and it slowed that scary bastard down just long enough for us to get out.”

Tony bent down to pull an open laptop out of the remains of a metal desk. “Bruce hit the switch for the gas, but it was too late. The Soldier pulled off the mask and went nuts.” Tony sighs. “And after all this, the brainiacs downtown are still ok with having him in the courthouse for trial, fully functional.”

“You showed them the video of this?” Natasha asks, amazed, not wanting to move any farther into the room.

“Of course! And the scenes from when the Marshall was here. They seem to think we can find a way. The fact we can pull off the impossible is coming back to bite us, right on the ...”

*BAM* the sound echoes down the hallway. “Well, guess who’s awake again.”

“Where is he now? Surely not in a cell with a window.”

“Well yeah, I had one of the larger cells modified after he got out, let me show you.” jerking his head in the direction of the noise. They walk up the hallway to cell 112. It has a steel door with a large window, just like the previous one, but instead of looking in, Tony says “Open 112”. The door opens with a loud clank. Natasha stops. “Don’t look at me like I’ve lost it.” Tony says with a grin “Go in!”

Natasha studies the opening and walks forward. Tony takes a step back, but his grin doesn’t fade. She looks in warily, and sees the room has been split in half with floor-to-ceiling bars, just like an old-time jail. The Soldier is standing there, watching them from the other side. With the cell cut in half, his half has the toilet and sink, and about three feet of floor space, but the bed and the rest of the room with the door is cut off by the bars.

Tony smiles, looking pleased with himself. “It doesn’t look like much, but don’t go too close, there’s enough power running through those bars to knock you on your killer ass.” He says, laughing.

Natasha narrows her eyes, and leans towards him, just a little. Tony turns his laugh into a cough and shakes his head. Natasha looks back at the Soldier, standing there in his gray and white striped jumper, with no socks.

“Soldier, report.” Natasha asks. No reaction, except she sees his eyelids lower slightly.

She says it again, in Russian. This time he looks at Tony before hanging his head and replying in the same language, his voice sounding deep and rough. Tony watches them talk, he doesn’t understand, but it appears that the Soldier is asking questions somewhat nervously, and Natalia is answering. The Soldier stops talking and just stands there, head down, unmoving. Tony looks at her, eyebrows raised. “Ok, what?”

“He wants to know why you tried to take his arm off.” Tony looks at her, amazed. “Did you tell him that he’s a crazed killer and we don’t trust him!”

“He said he’s sorry for attacking you, and hurting the guards.” Natasha pauses. “He knows he’s been captured, he’s away from the people who usually, I wouldn’t say cared for him, but he doesn’t know what we expect of him.”

“That’s easy, stop attacking people. Tell him that.”

Natasha stares at him. “Tony, he thought you were punishing him, taking his arm off without anesthetic. I would fight back too. He needs professional help, Tony, not more prison.”

Tony waves at her as he takes a few steps backward down the hall. “Yeah well, talk to Secretary Ross, he doesn't want anyone talking to him before the trial. I’m going upstairs for sushi time, come up if you want, I’ll share.” Tony turns around, takes a step and stops, turning again. “And Cap’s funeral starts tomorrow, I saved you a place, if you change your mind.”


The Soldier watches her. Natalia. She stands and looks around the cell. She’s wearing civilian clothes, a light hooded sweater over a blue top, with close-fitting dark jeans over her slim figure. Probability that she’s armed, 100%. What does she want. Suddenly she crosses her feet and sinks to the ground, sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“Tomorrow is Cap’s funeral.” She says, in English, and he knows she’s watching for a reaction. He understands English but the words don’t mean anything.

“The President is giving Steve a State funeral, so it will go on for a few days. I can have it put on the monitor for you. The whole world will be watching”

“Steve.” He would hate that. Breathe out. Frown. Why did I think that? Look down but instead of the floor see a soldier, see the target but long ago, in the army? He’s looking at me, saying something I can’t hear, smiling. He shakes his head violently to clear the images, hallucinations again! Why don’t they make me sleep! Take several deep breaths, but I don’t want to. Look up, guiltily.

She’s still sitting there, quietly watching him. Force his growing anger down, relax she’s trying to upset you. Deep breath, stand still. Get to her, somehow. Tell her about those...dreams? “You were with me, on missions, before...” he says, watching her eyes widen just slightly, but that’s enough to know that he’s really shaken her. Small smile. “I think...remember you...smaller, fighting?” She stands up, a quick movement, but doesn’t leave. Just looks at him.

He goes on, but his eyes shift to the floor, his words coming slower, not trying to attack her so much now but trying to catch the pictures running through his head. Remembering? Sliding into Russian, he says, “We worked together, I was your...teacher?” Look up at her but see someone much younger, trying to fight, determined but too small... “Is that true? Am I...” dreaming, he thinks.

Natasha comes as close to the bars as she dares, her expression concerned, but with a smile so slight anyone else would miss it. “Yes, it’s true.” She tilts her head to the side, and says “HYDRA,” she pauses, “made you forget who you are, but you’re healing. Your memories are...coming back.”

She’s looking at him thoughtfully, and he suddenly wants to go closer, to touch her hair, to look into her green eyes...he knows they’re green, despite the harsh shadows from the overhead lights.

Damn the bars. He moves closer to them, to her.

“Do you remember Steve Rogers? Captain America?” she asks, softly. “Not as your mission. Before that.” He looks away from her, down and to the side.

“I see...pictures...they aren’t real."

“You have memories of me, of us, yes?” She just stops herself from saying and you have memories of Steve, your friend.

He looks up at her, then away again. 

“You,” Natasha pauses, thinking. Should I make him remember? Remember killing his best friend? She looks at him and turns, almost jumping for the door. She can’t stay here. She hears him say “Natalia?” behind her, but she keeps going. I need to talk to Sam.


Chapter Text

WASHINGTON D.C.

U.S. Marshall Johnson walks into the office of Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross with a mission. Tony Stark had been keeping him updated on the condition of the prisoner being held in Stark Tower, but his latest report warned that "dangerous" was an understatement, evidently even if the Soldier was drugged and restrained. He'd called Ross earlier to ask for the Soldier be tried in absentia, but the man just wouldn't see reason. The Secretary was set on having the Soldier appear in court, in person, broadcast live to the world. Maybe being here in person would help stress how serious this was. He doubted the man would listen to him, but he had to try, a lot of innocent lives were at stake.

Johnson waited in the pleasantly decorated lobby for a few minutes, until Ross's secretary called him in. "Good morning Marshall, what can I do for you?" Secretary Ross asked, standing and shaking his hand. "Have a seat." The Secretary looked calm, a question in his eyes.

"Good morning Mr. Secretary, thanks for seeing me, I just need to go over this order with you,” Johnson says as he sits in one of the chairs in front of the desk. "the one about the Winter Soldier. To have him in the United Nations courtroom will be…very dangerous.”

Secretary Ross sits back down in his chair behind the desk and raises his eyebrows, but doesn't say anything. Johnson continues. "I know we've gone over this before, but having him there, to put it bluntly, is stupid. The Soldier is enhanced with incredible strength, has a cybernetic arm. Tony has learned that HYDRA designed him, if you will, for the sole purpose of killing people. We need to disable him if we're going to put him in a room with a hundred spectators. Stark has been working on it, but short of drugging him out of his mind, which won't look very good on camera, nothing works.”

Secretary Ross glares at Johnson over his desk. "That's good. Drug him and handcuff him to the chair. Whatever it takes. He won't have to answer questions, he just has to be there." Ross rises and walks around the desk, his eyes never leaving Johnson’s. “We can’t afford for him to be tried in absentia. If we do that, by the European Convention on Human Rights, he can request a retrial. We don't want that. The nation doesn’t want that. He has to be there, and he has to look like a killer.”

Johnson sits back, troubled by the Secretary's response. “Having him look like what he is isn’t the problem." He looks down at his hands, considering his next words. "When I went to arrest him, he was strapped down to a gurney that was chained to the floor, and he freed himself in less than 2 minutes." The Marshall pauses, just looking at Secretary Ross. "Then he ripped the gurney apart. And with one strike with his metal arm he cracked the bulletproof glass in the door. Later he actually broke out the glass, got out of the cell and attacked the guards, one of whom is still in the hospital, and was on his way out before Iron Man stopped him.”

The Marshall pauses and takes a breath, knowing by the look on Ross's face that he's not getting through. He shifts in his chair and continues. "After that, when Tony, and Bruce, put him under to try to disable the metal arm, the Soldier fought through the sedation early and attacked without warning, and it's only by the sheerest luck they were able to get out in time.” He pauses. “It's my opinion that having the Soldier present in court is going to get a lot of people killed, on live television.”

Secretary Ross stands and leans a hip against his desk, going over what the Marshall said. It sounded like the he was afraid, and was trying to find an excuse. He wants a way out. The Soldier is nobody, a HYDRA tool, he thinks. Except now, he's my tool. When the countries that haven't signed the Accords see this monster exposed and put away, they'll be rushing to join. And this man is afraid? I need someone who can do the job and not be afraid of bedtime stories. A replacement may be in order. He narrows his eyes and leans forward.

"He has to be there." Ross takes a breath, looking at Johnson. "If he looks and acts like what he is, isn't that what we want? I don't care what needs to be done to him to get him in that courtroom, I'm sure Tony will think of something, but I want him there. He won't get away. Make sure the metal arm shows. Don't cut his hair. We want people see what he is. A monster.”

Ross turns and picks up a folder from his desk, saying, "The Sokovia Accords class the Winter Soldier as an "undocumented enhanced asset". He was used by HYDRA, which for the most part has been destroyed, but there's no way to know if there are more Winter Soldiers out there. Having the world watch us put this enhanced HYDRA assassin away will show how effective these new international regulations are, and they will see how necessary it is to fund its security operations.”

“Sir,” Johnson starts.

Ross waves the folder at him. "Technically, we can hold him indefinitely without a trial, but since he is who he is, he's going on trial for murder. 'Multiple counts' is a gross understatement. The UN court will give him the death penalty or life in the Raft. We're making the world a safer place. So he's going to be there." Ross gives a small smile. "Make it happen, Marshall.”


STARK TOWER

Natasha finds Sam at his apartment in the Tower. They sit in the living room with drinks, watching the Soldier in his cell on the big screen TV and talking across a stack of folders on the coffee table. "Well, now we know who he is, but how did he get here, here as in Washington D.C., the year 2014, and not look 90 years old." Sam asks, leaning back in his chair, watching the Soldier. In his limited space, the Soldier was doing push-ups. Sam waves his hand at the screen. "And look at that, he hasn't stopped since I turned on the TV.”

Natasha gives him an amused look, distracted. "From what I've been able to piece together, when he fell off the train into that chasm, Russian soldiers found him, still alive. From there I don't know what happened, the earliest records I've found on him date to 1955. Some handwritten notes about training him, pretty awful stuff. I also found documents about the Winter Soldier having a prosthetic arm, and how to maintain it, from 1957. It was strange, a cross between mechanical and medical information.” She digs into the stack of folders until she finds the one she wants.

She pauses and looks at Sam. "And there's something else, but you must not mention this to anyone, especially Tony." Natasha reaches out and touches Sam's hand. He looks in her eyes and raises his eyebrows. "Some of the letters were signed by Howard Stark.”

"What!! Why!? How?" Sam says loudly, amazed. He takes the folder and looks at the letters. Russian was written below the typed English words. ”But why would Howard have done such a thing? Sure he was a scientist, but I didn't think he was into making cyborgs out of his friends.”

"That's what's confusing. He knew Barnes from the war, he would have recognized him, unless they kept his face hidden, somehow. Or he just worked on the design, not the actual 'installation' of it. And this prosthetic is unique. If Howard had been working on a medical breakthrough on this scale, you'd think there would be more examples and articles about it, somewhere.”

"Maybe that's why HYDRA had him killed. They would have liked the irony, having him killed with his own invention, by a friend." Sam shakes his head and stretches out his legs under the table. "But why did they wait forty years? Howard recognized Barnes, after all that time, even when he was injured, in the dark. But Barnes didn't seem to know Howard.” He pauses, thinking.

"HYDRA made him forget, somehow. But he's starting to remember more, now." Natasha shifted in her chair, leaning forward and putting her elbows on the table, crossing her arms. "When I went to tell Tony we were back, I talked to the Soldier for a minute. He remembered working with me...before." She caught her breath, stop.

Sam's eyebrows couldn't get any higher. She smiles and huffs at him. "Yes, I knew him. The Winter Soldier was one of my trainers, in Russia, a long time ago.” She slides off the couch to sit on the floor. "I only knew him as the Winter Soldier. There were rumors, but no one knew who he used to be. Some even said he was never human, 'it' was constructed, a machine that looked human." She sighs, remembering his smile. 

Sam just looks at her with a worried expression, shaking his head, not saying anything. "Did he remember Steve?” she asks, getting away from that subject. Sam nods, shifting in his chair. "He did, sort of. He talked about fighting Cap, "his mission", on the highway, and on the helicarrier. But he didn't show any interest in the photos I showed him when I was babysitting." Sam says, pulling the folder of photos from the pile on the table. "But he did talk to me once, and he said something that backs up your theory of him really being Barnes.”

Natasha looks at him, tilts her head to the side slightly. “Sorry, I guess I forgot to tell you, with all the excitement yesterday.” Sam gives a little grin and shrugs. “When I was sitting in the hall reading to him about the 107th infantry getting captured at Azzano, he came up to the window and scared the you-know-what out of me. He told me about being held prisoner, and being tortured. In English.” He looks up to see Natasha frowning at the wall. “He shut down pretty quick after that, though. Went back to Russian.”

“So he remembered something from before he was the Soldier.” Natasha says, wondering. “That’s what we need to do, get him to remember his youth, Brooklyn…” She looks at him, then down at the table. “I…I didn’t want to make him remember Steve, when I saw him earlier. What will he do when he realizes he killed his best friend, who was trying to save him." She says slowly, thinking about Steve's words after they had been captured by the STRIKE team. Even when I had nothing, I had Bucky. She sighs.

Sam sits up. "He hasn't really remembered just who Steve was," Agitated, he stands up, walks into the kitchen and comes back. "and we don't know if Barnes is still in there, or if he can even remember very much. Ever. He might be so brain damaged that he'll never be able to.”

Natasha leans back in her chair. "When you were babysitting, with the photos and stories, he didn't seem to care. But what if we sat with him in the new cell and talked with him. Reinforce the little bits he does remember.”

Sam thinks for a moment, sits down again and crosses his arms. He watches the Soldier exercising, doing sit-ups now. "I don't think we should. What's he going to remember? Torture? 70 years of killing? I say we do the 'ignorance is bliss' thing. If he realizes what he's done and who he's killed, he'll go ballistic.”

“Yes, I thought that too. But what if they make him remember in the middle of the courtroom during testimony, and he freaks? Sure the guards will try to stop him, but he’ll cut a swath of death through all those innocent people before they can maybe kill him." Natasha gets up and goes to the kitchen to pour another glass of wine. "I think it would be better for us to tell him, in a controlled environment. That way, he can't hurt anyone." She calls back.

Sam follows her and leans against the door jamb. "Alright, but how are we going to calm him down afterward? Not even Tony can, with his miracle drugs. And I'm not going in there to give him a hug.”

Natasha smiles at Sam's frowning face. "Well, if we can't talk him down, there's the sedative gas Tony used to get him out of the operating room he trashed. He's hooked up the new cell with it too, just in case, he said." She leans against the counter and takes a sip from her glass. "Then we can get the docs to tie him down again. I think they have a chair for that now, instead of a gurney." She frowns. Last resort.

"That'll make a great impression in the courtroom." Sam shrugs. "Well, when should we do this? The feds are wanting to move him to the courthouse soon.”

"Well, lets go down now, it’s not too late. I want to let the Soldier know what's going to happen next, anyway.” She looks at the TV, where the Soldier, no, Barnes, is still exercising. "And Steve's funeral starts tomorrow. Tony wants me to be there but I'd rather not. I don't need to be on international television.”


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

The Soldier stops jogging in place when the cell door opens. Sam. Sam smiles and says "Hi". Natalia comes in. She has a box. She puts the box down and gives him a small nod. “Privet.” she says. Sam goes back out and brings in two folding chairs and sets them up in front of the bars. They both sit and look at him. What. Lower your eyelids and watch them.

Natalia says “Soldier, we won't hurt you, we just want to talk." In English. Hold unchanging, blank expression. "You remember me, right? When we worked together, before?” Look down. Think of her beside him on the bed, with the rifle. “Yes.”

"I'm going to ask you some questions, and don't worry, we're not trying to trick you." Natalia just looks at him for a moment. "Do you remember your mother?" she asks, softly.

What. Start to shake your head. “I don't have…" See a woman, in an apron, working around a hot stove, talking, smiling. Tilt head to the side, still in the memory. ”I...see a woman, in a kitchen, she smiles at me…” She's making me malfunction, why. Frown.

"Her name was Winifred." Natalia says. Winifred. No reaction. Natalia continues. “You loved your mother, very much. And your father. His name was George, he worked in a factory, but he was killed in an accident when you were young.” She looks into the box she brought and pulls out a folder, looks through the papers in it and takes out a photograph. “This is a picture of your family, do you want to see?” she says.

This is a trick. She lied. His handlers would do things like this, to make him mad. They never let him see any pictures. They make him mad, he attacks someone and the guards beat him, every time.

He glares at her. She won’t show him. Anger. She looks down at the picture, and turns it around. “This is your mother and father, with you and your younger brother and sisters, in Brooklyn, 1931.” Stare. Lies. Don’t move, just look at them from under your hair.

Natasha looks at Sam. She tilts her head with a little shrug.

“I don’t have a family. You’re going to…correct me.” he says, his voice deep and rough.

“Yes you did!” Natalia smiles.“You had a family who loved you, and we’re not going to hurt you.” she says, firmly. “Your brother’s name was Jack, and your sisters were Beatrice and Rebecca. Think about it, can you remember anything about them?”

Think. Stand still. “Remembering is a malfunction. Take…take me to be reset. So I don’t…see images …anymore.” Look at the floor. They’re playing a game, but they’ll tire of it soon. Conceal a sigh. Why don’t they just start now? Don’t listen to their voices anymore, just prepare for the pain that is coming. Breathe.

“…they were wrong.” Sam is saying. He's angry. “You’re not malfunctioning.” He pauses. “What do you mean, ‘reset’ you?”

Deep breath. Remember it, terrifying… Another breath. Report. “There is a…chair. I…sit in it. It has clamps, on my arms…while…a machine…closes on my head…electricity, sparks…” oh god it hurt… Lean forward, fight the urge to run, or hit something, but your small motion causes a snap of electricity between the bars that makes you jerk back against the wall, as far away as you can get.

“That’s what made the burned spots on your head? Sam asks, amazed and disgusted.

“Yes.”

“Do you remember where this machine was?

Think. “In a bank vault.”

“What city?”

“Don’t know.” Think. “Where I completed my mission, and was captured.”

Sam and Natalia look at each other. “Looks like we’re going back to Washington.” Sam says.

Natalia goes back to her chair and sits, looking at him thoughtfully. “Sergeant Barnes.” He frowns. A memory dances, just out of reach. “Your name, your real name, is James Buchanan Barnes. Your friends called you “Bucky”. You were a Sergeant in the American 107th Infantry.”

Hold your breath, my real name…a spasm of nerves makes you shake all over. Glare at them. Don't show weakness. Speaking slowly, “I am a Winter Soldier. The Soldier doesn’t need a name.” He tries to calm his breathing as he watches the people on the other side of the bars. Why? “Why are you doing this?” he dares to ask, then grimaces, because now the punishment will come.

“We want to help you.” They both say at the same time, look at each other and smile. Natalia looks back and continues, “The Winter Soldier has been arrested for murder. You’re…he’s going to trial soon.” She pauses, thinking. “We want to help you remember who you are, before it starts.”

Narrow eyes. “I am a Winter Soldier.” Just get this over with.

Sam shifts nervously, but the Widow’s face doesn’t change. “You were a regular man, an American from Brooklyn, before you became the Winter Soldier.” she says. “HYDRA took you, they took your life and your memory we want to help you get it back.” Lower your chin, stare at her. Lies.

Natalia sighs. “We had a friend,” gesturing at Sam, “who knew you. He would have wanted us to help you.”

Think. A friend. Sam’s friend. I killed Sam’s friend. ‘A very famous person’, he said. I completed my mission to finish Captain America. Take a deep breath. Touch the wall again, look at them from under your hair. They want to hurt me for killing their friend.

“Captain America." They look at each other, Natalia steps closer to the bars, making them crackle.

“Yes. What do you remember about him?

“He was my mission.” They know this. Glance at her from under your hair, then back at the floor. Report. “The first time, he chased me after I finished Fury. He tried to stop me but I distracted him and got away. Later, on the highway, I finished Sitwell but he distracted me from my mission to finish the Black Widow." Glance at her warily, but her expression doesn't change. "I tried to kill him but he was strong, and fast. I retreated under cover of an explosion when the back-up team arrived.” Pause. “I failed, and was reset.” Grimace. A tremor shakes your whole body. Focus.

“He was my mission on the helicarriers. We fought, I shot, stabbed and beat him. He…” He gave up. Take a breath. “He stopped fighting.” Glance at them again, they glance at each other, Sam looks at the floor...sad. His friend. Report. “Before I could finish him the floor broke away and he fell into the river, but I went under and found him, pulled him to shore. He was alive. I drew a blade to finish him but he died. Death confirmed. Mission complete.” They are staring at me. Frown. Start to sweat a little, what are they going to do.

Sam asks “Who gave you the mission?

“Pierce.” My handler. “He said this mission was my most important.” Natalia looks at him for a moment, closes her eyes and sighs. She turns to Sam. “Find that photo of Steve before the serum.” Sam digs in the stack of folders and comes back with more than one picture. “Show it to him.” Sam turns the picture around and holds it as close to the bars as he dares. “Do you remember this man?” she asks.

The picture is old, black and white but brown with age too. It shows a skinny white boy standing in a white t-shirt, looking at something off to his right, out of the picture. Soldiers in the background. He’s familiar, somehow, but nothing. Look back at Natalia. Sam switches the picture with another, this one of two boys, one taller than the other, standing in front of a large gate. Cyclone, it says, in giant letters. Faster than Ever.

"You're the tall one, do you remember the boy next to you?

Look at the two boys, young, smiling at the camera. Frown. That’s me? And...Steve. "Steve." Remember that day, the thrill of the rollercoaster. “He was so sick, we couldn’t go again.” Remember him throwing up, just missing your shoes. “He...threw up...”

Something snaps inside your head, it was like someone suddenly opened all the closed windows in your brain, letting in the light. Slam backwards into the wall, your shaky knees give way, slide down to sit on the floor. Steve! Memories come pouring in, remember his bright blue eyes laughing at you, how you finished fights for him, remember how sick he was, bringing medicine, watching out for him. "He was my friend." The pictures in your head pour in, is this me? Am I...remembering? I was a person?

I had a life, before…before? Think. I left for a war but Steve couldn’t go? Look up at Natalia and Sam, they’re still just watching him. Sit up on your knees. Steve Rogers. “Steve Rogers. I knew him. I...took care of him. What happened? Where is he?" Feel upset, angry, hear the metal arm whirring as you clench and unclench your fists. "I left him...I fell..."

They look at each other, Sam turns and sits down in his chair, puts his head in his hands, rubs his face. Natalia looks back at you and asks “Do you remember the war? Fighting as a regular American soldier?"

Watch Sam. What. Shake your head, FOCUS. Think. Remember a war starting, joining the soldiers. “Yes..." see yourself in uniform, feeling pleased, looking good in your Class A's. "I was in the Army...but Steve was 4F, he had...asthma, they wouldn't take him. I was glad." That skinny punk had no business being a soldier. Remember soldier’s faces, remember fighting, moving through trees, shooting, always tired, bad food, the cold and mud. Death everywhere. Remember the ripping sound of a German MG42, men falling, screaming. Shudder.

“Do you remember being captured by the Germans?

Think. See soldiers, friends, disappearing in a blue flame. A huge tank. Troops in black uniforms, masks. A cage. “No…not Germans, HYDRA.” Frown.

“Do you remember being rescued?

“Natasha? You sure?" Sam says, his voice low. She looks at him but says nothing. Turns back to you and waits.

Look at the floor. We were in a castle. Remember working, forced to work, abuse, the cage. It’s bad. I'm in bad shape. See soldiers, friends? Large mustache. Helping me. I’m so sick, I'm beaten and dragged out by the guards. Strapped to a table. Little man with round glasses. Zola, oh god not... he looks at you and smiles. …Please, no! Cold table, injections that set your blood on fire, screaming, fighting, why can't he just stop! Please stop…

Hear a voice, Sam. “…ok, you’re with us, you’re not hurt, you’re safe here, come back.” Look at Sam, he's like a lifeline, pulling you back to reality. Feel the cold floor under your knees, slow your breathing… "That's it, just breathe..." I’m here, I’m not hurt… Lower your head, watch a couple of tears drop down, making dark dots on the grey stripes.

“Everything's ok, you're safe." Look at them, watching him with concern. "Did you escape? Try to remember…” Natalia says, softly.

Shift on the cold floor, reach to the side and put your natural hand on the wall. Deep breath. Think. "I was groggy, flat on my back on a table. Barnes, Sergeant, 32557038..." someone over me…it was… “Steve!” Remember holding on to him. "But he was different, big and strong…" Breathe in sharply to keep your nose from dripping. “Steve found me, he was helping me get out, but Red Skull, Zola, stopped us. They got away but we were trapped up high. Fire all around…I went over a beam to the other side but it fell, Steve had to jump! He was strong, not sick and small anymore…” I leave him alone and the punk volunteers to be a lab rat...  Remember a long walk in the cold, everyone injured… “We went slow because of the wounded, but Steve led us all back.” Give a small smile.

Remember the satisfaction, the joy of walking into the camp, cheering soldiers lining the road, cheering for Captain Amer…

Hold your breath. Whisper “Captain America.”

Disbelief. No. Memory hits you like a flashbang. Steve was Captain America. See him standing tall with the round shield. I KILLED STEVE. I killed... Bend down to the floor, hold your head and cry out. "They made my mission…Steve…" See his bloody body by the river. Gasp out "I didn't remember and I..." Watch water run out of his mouth, hear his long, final exhale.

Leap up, throw your head back. Feel nothing but hate, anger and grief, …oh Stevie I’m sorry I’m sorry…

Sam and Natasha can only watch in helpless shock as Barnes turns and throws himself on the electrified bars.

Natasha immediately spins to run to the control room as the lights blink, leaving Sam standing there stricken while the screaming, buzzing, electrical nightmare goes on for what feels like minutes, until a fuze blows and the bars go quiet. Barnes crashes to the floor, unmoving.

“S***! …Open the door! Open the bars!” Sam yells out to the control room as he pulls on the bars. “Open the bars goddammit!!


Chapter Text

STARK TOWER - SECURE AREA

"Get back!" Sam shouts, as he kneels down and reaches through the bars to check the Soldier's pulse, it was strong. The Soldier’s head turns and he moans softly. “He’s waking up!” Sam stands up and holds out an arm to hold back the fast-approaching doctor.

"No, let me give him a sedative," the young, black-haired doctor says, "before he regains consciousness.”

Sam doesn’t move. He hasn’t seen this man before, and Sam thought he'd met all the doctors by now.

The doctor puts his bag down and opens it. "When we examined him after he attacked Mr. Stark, we developed a compound that would sedate him, and last long enough for us to work." the doctor says, while opening smaller cases containing parts to assemble a hypodermic needle. “This compound will allow him to wake up, but he won't be able to hurt anyone."

Sam still doesn’t move, just tilts his head and looks at the doctor, concerned. “Look, no offense, but...” The doctor interrupts, saying “I am Doctor Izano, one of the physicians Mr. Stark has on stand-by while the Winter Soldier is here.” He pauses. “We don’t have much time before he wakes, and I need to make sure he’s ok.”

Sam still doubts, but steps out of the way and watches as the doctor slides the needle into the Soldier's natural shoulder. "He'll be aware, but he won't be able to move for about 20 minutes." the doctor finishes.

Natasha and another guard come up and hand the cell door key to Sam. Sam goes in and rolls the Soldier into the center of the small cell, still inside the bars but laid out flat on his back, so the doctor can examine him. The doctor begins his inspection. "Can his shirt be removed? I need to check everywhere for burns.”

Sam leans over and unsnaps the prison uniform, noticing several burned stripes in the fabric. As he pulls it open across the Soldier's chest, several red lines make a bright pattern over his smooth skin. He struggles to force the Soldier's limp body up into a sitting position, and the doctor helps him pull the top of the uniform down to free his arms. The doctor looks him over carefully as Sam holds him steady. "He is badly burned. He must be moved to the emergency room and checked for internal injuries, right now.

Natasha leans in and says, "Tony's here." Sam turns his head to the door but the doctor keeps his head down, finishing his examination of the Soldier.

"What did he break this time?" Tony asks loudly, his frustrated voice loud in the short hallway.

Sam lays Barnes down on the floor and stands up, incredulous. "Tony! He just fried himself on your 2000 megawatt bars! Dammit man, how high did you set the voltage?" Tony's face pales, as he sees the Soldier on the floor, unconscious, the red burn stripes looking lurid and macabre in the bright light.

"How bad is it?" Tony asks, blinking, ignoring Sam's outburst. The doctor gives a nervous cough. "He has electrical burns on his chest, his right hand and the bottom of his left foot. Possible internal injuries. I sedated him but we're running out of time to get him to the med bay.”

"Well what are we waiting for? Where's that damn gurney!" Tony shouts, moving back down the hallway.

Sam turns and glares at Natasha, "Didn't I say this would happen? 'Ballistic' was an understatement.”

Natasha quirks her lips at him, "Yes, but we got him back." She moves past him and sinks down crosslegged behind Barnes' head, lifting it and moving her ankles underneath, resting his head on her legs. Sam gives a little shrug and looks down at the unconscious Soldier. 

"If he survives this, and if he's still functional, he'll have to be on suicide watch, I bet." Sam watches her comb her fingers through Barnes' hair. "With that arm, he can probably kill himself pretty quick though, before anyone could stop him.”

They both notice Barnes' eyelids move. He opens his eyes, blinking in the bright light. He focuses on Natasha, stares.

"Hey" Sam says, kneeling down.

The doctor, who's standing nearby, says "He can hear you but he can't move." He moves into the hallway. "Where's that gurney?”

Natasha doesn't stop running her fingers through Barnes' soft hair. She looks into his upside-down blue eyes and says softly, "I'm sorry, James.”

He stares at her, his breathing getting deeper. She can see the moisture building up in his eyes, until he closes them and tears run down his face, under his ears and into his hair. She pulls the cuffs of her soft jacket over her hands and wipes them gently away, as she softly hums a bit of a song. "It wasn't you, we know what HYDRA did."

They hear the crashing sound of the gurney being rushed down the hallway. "The doctor wants to make sure you're ok, they're going to take you to the emergency room." His eyes fly open, staring. "Don't panic, they won't hurt you." It's all she can get out before she has to move into the hall to let the guards and nurses load him onto the gurney. They strap him down and wheel quickly down the hall to the elevator.


 

STARK TOWER - MEDICAL SECTION

Dr. Izano jogs behind the gurney carrying the Winter Soldier. He's still sweating from being so close to Tony Stark. That could have been a disaster, if that man hadn't upset him, he would have seen me. But now it's done. They arrive at the emergency room, and the nurses begin the necessary procedures. He turns and notices that the man and woman from the cell have followed them up. Crap, he thinks. "I'm sorry, you'll need to wait outside. You'll be able to come in when we've finished the examination."

The man nods and turns to go, but the woman looks at him for a moment. He holds her eyes until she says "Thank you, doctor." and turns to go.

He rubs his face and goes back into the emergency room, where the nurses have prepared the Soldier for examination. The doctor starts to work. "I need to know everything about the current in the prison. Get me someone who knows." he barks at the nurses. He works into the night, focusing on the exam, which turns out better than he expected. When he's finished and the nurses are cleaning up, he thinks about his real mission. He can't start until the two people in the waiting room leave. Frustrated, he sighs and walks out to talk to them.

"He's going to be ok." He tells them, watching their worried expressions turn to relieved smiles. "He'll need to stay here until we're sure he's recovered, but you can come back and see him now, if you'd like."

He takes them into a regular hospital room. The Soldier lies unconscious in a special hospital bed, with a machine recording his pulse and respiration. He looked comfortable, except for the straps holding him down.

Natasha walks to the bedside and touches his forehead. "He'll make a full recovery?"

"Yes, despite how bad the external burns were, amazingly he has no internal burns, and his organs are already almost fully recovered."

"Thank you, Doctor Izano." She looks at the Soldier again. "I have to leave, but Sam will stay in the waiting room until I get back."

"He is more than welcome to wait there, but it's not very comfortable! You should go home and rest! We'll take good care of him, I promise." Izano says with a smile.

"Thanks, but it's a hobby of mine, watching the Soldier." Sam says with a grin as they walk out of the room. "Kind of like bird watching, only a really dangerous bird."

Izano frowns since he's walking behind them, then puts on a bright smile. "Ok, suit yourself, one of the nurses could probably get you a blanket if you'd like. But I'm going home! I'll be back if I'm needed, otherwise I'll be in at nine." He says, giving a small wave as he walks to the door.

An hour later the doctor comes back in, entering by another door so Sam wouldn't see him. He asks a nurse for a report, nothing has changed. Good. Telling the nurse to go home, he smiles and says he can't sleep so he might as well be here. As the nurse gathers his things to go, Dr. Izano looks in at the Soldier. Time to go to work. With Pierce gone I will be the new head of the Winter Soldier project. With the asset to back me up no one will argue, he smiles to himself, pleased. Won't they be surprised when I walk in with him.


 

STREETS AROUND STARK TOWER; STARK TOWER - SECURE MEDICAL SECTION

Natasha left the Tower before the sun came up to ‘check on something’, which meant a quick meeting with one of her contacts at a local coffee bar. It also allowed her to be an anonymous part of the quiet crowd watching the horse-drawn caisson pass by with Steve’s flag-covered casket.

More than 3000 people had filled the Washington National Cathedral, with thousands more standing outside. TV cameras were everywhere, except in the air, due to everything being grounded for the funeral fly-over. Tony was speaking after the President, and was there with Pepper, Rhodey and Maria Hill. Even Bruce had surfaced, and Clint was there with his family. Those of Steve’s family’s descendants who had been found were present also, in the front row. The leaders of France, Belgium and Holland were seated, and England’s Prime Minister was in attendance, as were several members of the Royal Family.

The funeral procession left the church to go to Captain America’s original gravesite and memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The large crowds were respectfully silent, making the sound of the horses’ hooves and the jingle of the harness loud on the wide street. Natasha watches it pass by. This time his body really will be there. She looks down and closes her eyes. Oh Steve. Goodbye. Remember how his bright blue eyes sparkled when he smiled at her. She bites her cheek to keep the tears at bay. She had sometimes bet her life on knowing the nature of men, but after getting to know Steve she had been forced to revise her belief that any man could be compromised by liquor, drugs, sex or money. He was so honest, so basically good, it was hard to believe. She had never known anyone who wouldn’t lie, or have their own hidden agenda. But he never changed, never failed. He had saved her life, and despite everything he knew about her he still called her his friend. She put her back to a wall and just stood there for awhile, not really aware of her tears, just watching.

Active duty personnel and veterans in civilian clothes salute as the caisson passes. The black limousines of family members, Avengers and the foreign dignitaries precede ranks of marching soldiers. The distinctive low roar of radial aircraft engines gets closer, louder, then the first flight of WWII vintage planes appears, flying low over the procession, many heavy and light bombers, fighter planes of all sorts, American and British. Finally she marvels along with everyone else at the four Air Force F-16’s as they fly the missing-man formation above the procession, the third plane peeling away from the others, symbolizing that one wasn’t coming home. Natasha sighs, looks around, and starts moving through the now noisy crowd.

A report that Captain America’s killer had been captured had made the news today. Tony’s people caught wind of it and managed to put limits on what was released, so Barnes’ location was still a secret, but now there was a huge public outcry to bring him to trial, since the story had basically convicted the Winter Soldier with a single broadcast, on the day of Steve’s funeral.

Her phone buzzes. “Hey Tony.”

“Nat, can you head off Ross, he’s heading for the Tower to get Barnes. I can’t deal with him now, I’m in the middle of this.” 

Natasha rolls her eyes. “All right, give me a minute.” She’s just around the corner from the main entrance, but changes course for a side door. She hurries down the alley, thinking fast. She reaches the side door and touches it. “JARVIS?”

The door unlocks as a voice says “Welcome, Ms. Romanoff.” Natasha enters cautiously, eyes adjusting to the low light. “JARVIS, where is Barnes now?”

“Room 20, in the secure hospital area. Dr. Izano is with him.”

Natasha stands on the stairwell, thinking. “Have Ross or his people arrived yet?”

“No, but Tower cameras have noted several matching black SUV’s approaching the building.”

“Lock the Tower down, please, JARVIS. Let security know. We can’t delay forever, I just need time to get to Barnes.” She starts up the stairs again, but stops. “Is Sam here?”

“Yes, he’s on the same level, in the waiting room.”

Natasha starts running up the stairs, “Text him and warn him about Ross, and ask if he can get to Barnes.”

She reaches the lobby and takes the special elevator down to the secure hospital level, one floor above the prison level. The doors open to the sounds of a fight coming down the hall, shouting and crashing. There’s no guard at the desk, but there’s a uniformed body lying in the hallway. “о, чёрт…” (oh, devil) Natasha runs towards the noise, stopping just in time to miss Sam as he's thrown through a doorway right in front of her and crashes into the opposite wall. He collapses to the floor and doesn’t move. A shadow falls over him.

The Winter Soldier is standing in the doorway. He’s wearing mid-thigh length tight black shorts and no shirt, his metal arm throwing bright reflections from the overhead lights. Dead eyes flick from Sam to Natasha. With no warning he jumps at her but she springs up and over his shoulder, bounces neatly off the wall, landing on the floor further down the hall. He spins and follows her as she sprints to the far wall but can do nothing but turn and watch as he moves toward her, slowly, easily, like a big cat, his eyes focused intently on her. His right hand is bandaged but he doesn’t seem to notice.

Natasha doesn’t panic despite the current desperate situation as she quickly considers her options. “Sergeant Barnes! Bucky! Come back!” She says to him, not shouting, he can hear her. He’s close, getting closer. "Remember Steve! Steve Rogers, your friend.” He stops. Stares at her. Starts toward her again, eyes narrowed, arms preparing to grab her.

Natasha’s not against the wall, but close. She’s crouched, ready to dodge, but there's nowhere to go. She takes a breath and says “Sputnik.”

He stops, she sees his eyes roll up, showing the whites, as he slowly collapses to the floor.

She lets out her breath as she stands up, relaxing from her defensive stance. Good thing I read that red book. She catches motion down the hall and watches Sam, recovered from being thrown out the door, tackle a man as he runs out of the room the Soldier came out of. Sam pins the struggling man to the floor, “What the hell, doc! Stop!”

Natasha eases around the Soldier’s unconscious body. “Hold him” she pants, not recovered from the run upstairs and evading the Winter Soldier. The doctor can’t roll over with Sam on his back, but just as Natasha gets to them, they hear him gasp out “Hail Hydra!” as white, bubbly drool drips to the floor. Sam jumps up and flips him over, just in time to see his eyes close as he dies.

"HYDRA." Natasha looks Sam up and down for injuries and says sarcastically, ”I leave you alone and look what happens.”

Sam shoots her a quick grin and stands up slowly, jerking when the movement hurts, then glances down the hall at the still form of the Winter Soldier. “When I saw the text, I pushed past the guard and went in there,” he says, gesturing to the room with the open door next to him. “Barnes was sitting in a chair. Looked like he was drugged. He didn’t recognize me." Sam stops, rolls his shoulders and pops his neck. “When I stopped in the door, the guard came up behind me and ordered me out. The doctor saw me and yelled, then the guard pulled a gun so I had to choke him out.” He walks over and reaches down to roll the man over and check his pulse. “He should be alright.” Sam pauses and stands up. “But when I got back in the room, the doctor here was standing next to Barnes, speaking Russian.”

Natasha looks at him sharply, tilting her head. Sam continues, eyes unfocused and speaking slowly as he thinks. “The Russian…it wasn’t like a sentence, like he was telling him something. More like he was saying individual words. The next thing I know, the Winter Soldier is attacking me."”

“Programming.” Natasha says, grimly.

“Ms. Romanoff, Secretary Ross and 14 armed men are on their way to your location.” JARVIS says, out of the air.

“ETA?”

“10 minutes.”

“Where’s Tony?”

“On his way, ETA 30 minutes.”

“Well, hell.” Natasha thinks for a moment. Sam starts down the hall towards Barnes’s still form. “Nat, help me drag Barnes into this other room, and JARVIS can lock the door.” Natasha follows, but they both come to a quick stop as the man on the floor jerks, then jumps to his feet.

“Ok, here we go.” Sam breathes, backing up a step.


 

STARK TOWER - SECURE MEDICAL SECTION

The Soldier watches them, and positions himself to meet their attack. He feels weak and unsteady, and his head hurts. What happened? Why am I free? What did I do?” Thoughts were jumping through his head, confusing him, distracting him. Blink to focus. Natalia and Sam. What.

Natalia reaches out to him, asking “Are you ok?”

Look at them under your brows, frown.

She smiles, just a small upward turn with one side of her lips. “The doc was HYDRA.”

He blinks again, thinks. Remembers…Steve…a doctor… Frown. “He said the…words…” the words, no… why? He was one of them. They want me back, they want me back. How… He staggers, reaching out for the wall.

“…focus Barnes...people are coming who will take you away, we need to leave.” Natalia is saying.

Frown. I can leave, they can’t stop me.

Seeing the look on Barnes’ face, Sam says, “Nat…”

Hear the growing thunder of a lot of people pounding down the stairs.

“Barnes, go into the room next to you! Natalia says urgently.

Ignore her words. Look past her to the end of the hall. Deep breath, move toward them, force them to dodge back into the guard room in front of the elevator and the door to the stairs. The thunder gets louder.

He stops in the guard room just as the door bursts open and men in black tactical uniforms pour in, shouting and threatening them with short black HK submachine guns. Leap into the middle of them and start taking them down. Fight into the stairway, deflect shots. Move up the stairs, Natasha and Sam can't follow, they're caught in the room. Fight, slam bodies, take an HK, return fire.

Stop when man in black armor with a large weapon on his shoulder appears above you on the stairs. Full attention on black armor man, watch him extend his right arm, there's a weapon on its wrist pointed at him. Hear Natasha behind you, she's saying “Barnes, stop! Don’t fight!”

There's another man, in a business suit, unarmed, on the stairs behind black armor man.

Black armor man says “Natasha? Trying to break out the Winter Soldier?”

“No, trying to save him. The doctor was HYDRA.” she snaps, not taking her eyes off yours.

“He’s gonna get shot if he doesn’t surrender, right now.” More guards stop on the stairs behind him.

Narrow eyes at her. Sigh. Let go. Don’t think. Let it come. Like always. Let your mind go blank and allow the men to force you to the ground and fasten your arms behind your back.

Eyes unfocused, think What will they do? Steve...

The men stand him back up. See Sam, handcuffed against the wall. No Natasha. Tiny smile. The men move around, making way for the man in the suit. He stands in front of you and stares at your metal arm. Look at the far wall and wait.

The suit says "Thought you could get away huh?" with a gleeful tone in his voice. "Well, we know about you and there's no way you're going to escape now."


 

PRISON TRANSPORT VEHICLE

Ross was yelling at the guards. “You let her get away?! All of you, just standing around with your thumbs up your asses! What do I pay you for? Can you manage to get these two to the truck without losing them?! Go on!" He waves an arm at them all as he angrily gets back in the elevator.

Sam and the Soldier are taken under heavy guard up the stairs and out a side door. War Machine meets them in the alley and watches as Sam and Barnes are forced into an armored van. None of the guards want to get in the back of the van with them. Well, with the Winter Soldier, Sam laughs to himself. Barnes just went where he was pushed, a sullen look on his face, making no attempt to resist. They’re fastened to the inside wall, and after a short shoving match between the guards, two unlucky ones get in and sit together, their backs against the cab wall, trying not to let their fear show. Sam grins at them, “Nervous?” They just glare at him, which makes his smile bigger. He glances at Barnes, who’s staring at the opposite wall, refusing to meet his eyes. “Hey man, you’re doin’ great. Nat will help us.”

“Stop talking!” one of the guards growls. Sam just smiles and leans back against the van wall, returning his gaze to Barnes, watching his body language. He looks resigned to his fate, looking down, hair hiding his face. The two guards can't seem to stop staring at Barnes' shirtless chest, at the terrible scarring where the metal arm attaches.

Aggravated, Sam says "Like it? I'm sure he'd be happy to give you both matching scars." The guards glare at him and change positions nervously. Glance at Barnes, he's looking at you out of the corners of his eyes, and is that a tiny smile? Closer to raising one side of his mouth than a smile, but Sam gives a nod and a grin back. Then they both look away and settle down for the ride.

After sitting for about an hour, the handcuffs biting into his wrists and getting cramps from sitting at an unnatural angle, Sam doesn’t care anymore. “Are we there yet? I’m gonna need a restroom soon or you're gonna have a mess to clean up.”

“Shut up!”

“And my arms are killing me, can you unlock me so I can stretch?”

“I said...”

“I know, shut up.” Sam rolls his eyes and looks at Barnes. He hadn’t moved, only shifting when the van went over bumps. But this time he meets Sam’s eyes. He says just loud enough for Sam to hear, “Tell the Widow..." then two words in Russian.

“Shut up!!”

Barnes repeats the Russian words, so softly Sam has to watch his lips to really hear him.

The guard unbuckles his seatbelt and shoves his tazer forward, threatening. “If you don’t stop…talking...” The Soldier stares coldly at him from under his hair, and the guard stutters to a stop and nervously sits back down.

Sam repeats the Russian words to himself. What does that mean? He looks up and nods at Barnes, but can’t help the questioning look on his face. Barnes gives the tiniest of nods back, and returns his attention to the wall.

They finally arrive at the courthouse building, driving into an attached secure area to unload the prisoners. As Sam was led to the elevator, he could see Barnes, surrounded by the guards holding weapons. Barnes was watching him, and raised his chin in a quick move that said Go.

The guards lead Sam inside and remove his handcuffs before pushing him into a holding cell. “Hey! There’s no toilet in here!”


 

STARK TOWER - SAMS SUITE

Tony talked to Ross, using not-so-veiled threats, and had Sam released. It took 48 hours, and Sam was so done. He just wanted to get out of there, go home, eat, shower, and sleep. But he had to find Natasha. No one had seen her since they were arrested, and her phone just went to messages. So he went back to his apartment in the Tower, maybe she’d left him a note or something. He was too tired to think. He'd start searching tomorrow.

He unlocks his door and walks in, turning on the entry light. Nothing unusual. He turns to close the door and damn! Natasha's standing right in the doorway, her proximity making him throw everything into reverse. His heart leaps in his chest as he bangs to a stop against a wall. Stare at her. “Nat! Stop. Doing. That!” he gasps out.

Gentle laughter as she walks quietly past him into the living room. Hand on his chest, he closes the door after looking up and down the hallway.

He follows her, trying to shake off the adrenaline rush. “We’ve got to talk, but can you stay while I get a shower and change?

“Sorry, I’m betting your room is bugged and they’re probably on their way. Come out here and talk to me.” She says, gesturing towards the door to the balcony.

Sam sighs and goes outside, the chilly evening breeze giving him a shiver. He looks at Natasha, unaffected by the cold in her black outfit. “Barnes wanted me to tell you something. I don’t know Russian, but I memorized the words.” He says in a low voice.

“He told you something in Russian?” Cocking her head to the side, eyes questioning.

'Yeah, it was tough to talk, the guards kept us quiet, but he managed to tell me to tell you 'ubey menya'.

Natasha stares at him. “You’re sure?”

“Yes.” Aggravated. Tired. “I memorized it. What does it mean?”

“It means ‘kill me’.”


 

COURTHOUSE - COUNTY JAIL

The tac team handed him off to another set of guards inside the secure parking area. Out of ingrained habit he counted them (6), noted their weapons (1 tazer, 2 batons), saw 1 man as a potential physical threat (strength and prior service), and exits (3). Seeing the fear on their faces, the time to strike is now, he could take them all down and be gone. But he didn’t. He didn’t care. Why escape? He deserved this. He was remembering events like a flood in his brain. They went through his thoughts like melting ice, cold, random things, no timeline, no reason, just death and pain. And Steve…dying, seeing it replay over and over. He hoped the message he passed to Sam would reach Natalia before he was lost to Hydra again, or just lost his mind.

Shake your head. Don't lose control. Oh Steve. I’ve killed so many innocent people, what did they do to deserve...me. Death. I deserve death. His brain keeps running scenes of not one or two, but many assassinations, different methods, different times... Motion catches his eye, a guard putting on a brave face is reaching for his natural arm. “Alright, come on.” he says. Allow the touch, let him push you towards the stairs. Don’t care. It’s always the same. Concrete room, bright light, maybe food, maybe water. Definitely pain, now or later. Or now and later. I killed the one man who would help me. I deserve this.

The Soldier walks with dead, uncaring eyes, seeming unaware of his surroundings. The guards notice this and are quieter than usual, desperately wanting the Soldier to remain calm and biddable. The man looks strong, and the the silver prosthetic gives them pause. He’s in chains, he can’t hurt them, they think. His ankles are chained together so he can only take short, shuffling steps. The ankle chains are attached by another chain to a chain around his waist, and then to his handcuffed wrists, behind his back. But the longer they’re with him and he acts nothing like the stories they’ve heard, the braver they get.

The guards lead him out of the stairwell and into a large room. He’s quickly strip-searched in a side room without removing the chains. He's allowed to stay in just his shorts, instead of having to change into a prison uniform for the same reason. He's made to stand against a wall to be photographed, a prison uniform tossed around his shoulders. Then they make him stand and turn for pictures of each one of his scars and every angle of his arm. The worst burn marks are still red, but most have healed to just dark stripes. The photography takes some time, he's bothered by the attention and stares but doesn't let it show. He'd already checked the room for exits and people for weapons. He heard the jokes and the subdued, nervous laughter but still doesn't care. His mind is far away, somewhere cold, dark...

When they finally decide they have all the pictures they need, he's forced to stand while another officer asks him questions, what was his name, when was he born, where did he live, but he just looks at the floor. One guard, the one he ID'd earlier as being a physical threat, gets in his face and yells at him to do what they say. Focus on him and lower your chin. He backs off. Then they move him, two guards on each side, jerking him roughly down a long white hall through several locked doors, until the last door closes behind them and the guards make him stop. They laugh with each other, not worried anymore. They're in front of a control room full of computer monitors, with two men in it. One is a uniformed guard, the other is a civilian. Recognition flashes through him like a shock. HYDRA. This man was with Pierce. Fight to keep any reaction from showing, look down, breathe, don’t shake...

The man in civilian clothes puts down the clipboard in his hand and comes out into the hallway. He looks at the Soldier, seeing only blank eyes and no reaction. He smiles and follows the control room guard, who noisily picks up a large key ring. “This way.” the guard says, as he leads them to the next metal door and unlocks it, swinging it open into the hallway. I need out of here. Now. Flex metal wrist plates to break the handcuff. The guard looks up at the sound but doesn’t have time to avoid the metal fist before it slams into his face.

The six guards immediately throw themselves on him, but in the close confines of the hallway it’s easy to knock them down. The big one is the first to be knocked unconscious, the others piling on but going down one at a time. Break the other chains to move easier. When the last guard falls to the floor unconscious, he watches the HYDRA agent realize that he’s trapped in the locked-down hallway with the Winter Soldier.

The man’s eyes widen in fear and his face pales as he raises his hands and quickly backs up. He opens his mouth to say something, but a few quick steps and a metal fist to his temple keeps him quiet. Can’t let him say any trigger words. Feel his neck for a pulse, nothing. Good. Check the guards, still alive. Good.

Consider the control room as you break the cuffs off your ankles and wrists. Step inside, see monitors showing uniformed men running down hallways. The roof is solid concrete, except for small ventilation panels. There’s a keyhole in the main door. Grab the guard’s keyring, try every key, one works but the door is still held shut magnetically. Find a button on a panel in the control room that says ‘solitary 456’. Push it. Nothing. Check the door, it doesn’t move. There’s no way out.

A male voice through speakers in the control room says “Go into the cell and close the door or guards will come in and take you down”. Show one quick, tiny smile. Come on in, what do I have to lose. Stare at the camera mounted on the ceiling for a minute. Retrieve a baton from one of the fallen guards and smash it. Move to the main door and stand just beside where it will open, against the wall. Hear voices on the other side. The door makes a loud KA-LANK as the magnet releases. It slams open and men rush in, grab the nearest and shove him into the others. Get out the door, fighting, taking them down one or two at a time. Feel the sting and buzz from taser hits, get angry, hate that feeling, makes you remember...the chair…try to stay focused, resist the urge to let the Winter Soldier take over, hold the guards off, breaking noses, arms, legs, ribs - it would be so much easier to just kill them…

There are too many, they crowd him against the wall, but he keeps fighting, the unconscious and injured men in the way, slowing him down. Things go black for a second when he’s hit on the head with a baton, too many in the way to grab the hitter, get hit again and again…going down…pain…black…


 

COURTHOUSE - COUNTY JAIL

Natasha didn’t have time to arrange to go into the prison undercover, so she breaks in about a week after Barnes was moved there. Ross hadn't told them anything in regards to his condition, being his usual rude self. Tony had his lawyers on it but it was taking too long. Some time with a computer in an empty office gave her Barnes’ cell number, solitary confinement. she hums. This would be tough but she smiles. I love a challenge. She does have to steal an ID card from a jailer to get to the lower floors, but she makes fast time. She shows herself to a trustee, an inmate allowed out of his cell to work inside the prison, and offers him a knife and cigarettes if he'll start a riot within the next hour.

She was waiting in the ceiling rafters, outside the solitary cells, when a radio call went out to all the guards to help quell a riot. The door to the solitary section bangs open and the guard runs down the hall, boots pounding the floor, keys and equipment jangling loudly. A few minutes later everything goes dark. Perfect timing, she smiles to herself. She had placed an explosive on the fuze box outside, just guessing at the time she’d need, before making her way in. No sound from the hallway so she lowers herself down, uses the key card on the door and darts inside. Evidently the doors are on a backup generator. She uses a small red light to find Barnes’ cell and calls to him softly in Russian through the food tray door.

“Yasha! Why do you want to die?”

His deep voice comes through the dark. “I killed Steve.”

Natasha lets out a breath of air. Oh Yasha. "Me and my friends can help you escape.” I could get him out now if I had gotten the key. Too bad the cell doors don’t work with a key card, she thinks.

“I tried to escape, but there were too many of them.” Barnes’ intense low voice revealing his growing panic. “But I shouldn’t be out…I’ll kill…I know I will…there are words to make me do things...” He pauses, breathing deeply. “I want to die, please, I can’t be like this…

Think. “Can’t you do it yourself?”

“I’m tied down, always.” Pause.“Natalia, you’re the only one who can do this. I’m remembering, killing...killing so many...I killed Steve”. A choked-off sob comes from the dark cell. “…one I killed here...HYDRA... going to take me back…”  Gasping intake of breath. “They’re in here, they make me kill…I can’t go back, please no…" She can hear the fear in his voice, his quick breathing and quiet sobs making some of his words too garbled to understand. Knowing now that HYDRA is in the prison making her frown and quickly modify her plans.

Pausing, pushing down her breaking heart, using her training to think only in terms of the mission, time is running out. “I will help you.” Lean your forehead against the door. “I’ll set something up. Watch for signs.” She pauses. “I’m sorry Yasha, I’m sorry.”

Hear him give a quiet sigh. “Thank you, little spider.”

Let out a breath you didn't realize you were holding and press your hand to the cold steel door. Turn and let yourself out.


 

Chapter Text

WASHINGTON, D.C. - SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

Natasha meets Sam at the cafeteria inside the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. Sam's wrapping himself around a giant hamburger, listening to Natasha make snarky comments about his eating habits. "Yes I'm eating again. Yes a hamburger. Mind. Your. Own. Business." he growls, eyeing her small salad. 

Natasha gives him a satisfied smirk. "Have you heard anything from Tony?”

He shrugs. "Only that I'm not welcome in the Tower anymore. Which is fine with me, I was getting tired of watching crazies in his basement." He grins as he leans back in his chair, wiping his hands on a napkin. "Have you found him?”

Natasha's quiet for a few moments. "Sam, I can't ask you to go on with this." Watch his smile fade as he looks at her with no expression. "I'm going to do what I can to help Barnes, but I don’t want you to get mixed up in what might have to be done.”

Sam looks down and takes another bite of his hamburger as he thinks. “Nat, sure I should go home, but I can't leave this, Cap…Barnes needs help. Tell me your plan, there's got to be something 'legal' I can do?”

Natasha frowns at him. “Sam."

Frustrated. "Look Nat, you asked me to help, and I'm already an accessory before and after the fact, after finding that video." 

Natasha remembers what she'd done that night, after going through Karpov's luggage. Now, his luggage and his body will never be found, thanks partially to Sam. Sigh. "Barnes is being held in solitary confinement in the basement of the county jail. There's nothing you can do for him." She looks at him, sitting there with his muscular arms crossed and a stubborn look on his face.

"Look, Nat, I've come this far, I owe it to Steve to help Barnes. You know that." He leans forward and looks into her eyes. "Tell me what I can do.”

She considers his offer quietly, picking at her salad. "Sam, you know you'll be the one I go to if I need anything, right?" She glances at him and gives him a little smile. "I do know where you live.”

That fact should be alarming, since he knows more about her now, but he just stares. "Nat, come on. Don't do this to me.”

“You’re done?” Natasha says, gesturing at the remains of his hamburger. “Come on, let’s see this exhibit.”

Sam sighs and rolls his eyes as he gathers the wrappers from the table. “Alright, but promise you won’t disappear?”

Nat just lifts an eyebrow and quirks her lips at him as she puts a hand under his arm to walk to the black-draped Captain America exhibition.


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - NATIONAL MALL

They walk through the exhibit, mingling with the crowd. Sam had read about these events in history books, but seeing some of the actual items really brings the reality home. “That’s him alright. He just looks so…happy.” Sam says, watching the short black and white video showing him laughing with Captain America, playing on repeat.

Natasha looks over the display devoted to Sergeant Barnes. “I heard that, in return for using his face and name, and some of his things, Steve requested that this be done for Barnes. So he wouldn’t be forgotten.” In a softer voice, Natasha says, “I wonder what the museum would do if they knew.”

They finish and leave in silence.

”Maybe there is one thing you can do.” Natasha says, as they casually walk down the edge of the reflecting pool. “Try to see Barnes. They won't let you but keep trying. Make a noise in the Governor's office. Get some attention on him. I can't do that, because Ross, but you can.”

He glances at her. “I’ll try, but he’s already got more attention than he needs. How’s more gonna help?”

They stop to watch two squirrels on the path fighting over popcorn, perhaps dropped by a child. Natasha turns to face him. “That’s it, it’s all negative, the trial is just a show. Barnes needs some attention drawn on how he’s being treated. He’s tied down 24/7, has no human contact, he isn’t allowed to talk to his lawyers, innocent until proven guilty, that sort of thing. Say you’ll go to the national news if they don’t listen.”

“Perhaps Maria can help.” They continue walking, dodging playing children, it’s a nice day, the sun is shining, the water in the WWII memorial fountain sparkles.

Natasha casually works them around the water feature to sit on the granite bench along a curving wall. “I need to tell you,” she pauses, looking Sam in the eyes, “I went inside the prison and talked to Barnes.”

Sam looks at her, his eyes widening, “Oh, wow.” The implications are staggering. “I guess you had your ‘get out of jail free’ card.”

She smiles and leans back. “No, but there’s nothing the proper application of high explosives can’t help.” Sam’s roar of laughter draws attention from nearby tourists, but they go on their way as Natasha calmly watches them. “He still wants us to kill him.”

Sam’s laughter dies, his face falling as he looks at Natasha. He sighs and turns to sit on the bench beside her. “He’s still suicidal.”

They watch the people and the fountain for a minute, the peaceful sound of the water and the kids playing conflicting with their disturbing thoughts. Natasha remembers the pain in Barnes’ voice. “I’m sorry Ross has him. Barnes said that he’d already killed a HYDRA agent there, in the jail.”

“Great. Not only another murder charge, but HYDRA’s still has its tentacles in everything, evidently.” Remember fighting Rumlow, who had been a trusted member of Steve’s STRIKE team. There’s no way to know who’s loyal and who’s not. Sigh. “What are you thinking?”

“Well, when you get in to see him, tell him..." she pauses. "Tell him he must be calm at the trial, to not even move no matter what they say or do. I think Ross is planning for the Soldier to attack someone on the live broadcast as an excuse to put him in the Raft right now. But with HYDRA involved, I bet he won’t make it there.”

“In other words, give him...no, Ross would sell him to HYDRA. That bastard. Even if innocent people die.” Sam leans back and crosses his arms. “But couldn’t he just do that? Why can’t he just hand Barnes over?”

“Because he wants to show the world how much we all need his new international crime agreement. Dangerous people need to be kept under control, and he can do it. Basically, power.”

The fountain splashes, children wade in, laughing. “Do you think Barnes can do that? Stay still and not kill anyone?”

Nat stands and stretches before sitting again, crossing her legs and leaning against him. “He didn’t kill us.” At Sam’s snort, she adds, “He can control himself. Barnes learned to do what his handlers wanted or he was hurt for it. You should read some of the reports.” She can’t stop a little involuntary shiver. “I think that’s why he didn’t kill me in Odessa, I wasn’t on his list.”

Sam feels her shake and puts his arm around her. “Odessa?

“I was escorting an engineer Fury was trying to get away from HYDRA. We were on the highway close to Odessa, when one of our tires was shot out. We went off the road, over a cliff. I got him out of the wreck, but the Winter Soldier was there. I put myself between the engineer and the Soldier, but he shot through me, and killed the engineer.” She raises her top just enough to show him a puckered scar on her side.

“Damn, girl.”

“He could’ve killed me easy. I almost didn’t make it, but backup found me in time.”

As they talk, they watch a family escort an older man, obviously a veteran, over to one of the granite pylons. The old vet slowly places a bent, trembling hand on it. Virginia, it says. The family proudly takes pictures, taking turns standing with the veteran for photos, all hugs and smiles.

Sam thinks about the video of Barnes and Rogers, laughing. "What did they do to turn him from that happy man in the video, to the Winter Soldier." Sam carefully lets go of Natasha and stands up. “Barnes…he didn’t deserve what they’ve done to him. Any of it. I wish…” He looks at the happy family taking pictures of the proud veteran. “I wish he had…” Sam stops and rubs his face, swallowing hard. “I wish Steve was here.” 

Natasha looks up at him and says calmly. “Steve died trying to get him back. Now Barnes is back to himself, but all we can do is help him escape HYDRA,” she pauses and takes Sam’s hand, “and help them be together again.”

Sam looks down, blinks, takes a breath. “Nat, he could have a life, maybe we can get him help. Show what we've found to the judge."

"You don't think he wouldn't take his own life, as soon as he was left alone?" Natasha rubs her fingers over his hand. "And do you think the government would let a perfectly good asset go to waste, even without HYDRA constantly trying to get him back."

Sam rubs his face. "So, how do we…help.” his voice low and rough.


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - D.C. CENTRAL DETENTION FACILITY

He can’t move. He’s tied down. On a… bed. Bright light. Hear faint sounds, doors slamming, voices, far away. No pain. Cold, still wearing the same shorts. Where. Think. Turn head to look around, see gray walls, gray door with small window. Sigh. Wait. Blank your mind, relax and wait. Sleep.

Jerk awake to the door’s loud KA-LANK. Food. One guard makes the back of his bed rise so he’s sitting up, the other stands by the door with a bowl. It’s easy to tell that they’re scared. The guard with the bowl comes closer, stands beside you and dips a spoon into the bowl and raises it in front of your face.

Look at him and don’t move. The guard gently shakes the spoon and says “Open.” Just look at the wall.

“Come on, man, eat. It’s stew.” Glance at him, look back at the wall. The guard puts the spoon back in the bowl and turns to the other. “Okay, what now?”

The other, older guard steps forward, looking at you. “We can’t force him to eat. But know this, if you don’t eat, we’ll be forced to feed you through a tube. Your choice.”

Just look at him through your hair.

“Ok, take it away.”

They leave and the door slams and locks. Hear one say “Damn, he’s one scary f***.”

Waiting. I don't want to eat. I don't want to be here. Time passes. Remember being confined to other tables, chairs. Wonder how Natalia is going to help. So tired of waiting. Steve. I’m sorry. Think about Steve. Remember fighting him, he was good. How did he get so big? He was too small for the army, but we fought together? See other men’s faces, drinking together, friends. Surveilling with a scoped rifle from a high place, as they advance beneath you. How Steve carried a .45 but only used the shield. Where did it come from, he didn’t always have it. Before. Before the war. Then he was big. With soldiers… until? Think. When? When is it now? Think… 

KA LANK – Jerk awake. Squint in the bright light…a doctor... oh no… Hydra?! Throw your body weight against the straps desperately, put full strength into left arm…come on…break… see the doctor get close, a needle! Oh no no…

The doctor rubs the back of your right hand with a wet cotton patch. Snarl at him. One of the guards holds your hand down and presses your fingers flat, while the doctor takes a breath and slides a needle under your skin there. Fight to move, even try to slam your head into his, but the straps…the left ones gives, just a little. Put more energy into it, the doctor notices and backs up.

“Just get the IV in quick, doc, and he’ll calm down. These straps’ll hold’im.” The guard says with a grin.

As the doctor nervously gets closer, he drops what was in his hand. He bends down and picks it up quickly, and drops it again. He curses and picks it up, holds it and pulls out a line of white tape. You twist your hand away but the guard curls one of your fingers, squeezing it, the sharp pain making you focus and be still. The doctor wraps the tape around your hand and the needle, then hooks up a clear hose, trying to work and ignore you. He backs away and rolls the IV stand closer. “That’s got it. Let me out of here.” The other guards part to let the doctor out, grinning and joking with him.

The guard lets go of your hand and smiles. “Just relax, I told you what would happen. This is just an IV, for fluids. To feed you, we’re gonna have to knock you out and put a tube down your throat.” The guard looks him in the eyes. “I’ll be back when the bag is empty.” He leaves and the door closes and locks. Let out a deep breath. Frustration, anger, the feeling of helplessness making you try to break the restraints again, your face twisting into a snarl.

Fight the straps until you tire of it. This is the same. Why do I fight, I can never get away. He drops deeper into dark thoughts. Steve tried to help me and I... See his body on the muddy shore, the sound of his last breath. Shake your head as you feel your throat tighten. Jerk your arms hard into the straps, throw your head back and inhale a short, gasping breath. Think about being strapped down to other tables. Remember breaking free sometimes, killing everyone you can reach. Continue to fight the damn straps. Time passes.

The guards come back. They don’t talk to him, just unhook the bag and lower the bed to horizontal. They leave, the door slamming shut and locking. Sigh. Wait. Sleep.

Wake, no sounds. Bright light. Try to stretch out sore muscles. Waiting, listening. Don’t think. Wait. Sleep.

Wake to loud voices outside the door. What. KA LANK, the door swings open and a guard cautiously walks in. Barnes focuses on the second person, Tony Stark. Why. Narrow eyes, tense up. “Hey Terminator, how ya doin’?” a false cheerfulness in his voice. Watch him. 

He reaches back to another person, a woman. She sets a silver briefcase down on the floor and hands him a small box. Stark opens it, saying “This won’t take a second, just need to see if this works on you.” He removes a small device, holding it up. “This shouldn’t hurt, but with your wiring, I’m not sure. Let’s find out.” Glare at him.

He walks to your left side and looks at your metal arm. Takes in the frayed edges of the straps. “Nice. What, vibranium in the threads?” No one replies. Stark touches your arm, try to jerk away but can’t move. “Relax, here we go.” Jerk again as he quickly sticks the device to one of the metal plates and steps back. The device sparks and you feel a shock…pain...convulse… The device turns dark and the shock ends. Gasp in a deep breath.

You jerk your arms again, to get free, to rip off the device, but your left arm is weak, now with only basic power. “Ok,” Stark says, peeling off the now dead device. “Now to test it.” He turns to the guards and says “Everyone out.” He waits until the guards and the woman leave, and the door closes and locks.

Watch Stark, What. “I’m going to let you out of these straps. But I don’t have a death wish.” He extends his arm and touches a red and silver bracelet that somehow activates the silver case the woman had set on the floor. It expands into the Iron Man suit, and wraps around Tony's body. Watch in amazement. “If you fight me, I’ll put you down, and you know it.” Narrow eyes at him, but lie still.

Iron Man begins unfastening the straps. “You can talk, you know. It’s ok. Tell me how your arm feels. The shock probably hurt, sorry about that, does it still hurt? Can you feel pain in the metal arm? Pressure? Temperature?” Don’t answer, just watch him, don’t move. You’re free of the straps.

Iron Man stands back, watching. Sit up and swing your legs over, stand up. Look down at your metal arm, wiggle your fingers, make a fist. The arm just hangs there though, no power. Need to restart. Iron Man says, “It’s not functioning?” He steps closer, reaching out to touch your arm. Narrow eyes and jump back, swinging the metal arm in a big overhand circle to reset it. It whirrs and the plates shift as it starts up and you prepare to defend yourself.

“Ok, well, that didn’t last long.” The Iron Man helmet tilts to one side as he looks at you and thinks about what just happened. “Let me out.” The door clanks open and Iron Man leaves. Sigh as the door closes and locks again. That was an EMP. He wanted to see if it would disable me. Questioning to find weaknesses.

Stand up and breathe. Look at the needle in your hand, pull it out and drop it on the floor. Suck on the wound until it stops bleeding. Relieve yourself in the corner toilet. Stretch and do a few push-ups. Feel better. Look at the bed, with the straps. Give a little smile and start field-stripping it your way, pulling and breaking it into little pieces.

Work for awhile before someone pounds on the door. “Stop that.” A guard is looking in the window, angry. Stare at him and snap a piece of the frame in half. The guard disappears.

Later, more voices at the door. KA-LANK – the door opens and guards slowly come in, more and more of them, wearing black body armor, forcing him back into a corner. What. Watch them, prepare to fight. The guards don’t try to touch you, they just stand there, between you and the door. Hear the bed and its parts being taken away. One by one the guards back out until you’re alone in the empty room.

Sigh. Sit down on the floor, back against the wall. Think about where you are, who has control. I was in Iron Man’s Tower, now I’m in… a prison. A trial. I’m going to go to trial for completing my missions. Steve. Frown. Remember killing, obeying orders, pulling the trigger on so many. They said I was saving the world. They made me kill and not care. 

Get up and pace back and forth. Drop and do more push-ups, the physical exertion helping you calm down. Why is HYDRA here? They’re not running the trial. They want me back, but how will they get me out of here? Maybe they want me dead. I guess I shouldn’t have killed that one here, I might be finished by now. Grunt. I can do it myself, while I’m free.

A guard opens the steel flap in the door with a clang and lays some bottles of water on it. “Here ya go.” Ignore him. The guard watches you for a minute. “Come get some water or we’ll put that IV back in.” Keep ignoring him. The guard takes the bottles away and closes the door.

Flex the fingers of your left hand. I can do this. Did I do this before? HYDRA wouldn’t let me. I can lock my fingers so they won’t come loose when I pass out. Use your metal hand and stroke your neck, feel the pressure in your scruffy beard. Feel your heart beat.

KA-LANK– Jump up, ready. Four guards in black tactical uniforms press into the small room and force you into the corner again. They don’t close the door. “Calm down, you have a visitor.” Frown. Not again. Another man comes in, Sam. Before you can stop yourself, you smile. Just a small one, and Sam smiles back. “Hey man, good to see you.” There are more guards behind him in the hall. Sam doesn’t move. “They said I couldn’t come in all the way.” Sam glances around the cell, noting the lack of a bed. “Are they treating you ok?”

Breathe out, relax a little. Hold out your right wrist, still showing red cuts from your struggle with the straps. “I was tied to a table, until Stark came and put an EMP on my metal arm.”

Sam’s eyes get big. “What! He hit you with an EMP? Are you ok?!” Sam shoots a glare at the guards, then takes a deep breath, calming himself down. “Did you get medical attention?“ Sam leans forward, trying to see around the guards. “The doc put an IV in my hand, but that was before.” 

Sam shakes his head, looks concerned. “I’m trying to help you, but our friend,” he pauses, looking pointedly at you. Natalia, you think. “says to say we know who you killed here. And that you’re going to trial soon, and it will be rough,” He takes a small step forward. “but you must stand down. Can you do that?” His eyes are questioning, anxious.

Stare at him. He doesn’t want me to hurt anyone, even if HYDRA is there. Nod.

“Our friend also mentioned that you asked for something, the same thing you told me,” Sam grimaces, and tilts his head. “is that really what you want?”

To die. “Yes.”

Sam sighs, looks serious. “Do you still want that if you can go free?”

Think of escape. Always running. Steve. “Yes.”

Sam just looks at you. “We need more information, about your past.”

What. Think. Sam is staring at him. “Try the combination 3895-7708.” Pause. “Be careful.”

One of the guards outside says time’s up, everyone out. Sam gives him another smile before being forced out. “Talk to the lawyers that come, and hang in there, ok?”

A thought. Call out before the door slams. “Sam! What year is it?”

From down the hall - “2014!”

2014!

The sound of the group fades away down the hallway. 2014, 2014, how?! Stand still and think. I was put in the freezer tank between missions, I know I missed some years, things changed. Cars. Weapons. But Steve was here, it can’t be. It can’t be that long. Steve wasn’t old, he was here. Confusing thoughts run through your head. How was Steve in 2014? Steve…

Hear footsteps getting louder again, they’re coming back. Hear the now-familiar KA-LANK and the door slams open. The tactical team rushes in and forces you back into the corner again, but this time they have a syringe. NO… Shove the nearest guard into the one with the syringe. It’s too close in the cell for the guards to do anything but try to pile on and hold you, but with your skill and strength it’s easy to knock them all down, one at a time. Stand in the center of the downed guards, look at the open door. Remember the last time you tried to escape. The alarms are going off again, more guards will be here soon.

Eyes narrow. Gotta do this now… raise your metal hand and clamp it around your throat.


Chapter Text

WASHINGTON, D.C. - NATASHA'S APARTMENT

Sam drops himself down on Natasha's couch, exhausted. "He said they strapped him to a table so Tony could hit him with an EMP. Unreal." He rubs his face as Natasha hands him a glass of ice water. "Thanks." She sits down in a nearby chair, "Why?"

"He's trying to figure out a way to disable the metal arm, evidently Ross wants the Soldier to be at the trial, and Tony thinks he'll get loose and kill people."

Natasha shrugs. "Well..."

Sam frowns at her.

"Barnes said he wants to die, even if we get him out. He agreed to be quiet at the trial. When I said you needed more info on him, he said to 'Try this combination, three-eight-niner-five dash seven-seven-zero-eight, and to be careful'". Sam slams down half the glass of water.

Natasha gets a blank look as she thinks about the numbers. A combination could mean many things, but coming from the Soldier and assuming he's using an old code word, it would mean one thing is really two. Like old times, she thinks and huffs, remembering other missions, other code words. Try the easy way first, 3895 and dash 7708. She reaches for her laptop and starts typing.

"He was free, not in handcuffs or anything, at least while I was there. There was a toilet but no bed." Sam shifts, thinking. "He said the doctor put an IV in his hand, but he tore it out after Tony left." Sam finishes his drink and gets up to take the glass to the kitchen. "I didn't have time to find out what happened to the IV and the bed."

"Got it."

Sam frowns and smiles at her. "What? Damn, girl that was fast. What does it mean?"

"Latitude and longitude, for a bank here in Washington."

Sam's eyebrows go up. "Really? Why a bank?"

She quirks an eyebrow at him. "I don't know, but I'm going to find out."

Sam looks at her hopefully, eyebrows raised.

"Alright, but you have to do what I say. And stop with the puppy dog eyes." She glares but he grins back, just as his phone buzzes. "It's Tony." He shrugs and accepts the call. "Hey Tony."

Natasha watches his face as he listens, his expression changing from questioning, to shocked, to angry. "What!" His expression calms. "Ok, thanks Tony. Bye." He ends the call and tosses his phone on the table.

It's Natasha's turn to raise her eyebrows questioningly.

"Well, Tony said that after I left Barnes today, the guards tried to sedate him, to tie him back down on a bed, but he beat them unconscious and then tried to kill himself."

Natasha stares at him. "He's not dead?"

"No, evidently he locked his metal hand on his throat and passed out, but a guard used a taser to shut down his arm, and loosened his fingers enough to pull his hand off."

"Where is he now?"

"He's still at the D.C. jail, but they're going to move him to the courthouse jail tomorrow. They delayed the trial 'till he recovers."


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - D.C. COURTHOUSE BASEMENT

Wake up. Become aware of muted sounds. Machinery humming, low and steady. Voices, but can’t make out words. Uncomfortable, crack open eyes sticky with sleep. Move arm to rub your eyes but it jerks and stops. Restrained. Grimace. Of course. Try to focus on surroundings. Frown. You’re sitting up. In a chair? Throat hurts. Remember attacking guards, clamping your metal hand on your throat. What happened? How did they open my hand? Try swallowing, it hurts, a lot. Sigh. They will never let me go.

A quick picture in your head, remember hanging yourself with your chain in a small, dark, dirty cell. Being slapped awake, Zola’s face over you, smiling. Revulsion. They never allowed it. Take deep breaths to calm surging feelings of panic, despair…

Must be calm, must be calm…slow breathing, slow heartbeat. Move again to find restraint points. Your legs are bound to the chair legs, feet on the floor. There are metal bands over your upper and lower arms. Metal clamps over your shoulders. Notice you’re wearing the gray striped prison jumper. Lift your head and look around, see close walls with large windows. Not the jail, what is this? The space with the chair is inside a larger room, with many hallways branching off. Men in work overalls walk back and forth. No one is obviously watching you.

Jerk at the sound of a motor starting, it sits and idles for awhile, then gears change, hear the loud beeping of a large vehicle going in reverse. Look out the windows and watch for it. A forklift comes around a corner. It slowly moves right up to the windows and goes past. The driver glances over you like he’s checking cargo. Listen to the machine maneuver behind you. Feel everything jerk upwards - This is loose! The containment cell lifts about a foot off the floor, then moves forward, taking you down one of the hallways, toward a cargo elevator.

Feelings of panic and despair return, all the usual how, where and why questions running through your head, but the one that keeps blaring like a megaphone in your brain is HYDRA, they’re taking me back. It nestles in your stomach, a little ball of fear. You can’t stop shaking.


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE

“Tony, this is basically a machine we’re dealing with. Do you think the Winter Soldier has a conscience? Actually feels anything at all?” Ross comes around his desk to get closer to Tony. “He’s proven over and over that he has no problem killing anyone. All he’s done since he was captured is try to kill whoever he can reach. Even you.” He leans forward a little to emphasize his next words. “The Soldier is HYDRA, a killer, a murderer. I don’t understand, Tony, why don’t you want him to go to trial?”

Tony shows a tiny smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “I don’t understand why you would use him to kill a room full of innocent people.” At Ross’s outraged expression, before he can say anything, Tony keeps going. “You’re going to use him just as he was designed. To kill. You’re his handler now, and people are going die.”

“I’m not the one who let him loose in the jail.” Ross pointedly stares at Tony. “He hurt how many guards?”

Tony rubs his face and stands up. It was lucky that the Soldier hadn’t killed them all. Strange, really. The Soldier has never left anyone alive. Except Natasha. But. “Ross, that proves it. If he’s triggered or set off in that courtroom, he’s going to free himself and start killing. And when he runs out of people to kill, he tries to kill himself! If that guard hadn’t used his taser to short out the arm, he would be dead, and your show trial wouldn’t be happening.”

Ross glares at Tony. “Tony, Tony. He’s not going to kill anyone. We can restrain him in the courtroom. Don’t worry about him.” Ross sits on the edge of his desk and rubs his leg in frustration. “This is why we need this treaty. You know this, you signed them.” Tony stares at Ross, amazed. Is he blind?

Ross continues. “The Alliance is a good thing. You and your Avengers can continue your good work, with the support of every country who signs. Convicting the Winter Soldier is the first step to getting super-killers like him off the streets, not only in America but in every country.” He pauses, watching Tony.

“We had to push back the start date of the trial because the Soldier injured himself.” Ross continues with a lighter voice and a hopeful look on his face. “He’s so unstable, the faster we get through this the better, right?”

Tony just stares at him. “Don’t you hear what you’re saying? ‘Unstable’ my ass! 'Homicidal maniac' is just the tip of this insane iceberg.” Tony stands and walks to the wall and back, frustrated. “I can’t fully disable that metal arm without major surgery and more time. Ross, come on, leave him in a cell and put a camera on him!

Ross looks at him and sighs, frustrated. Threatening Tony isn’t going to work like it did on the lawyer. “Ok. Come with me and see the containment cell. You’ll like it, it’s a design even you will appreciate.” Ross stands and holds out his arm, motioning Tony out the door.


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - THE IDEAL FEDERAL SAVINGS BANK

Natasha drives past the bank at the coordinates Barnes had given her. It was so early, it would be dark for hours yet. She parks a few blocks away. “I wish Barnes hadn’t trashed my wings, this would go a lot faster.” Sam says, his voice low.

“Stop whining” Natasha smiles as she reaches over and gets a green bag out of the back seat and removes a night vision headset. “You know how to use these?” Sam just nods and puts it on. When it powers up, the world isn’t dark anymore, every detail glows different shades of bright green. Then Natasha pulls a Steyr SPP and a two loaded magazines out of the bag and holds them out to him. Sam grins. “What else do you have in your magic bag?” he jokes.

She smiles. “You take the left, and we’ll meet in the alley by the service door.” Natasha says quietly as she puts on her own headset and smirks at him. He nods, slams in a mag and chambers a round, immediately sliding into recon mode.

They meet again a little over an hour later, having seen nothing. They don’t need to speak, Sam watches the alley, left, right and up, while Natasha picks the lock on the back door.

Click. Sam looks over and Natasha signals him to come in. He checks up and down the alley one more time and follows her inside, quietly closing the door. They hug the wall and go the length of the doorless hallway. The solid darkness gives way to some light, the large windows in the lobby are letting in the light from the street. They split up and search every room on that level, finding nothing but offices and storage closets. They find the same on the second floor. The only area left to search is the vault.

The vault is downstairs, only accessible by using an elevator, which is blocked by an 'Out of Order' sign. They go around it and push the button, and the doors open. Natasha looks at Sam and shrugs. "Here goes nothing." They ride it down and the doors open onto a dark space. No sounds, except the hum of the climate control. They enter tactically, weapons ready. They move a few feet before encountering a door made of bars, but it swings open when Sam puts a hand on it. Natasha moves past him into the main vault and stops. “Bozhe moi” she whispers.

Sam moves up to her to see what she’s looking at. The amplified light through his goggles shows a chair, reclining under a large circular metal frame. The chair is surrounded by machines and computers. Sam stares. “This must be the chair Barnes told us about.” The machine is hard to look away from, sitting there silent and still, ominous in the dark room.

Natasha moves to one of the computers and turns it on, removing her goggles. As she types, Sam uses the increased light to look around the room, which, aside from the chair and some computers, is a typical bank vault. The walls glitter with bright brass safety deposit box doors, the open ones making irregular black holes in the wall.

Sam checks behind them, out through the inner doorway, and sees a regular door on the left side he hadn’t noticed on the way in. It’s inside the main heavy door but outside the vault. He tries the handle and it opens easily. Holding the Steyr in low ready position, he uses his hip to slam the door open all the way and advances slowly into the dark room.

It smells. By the white tile everywhere, this was once a bathroom, but now it’s more like a laboratory. But it's a lab straight out of Frankenstein. There’s a metal table on one side of the room, frayed restraint straps hanging down, with used rubber gloves, lumps of wet, dirty clothing and towels piled on it. Above it, an electric outlet hangs down from a large assembly of lights hangs from the ceiling above the table, a hose and an electrical outlet hang down from it.

Trash, used syringes and trails of dirt (blood?) circle the shower drains. Two tall red automotive tool boxes line the walls behind the table, clear tubes curling out of one of the open drawers. But the centerpiece is a tall cylindrical metal and glass container, covered with twisting black power cables and hoses. The door is cracked open, and the strange electrical and human stench from it is overpowering. He has to take small breaths through his mouth to keep from gagging.

He backs out and returns to the vault, where Natasha’s still copying files to a thumb drive. “Nat, you should see this, but hold your breath.” She watches the screen for a minute and glances at him. “Lead the way.”

She puts her goggles back on and follows him back into the Frankenstein lab. “Oh…a cryostasis chamber.” She sees Sam’s shocked expression even with the goggles. “That's why he's still so young.”

“He was telling the truth, he really was frozen. Oh man, but how? It’s not possible to freeze someone, and still be alive after, right?”

Natasha looks into some of the drawers carefully. “Evidently they used some specific drugs, and a procedure to freeze and thaw him that worked, plus he has some kind of super soldier serum.”

“Like Steve.” Natasha hums in response as she explores the rest of the lab. He stares at the tube, the goggles making everything nightmarish shades of green. Shiver. Creepy. 

“I guess when the Soldier was out of the freezer, they still kept him in here.” she says, pointing to a cage against the back wall, with dirty blankets scattered inside.

Sam walks around the chamber to look and is hit with a wave of revulsion and anger. There was a chain hanging from a hook in the wall above the cage, and a bucket in the corner. “What did they do to him? Damn. This is beyond torture, Nat...”

Natasha doesn’t say anything, just turns back into the vault to check the computer download. Sam follows, closing the lab door, mostly to keep the stench from getting out. 20 more minutes on the download. She opens files to see how deep she can get into the secure section. “Lets see what this security file shows, shall we? It’s dated the day of the helicarrier fight.”

They both remove their night vision goggles as Natasha makes the playback fill the screen. It shows a view of the vault and the chair from above the door. There’s no one in the chair, only technicians in white lab coats working at the computers, and busy with something by the tool bins. It has sound, but no one is speaking. The work continues for a few minutes, until a man comes in and says “He’s coming, get ready.”

From the left side of the screen, a group of men in dark military-style uniforms enters, and between them being half carried and half dragged into the room, is the Soldier. He’s shirtless, in dark pants with no shoes, and he behaves like he’s been drugged. He’s struggling, trying to stop, but so weakly he really can’t do anything but use his body weight to make the guards have trouble going in a straight line. The sounds are the dull thumps and squeaks of boots on the floor, and the guards cursing. The technicians have all backed up, as far away as they can get, watching, standing still and silent.

The guards force the weakened Soldier down into the chair and hold him until a tech hurries over with a syringe and injects something into the Soldier’s arm. After a minute he must relax, because the guards let him go and stand back. The Soldier is free, but he isn’t resisting anymore. Some techs roll a table close to the Soldier’s chair and nervously begin repairs on the metal arm. The guards stand in a loose circle with weapons ready.

The techs work, the Soldier ignores them. Until wham! the Soldier suddenly hits a tech who slams into the table and they both fly across the room. The guards snap their weapons up and step closer. The Soldier doesn’t stand up, just sits there with his chest and arm muscles tensed up, like he could attack any second. The techs pick themselves up but don’t approach him.

A few minutes go by, with no change, the Soldier just sits there as the techs gather their tools off the floor and mumble, so Natasha fast forwards. She hits play again when more people come in, but their backs are to the camera so their identities are unknown. The first one, a tall blonde-haired man in a suit, motions to the guards to stand down as he walks to the Soldier and stands in front of him.

The techs and other men gather around the seated Soldier. The blonde says “Mission report.” No reaction, the Soldier has a thousand-yard stare. “Mission report, now.” Still no reaction. The blonde bends down and suddenly backhands the Soldier hard in the face, making his whole torso swing to his right, his hair flying.

As the blonde man watches him, the Soldier settles, looking off the the side, and says softly “The man on the bridge…who was he?” The blonde says “You met him earlier this week on another assignment.”

The Soldier sits, unblinking. “I knew him.” The blonde pulls a stool over and sits down. “Your work has been a gift to mankind. You shaped the century, and I need you to do it one more time. Society is at a tipping point between order and chaos. Tomorrow morning we’re gonna give it a push. But, if you don’t do your part, I can’t do mine, and HYDRA can’t give the world the freedom it deserves.”

But it’s like the Soldier can’t let this drop. He has to know. He says softly, “But I knew him.” and his face twists in a grimace, like he knows he’s going to regret this, but he needs to know.

Not taking her eyes from the screen, Natasha whispers, “He remembered Steve.”

The blonde sits for a second, then stands and turns to the technicians behind him and says “Prep him.”

“Pierce! That’s Secretary Pierce! He was the Soldier’s handler? We have to show this to Tony! To the court!” Sam tries not to shout.

“And that’s Rumlow,” Natasha says softly. Both of them now knew that he had been HYDRA while on Steve’s STRIKE team, but it made the hurt and betrayal even worse to realize that he had known about Barnes the whole time. His body hasn't been found yet, she thinks.

One of the techs replies anxiously “He’s been out of cryo-freeze too long.” Pierce turns and barks “Then wipe him and start over.”

Pierce watches as the techs push the Soldier back into the seat and put a tooth guard in his mouth. The machine starts with a loud hum and metal clamps snap tightly over his arms, as the two halves of the halo swing down behind him. The Soldier’s bare chest heaves as he hyperventilates. Sparks visibly arc and crackle inside the curved pieces as they move to clamp sharply to each side of his head, and his muscles contract violently as he screams.

Pierce turns and walks out, the others following, only Rumlow glances back at the man trapped in the chair, screaming and convulsing from the high voltage ripping through his brain.

Sam and Natasha stare at the monitor, speechless.

“We’ve got to get him out.”


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - D.C. COURTHOUSE BASEMENT

Two men stand in front of the containment cell, arguing. One with dark hair and sunglasses, the other tall with dark grey hair. Stark, Anthony aka Iron Man. Ross, Thaddeus E., Secretary of State, U.S. Why. You can hear them talking about how secure the cell is. That he can’t escape, stop worrying about it. Innocent people will die. What. Ross asks if Tony wants to see just how strong the cell is, make the Soldier mad. Maintain calm, no reaction, breathe…Tony stares at you. Ross glances at Tony, and steps closer to the window.

“Soldier, do you know why you’re here?” Don’t look at him, don’t react, breathe. “Because you failed. What. No. You had one job, and you failed. Then you lied about completing the mission.” He steps right up to the glass and stares at you. Resist the urge to look at him. I did not fail. “You failed, and you lied. You failed, and you will be punished.” He pauses, staring at you, holding his hands behind his back. “YOU FAILED.” He shouts, striking the cell window with both hands with a loud crash.

Don’t react. Breathe. But tense up, press your body against the restraints, make fists, ready to break out. Look up at Ross through your hair, look into his eyes. Natalia said I must not react, must not listen… один, два, три.

Ross looks away and walks slowly behind the box, saying “See, Stark, he can’t get out. If it could it would’ve broken out before now. He knows it’s futile to fight.” He wants to see if I can escape. “He even failed to kill himself.” Ross comes back around the box and looks contemptuously down at you, smirking. Fight the anger down. Look down, punishment will follow open challenge. Breathe…

“Alright.” Tony says. “But I want to be in the courtroom. No cameras. No reporters.”

Ross looks at Tony for a moment, considering. “One reporter. CNN.”

Tony shoots a quick glance at Ross and looks back, unfocused. “Alright, only one, but no live broadcast.”

Ross looks at him with an aggravated, patient expression. “See? That wasn’t so difficult.” He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

Tony just stares at you.


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - D.C. COURTHOUSE BASEMENT

Ross and Stark leave, the guards return and begin unrolling a black plastic tube. One of them climbs to the top of the cell with one end of it, and when he comes down without it you know it’s been attached up there. The other guards fasten the other end of the hose to a machine and start it. Then they stand still and watch you. Look up to the roof and see a white mist coming down through a vent. Gas, oh no…

Push against the metal bands, take a deep breath and hold it, frantically trying to be calm, not to fight, focus on a guard as he steps up to the glass. “Don’t panic,” he says, nervously. “it won’t hurt you.”

Why is he telling me this? Stare at him, the man is braver than the others, standing so close and talking to you. Why. Watch the mist gradually fill the box and strain against the restraints, but not enough to get free. Natalia said not to fight...Chest begins to cramp, need air, no, no, hold it, no white mist… the overwhelming need to breathe grows, your brain screams NEED AIR – you have to give in but fight the urge to take a single huge breath and instead take short, quick gasps, but it’s impossible to avoid sucking in the mist. The guards are watching, they’re fading, no no no no not again…

Unexpectedly, you don’t lose consciousness. Watch the fuzzy movements of the guards. Somehow the gas is going back up the tube, like a film rewinding. They’re opening the box. I can get out…but your muscles don’t answer, you can’t do anything, your muscles don’t want to move. Remember the feeling, but they made me wear a mask… feel the clamps loosen, feel hands on your arms, lifting… take a breath and try to fight them off, jerk the metal arm free, but then you’re on the floor, dizzy…feel hands again, up, dragging… Where? Curse in Russian, your numb lips and tongue garbling the words. One of the guards laughs.

A cell, so bright…dragged to a cot and dumped on it. Still can’t really move. Two guards look down at you, one smiles. “He’s not so scary now, is he?” Focus on him, breaths coming faster. He’s HYDRA. The other guard, the one that told you not to panic, waves a hand at the other guard and says “Hey, don’t mess with him, come on.” as he walks to the door. The first one stares at you, not moving, until the other one says loudly “COME ON.” Then he spins and walks out, and they close and lock the door. Hear them as they go down the hall, “Are you nuts?”, one says, their voices fading.

So tired, the gas... your helplessness and that HYDRA guard making you shake thinking about what could have happened. The memory of other guards, helping themselves to your body makes you angry, but you don't have the energy to sustain it.

The handlers learned to warn the guards off, because they found that no amount of punishment would stop the Soldier from killing the guards later. Sometimes he would kill a whole support team. Despite trying different techniques with the brain machine, they couldn't seem to change that reaction.

I won't forget this time. The stress fades as you relax more, you feel like you’re floating, comfortable, alone, close your eyes.


 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - D.C. COURTHOUSE BASEMENT

Slowly come aware. Listen, hear someone breathing, pages turning. Open your eyes slowly, see the white ceiling, white walls. Sigh. Test for restraints, none. Remember the gas, nothing working, but all seems fine now. Look towards the sounds, see one wall is bars, with a guard behind a desk on the other side. Hmm. Roll over and put your feet on the floor, rub your eyes, face.

The guard watches you, gets on his handheld radio and reports that you’re awake. Ignore him, walk over and use the toilet. Do some stretching exercises, a few push-ups. Hear footsteps coming closer. A little door in the barred door opens with a bang, and another guard places a foam bowl and cup on the shelf it makes.

“Eat up.” Consider eating. Not being strapped down and threatened is a good thing. Take a quick inventory of your body. Feet, legs, ok. Stomach, hurts. Chest, ok. Arm, ok. Metal arm, needs maintenance. Shoulder hurts, but it always hurts. Head, hurts. Neck, throat hurts bad. Look at bowl, maybe food will help. Drugged? Eat the soup, drink the water anyway. Wish they would give you 10 times that much, but the limited food was normal. Keep my energy down, the techs said, before.

Put the empty foam things back on the door shelf. The guard takes them and closes the little door, the lock clicking into place. Lights are still on, bright in the white room. Sit on the bed crosslegged and lean against the wall. The quiet is dangerous, it makes it easy to relax, to think. The guard is still watching you. Why? Rub your neck. So they can stop me. Sit and stare across the room, eyes unfocused. I’m going to be punished for completing my missions. I do what they tell me to do. Why punish me? I didn’t fail. Flash of anger at Ross. Will they give me back to HYDRA? Maybe they’ll say I’m too dangerous and must not live anymore.

He hums. They’d be right.

The guard gets a call on the radio and walks down the hall, talking. Hear a slight sound, metal to metal. It’s coming from the the wall behind your head. The sound again, louder, tapping mixed with longer scratching sounds. Don’t react, the cameras are always watching, but listen to the letters;

– • – •  – – • –  – • •  •  – •  • –   – • – –   – • – <CQ DE NAYK> SEEKING YOU THIS IS SPIDER – Natalia! Her code name in Russian, I remember! As if it could be anyone else here, now. Duck your head to hide a quick grin.

Excited, but not showing it, move casually to put your metal hand behind your back, tap and drag •–• <R> (ROGER, RECEIVING) on the wall.

• • •  –  • –   –   • • –  • • • <STATUS>

– – •  • • –  – • • <GUD> (GOOD)

• – –  • –  –  •  • – • • •   •  • • – – • • <WNTE&E?> (WANT ESCAPE AND EVASION?)

Drag tap  – • <N> (NO)

– • – •  • • •  – • •  • – • <CSDR> (CONSIDER) There’s a pause, then

– –  •  • • •  –  • • <MECTИ> Russian code, he realizes. (REVENGE)

I don’t want to escape, I told her already. But, revenge. Narrow eyes. To use what they taught me against them. Sit and think. I know languages, weapons systems, communications, concealment, fighting, important people. But the cataloging of things you know hits a snag. I knew Steve. Your thoughts swirl down like a vortex and crash into your stomach. I don’t deserve to be out. I could have gotten away before. There’s nothing for the Winter Soldier, only death.

Sit with closed eyes and let yourself indulge in sadness, and hate. Hate for the handlers, the doctors and technicians. Revenge. That’s what I do. Never for myself, always for…handlers. For a greater good. Think of the handler who looks like Steve, but with colder, harder blue eyes. He told me my work would save the world, but how does killing Steve save the world? He lied, they all lied. Put your head on your knees. Oh Steve. Maybe finishing this life getting revenge would be better than sitting in a cage or finishing myself. I know the locations of a lot of things. What is she thinking. Tap back;

• – – •  • – • •  • –  – •  • • – – • • <PLAN?>

• – –  • –  • – – <WAW> (WAIT AND WATCH)  • • • – • – <SK> (END)


You wake to the sound of approaching footsteps. Guards stand outside the bars. They say they will use their electric sticks on you if you get violent. Stand calmly and watch them through your hair, knowing they will get angrier. None of them dare to open the door, but one of them starts threatening you from the other side of the bars. As if that will keep me from reaching you. Narrow your eyes at him. He’s the one who said you weren’t so scary. HYDRA. But before you decide to act, a man in street clothes comes up to the bars. Sam. The HYDRA guard stops yelling.

Sam looks calm, dressed casually in a blue shirt and dark pants. he’s talking to a guard, the nice one. Sam looks at you and smiles, a big smile that lights up his face. “Hey man! Don’t worry about all this, they just need you to see the judge at the arraignment hearing.”

What. Feel your face crinkle as you frown. “It’s ok, just procedure. You only have to stand in a room just down the hall and see the judge on the television. It will be over quick, then they’ll bring you back here.”

Relax a bit. Feel better now that Sam’s here, he helps. Why. “You’ll have to wear handcuffs, but no one will hurt you.” The nice guard opens the door and comes in, he moves closer, watching your eyes, showing his hands holding handcuffs. Look down and move your arms behind your back, feel the cuffs go on. Handcuffs have never even slowed you down, but if it makes them feel better, ok.

Sam says “One important thing,” Important, must remember. “When the judge asks how you plea, say ‘not guilty’. 'Not guilty', say that, remember!” Say not guilty, remember. Nod. The other guards move back and open up the doorway, the guards behind nudge you forward and you pad down the hall in your bare feet until other guards guide you into a room with a table and a large television.

They stop you behind the table, where you stand in front of the TV. An older man on the screen introduces himself, and begins reading something to you, saying these are your rights. You listen, but none of what he’s saying makes any sense. The right to remain silent? Do I understand? Nod anyway. Then the judge starts asking questions.

“Are you James Buchanan Barnes? Do you have children? Where do you live? How old are you?” Confusion…I don’t know… see the judge start to get angry at you for not answering. The guards are watching, shifting. I don’t know… Begin to panic but see Sam in the back, smiling and nodding his head. It’s ok, he mouths, just answer. Fear punishment for not answering, look back at the man on the screen, take a breath and say “I don’t know.”

The judge looks at you. “You don’t know.” Look at the floor. “Look at me.” Raise your eyes to meet the judge’s. “What’s your name?”

Stare at the judge, frown, don’t look down. “I don't know.”

It’s the judge’s turn to stare and frown. Someone comes into the camera view and whispers to him. The frown deepens and he clears his throat. “Ok, well. You, the Winter Soldier, have been charged with multiple counts of first degree murder, multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon…” As the judge continues, you stop listening, until he says “I won’t set a bail. Can you hire a lawyer or do you need the court to appoint one?” No answer. “The court will appoint one. How do you plead?

Remember. “Not guilty.” The judge looks at you, then writes something in a notebook. “Ok, we’re done.”

The guards motion you out of the room and escort you back down the hall to your original cell. Sam shouts at you from down the hall, blocked by the guards from getting closer. “Barnes! The trial will begin in two days, don’t do anything, just wait. Talk to the lawyer that comes.”

You’re unable to acknowledge Sam as the guards force you back down the hall. See the HYDRA guard standing by the open door of your cell. Don’t do anything, Sam said. But HYDRA. Walk calmly all the way to the open door, but when you get within arms reach of the target, you twist and flex your metal arm to break the handcuff, jump forward and get the target by his head and twist just right, hear the crack and feel his neck break. Drop him. Hear the others yelling, move into the cell and wait there, punishment now, every time. Brace yourself for the beating that will come.

The guards rush to the fallen one, calling on their radios, some pointing their sticks at you and others checking the dead target. Conceal a small smile behind your hair. The guards slam the cell door shut, hear them calling for medical help. Stand and wait. Shake your head, a tiny movement. What’s one more murder charge.

The next day, a man who calls himself your lawyer comes and talks to you. He asks questions that you don’t know how to answer. He goes away, frustrated.

The days pass, nothing happens, just the changing of the guards and food delivery. But the third day after breakfast multiple guards arrive and open the cell door. They say it’s trial day, come out and get into the containment cell. Don’t resist or they’ll release the gas again. Just watch them. Dare. The guards close the cell door and leave. The white mist starts to descend through a vent in the ceiling. Fight the gas until you can’t anymore, slowly go down to the floor, close your eyes…

The guards do a repeat of what they did before, except they put you back in the mobile containment cell and strap you down. They lock the door and move the cell into a large bright room. Light, sounds, lots of people talking…move your head slowly to check out your surroundings. A room full of people. Frown. Straighten up as best you can in the restraints to get more comfortable. The talking dies when they notice you move. Ignore the stares, breathe. Talking resumes, the volume growing louder, people staring and pointing at you. Fight the after-affects of the gas, it's making you feel lethargic, tired, but the crowd, the noise, the lights, everything, too much. Close your eyes, breathe, stay calm…a voice announces the arrival of the judge, and the room quiets.

The trial begins.


Chapter Text

NEW YORK COURTHOUSE JAIL

Barnes sits in the mobile containment cell, fuming. The day had turned to s*** when the prosecution had began to speak. Their team had begun by going down a list of the Winter Soldier’s (alleged) victims. Your lawyer had tried to object but had been overridden, and hadn’t complained again. It was a long list. The people in the audience were staring at you.

Iron Man was there, standing by the judge’s bench on the side away from the witness stand, watching you too. He wasn't wearing the helmet, but just having the red and gold suit there was distracting. Between that and the other lawyer talking about your missions (if he only knew), and the guard you killed two days ago, you were struggling to keep still. Tune out the talking until “…killed Captain America!” The crowd is staring at you and whispering.

“I would like to call Sam Wilson to the stand, your honor.” Look up and see Sam, he glances at you and frowns, gives a little nod. What. Sam sits and the opposing lawyer looks at him. “Did you find Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America, after the helicarriers shot each other out of the sky?

“Yes.”

“What was Roger’s condition?”

“He had no pulse or respiration.”

“Why? Steve Rogers was a super-soldier, who had survived many terrible injuries during the war. What happened to him?"

Pause. “He had been badly beaten, shot twice and stabbed, before falling a few hundred feet from a helicarrier into the Potomac.”

“Mmm. How did you find him?”

“Natasha Romanoff and I were in a helicopter, searching for him, when we saw a man pulling him from the river. We knew it was Cap by the red, white and blue uniform. The other man walked away before we could get there. I went to help Cap, and Natasha followed the man’s tracks.”

“And who was the other man?

Another pause. “A HYDRA assassin known as the Winter Soldier.”

The lawyer smirks and walks closer to the containment cell. “And is this him? The Winter Soldier?”

Sam pauses. “No, that man is Sergeant James Barnes.”

It’s like everyone explodes. The audience is shouting at Sam. Shouting at you. The judge bangs his gavel and calls for order in the court. The people quiet down while the lawyer stares at Sam. It's almost quiet again when he leans toward Sam and yells almost right in his face “No, this man is A MURDERER!” He does a quick walk to the containment cell and stares at you. “This man, THE WINTER SOLDIER, worked with HYDRA to murder HUNDREDS, to MURDER CAPTAIN AMERICA, and will be proven GUILTY!”

The courtroom erupts again, the judge can't be heard over the noise. Take a deep breath and try to be calm, try not to look at the angry faces. Wish to be anywhere but here. Despite the judge banging the gavel and shouting, the audience has turned into an uncontrollable mob. Start to shake from the stress of keeping yourself from breaking out, breathe, один, два, три… Steve, please…

The judge then declares over the din that the trial would resume tomorrow and security escorts him out. Other guards slowly clear the courtroom and return you to the cell block. One look at you and the guards prepare to release the gas again.

When they’re happy you’re in the cell and fed with no violence, it gets quiet. The guard on suicide watch is quietly watching a small monitor, he’s sitting behind it but all he has to do is look up to see you. Sigh. Recover from the gas and do exercises until you start to sweat, then lay on the cool floor. Hear a small sound, it’s not the guard, it’s from the wall again. The guard doesn’t seem to hear it. Move to sit on the bed, lean your head against the wall to hear better. Put your metal hand behind your back again, ready to tap.

– • – •  – – • –  – • – • –  – • – –  – • – •  – – • – <CQCQCQ> SEEKING YOU SEEKING YOU SEEKING YOU

• – • <R> (ROGER, RECEIVING)

• • •  –  • –  –  • • –  • • • <STATUS>

• • • •  – • – –  – • •  – –•  • – •  – • •  – • –  • •  • – • •<HYDGRDKIL> (HYDRA GUARD KILLED)

• •  – •  - - - <INOUOK> (I KNOW YOU OK)

– •  – – –  • – – •  – •  • • •  • • • •  – • •<NOPNSHD> (NOT PUNISHED)

• • •  • –  • – –  – • – •  – – –  – – –  • – •  – • • <SAWCOORD> (SAW COORDINATES)    • – –  • •  • – • •  – • – •  • • • •  – •  – – •  – • – •  – – –  • – •  –  <WILCHNGCORT>  (WILL CHANGE COURT)

– – – • •  – – – • • <88> (LOVE AND KISSES) • • • – • – <SK> (END)

Frown and grin a little. Love and kisses. Focus on the guard, he’s watching you with a frown. What. Stare at him. The guard stands up and comes closer to the bars. Shift your arm around to your side. It’s the guard who was nice that day.

In a low, quiet tone, the guard asks “Why did you kill Eric? The guard?”

Frown. The guard? Does he want to hurt me? Look at him, note his non-threatening stance, see no animosity in his eyes, mostly curiosity.

“He was HYDRA.”

“HYDRA! How did you know?”

How did I know. Remember all the little tells ‘Eric’ had shown. “I just did.”

The guard asks more questions, but ignore him. He goes back to the desk, picks up the radio and walks down the hall with it, talking. Sigh. Look at the desk. The notebook the guard writes in is laying there, pen on top.


 

The next day begins much the same, but decide not to go through the gas procedure this time, the fatigue it causes makes you feel . So cooperate with the guards and sit in the metal restraints, fearful, angry, tired. See Tony in his red and gold Iron Man suit, standing beside the judge’s bench. Steve. I wish you were here…your smile, your blue eyes, eyes that glared at me for laughing at you, your hair that never stayed down. Like you. Until I…

Shake your head. Don't go there. Focus. The lawyer for the prosecution is telling the jury that you are dangerous, and to prove it he says “The Winter Soldier is a weapon, not a person, anyone can tell him who to kill, and he’ll complete the mission, no matter who, and no matter what it takes. He’s a machine.”

Frown. Not true. Only handlers can give me orders.

To his credit, your lawyers stands up and objects.

The lawyer stops pacing and looks at you. “Some people say that this man has been brainwashed, but that is far from the truth. The Winter Soldier kills because it’s what he’s good at, he doesn’t feel anything, he doesn’t care who, he kills men and women without hesitation,” he turns to address the jury and stresses, “even innocent children. He killed on command, anyone his employer asked him to. He’s a killer, as cold as his name.”

Feel your heart rate increase, is he going to say the words. The lawyer looks at you, grimaces and asks the court to play ‘the video’. He warns “These are very graphic, please leave now if seeing people and children murdered will upset you”. There’s a wait while the crowd shuffles, a few leaving but most keeping their seats. A large monitor mounted on the wall across from the jury starts up.

The lawyer says, “We here in this room will be some of the only people in the world to see the Winter Soldier at work and live to tell. He always killed witnesses, no matter who or how young. So these random shots, caught accidentally, are all we have. Be warned, they are not easy to watch. This first video, an assassination, from December 1980, the victim was Sultan Ibraimov, the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan.” A security camera view shows a man standing beside a car, wearing white robes and talking to his driver, then spinning and falling, presumably from being shot. Then the driver falls. Quiet comments rustle through the crowd.

The next video starts. The scene is a party, the camera being held, or rather waved around by a happy party goer, filming other happy people. The lawyer says “This was in 1986, in Sweden. Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden." Suddenly one of the happy party goers is shot in the head and falls, the camera view jerking to the floor, people screaming.

The next one…but his own lawyer interrupts, he objects, saying they have no proof it was the defendant, local militant groups had been charged with these assassinations long ago. The judge agrees but the other lawyer says “One more, please allow us to play one more video that proves it was the accused beyond all doubt”. The judge nods his ok, the video tech adjusts the playback and the next video starts.

You remember that road. Remember following that car, a gold 1991 Cadillac, the target…Look down, remember that mission, the briefing, the motorcycle, the blue bags of serum. Hear Tony say loudly, “What is this?” The lawyer stops the playback on a scene showing a man dressed in black with a metal arm walking towards the fallen driver. “This man is undeniably the Winter Soldier, the same man who is here, secured in this very containment cell.” The lawyer gestures at you, sneering, as he nods to the tech to continue, the audience murmuring.

You don’t have to keep watching to know what happens, but you see something you don’t remember. The driver called me Sergeant Barnes? Me? He knew me? I had to kill him, the mission was extract, no witnesses… Stark, Tonys father? I didn’t know… He helped us…in…the war. I didn’t know, my orders were no witnesses. Oh no I’m sorry, sorry…mission was to recover the serum, and they were witnesses, orders were sanction and extract, no witnesses…

Tony flips up the mask, he’s holding onto the wooden judge’s bench, staring at the screen. “Howard!…” Remember how quickly and easily she had died, under his flesh hand. I didn’t know. Bam, a gunshot takes out the camera and the video goes to static. Tony turns and takes a step towards you, tighten against the restraints and watch him, a cold stab of fear in your stomach. Here we go…

“It wasn’t him, man, HYDRA tortured him…” Sam. Sam had moved through the crowd and is reaching out to Tony, raising his voice, trying to get his attention, which is focused on you like a laser.

Tony interrupts Sam, his eyes wild with emotion. “I don’t care. He killed my mom.” Tony advances to the containment cell but Sam gets in the way. “Tony…”

Tony stops, red-faced, barely holding his emotions in check he glares at Sam. “Did you know.”

Sam pauses, “Yes, but…” Tony looks down and away, his jaw clenching, and without warning he swings and hits Sam hard in the face, making him flip over a table and crash down behind it, scattering people and paper in all directions. Chaos erupts, everyone jumps up at once and it seems like each person tries to run in a different direction. The guards rush the judge out a side door as you start crushing and ripping the restraints apart to get free.

Tony charges the cell, but a guard, the nice one, steps in between them, holding up his hand. Tony comes to a stop, his metal chest touching the guards hand. "Move." The guard argues with Tony as you rip more of the clamps off. Tony shoves the guard down and steps over his body, gets a grip on the cell door and tears it off the frame, looks in at you and raises a glowing hand. Rip off the last restraint and launch yourself at him just in time to knock his arm to the side so the repulser shot goes wild, through the cell window and into the courtroom’s far wall. People are running, screaming, trying to get out.

Roll out of the box and past Tony, jump over the fallen guard and spin around but Tony catches you by the neck and flies across the room, smashing your body to the floor under his armor. Grunt with the impact as Tony tries to aim his right-hand repulsor at you but you catch his metal hand with yours and crush the repulsor.

You manage to shift under him just as a small rocket burns past your face and explodes against the far wall, bringing down the wall and chunks of the ceiling, and then the whole area is engulfed in flames. A large pillar next to the wall starts to fall over, bringing beams and burning ceiling parts down with it.

The pillar falls against both of you, bashing Tony to the side, setting you free. Ignore the bits of debris still falling as you catch the motion of several STRIKE team men running in. Lower your chin and advance on them, deflect their shots with your arm and take them down. Feel yourself falling easily into the reactions and moves trained into the Asset. Take a rifle and a fighting knife from one of the men as you head for a door, everything goes fast and smooth, until the doorway ahead of you explodes in a blast of wood and sheetrock.

Turn and use the M4 to fire on Tony, the shots jerk him back but the suit protects him, even from multiple rounds directly into the arc reactor, a glowing target in the center of his chest. Tony forces you back with a blast from his left hand and rushes you, tries to pin you against the wall but you fight him off, landing good strong blows with your metal arm but he fires another beam from his hand.

You try to twist away but the blast burns across your ribs, burning a hole in the jumper and stetting it on fire. Grimace in pain and turn to attack but he pushes you off-balance and gets an arm around your neck. He flies up off the floor a few feet, holding you up by your head, his metal arm around your neck, choking…fight to get free, no leverage, gasp for air, Tony growls through his mask into your ear “Do you remember them.”

Yes. Brokenly growl “I…remember…” Beginning to black out, gotta get him off…pull at the arm around your throat with your metal hand, and slide the stolen knife from the hip pocket on the stupid prison jumper with your right hand, flip it so the blade is against your arm and run the edge behind you down Tony’s armor. Feel the blade slide over the smooth metal, feel it drop into the space near his crotch, shove the blade in, hard.

Tony shouts in pain and you fall. Land on your feet, gasping in huge breaths of air. Tony pauses, hovering in mid air, the shining eyes of the suit watching you. He raises a hand and fires. Deflect the repulsor shot back into him with your metal arm, the beam hitting Tony right in his faceplate. Run at him as he falls to his knees on the floor, stunned. Punch him repeatedly, Tony tries to counter but his hand-to-hand isn’t good enough to defend against your attack.

Tony fires again but you catch his arm and hold it away so the beam cuts the ceiling. Force him back against the wall and hold him there with your right arm against his helmet, fasten your left hand on the bright arc reactor and put all your strength into destroying it.

Forget about escape, forget about everything except trying to stop Tony. Let your pent-up frustration and anger blaze out like a jet engine, anger from years of fear and torment and Steve releasing into your one goal of tearing the arc reactor out of Tony’s chest. Snarl as you put your full strength and body weight behind your arms to destroy Iron Man.

Suddenly the world goes white, a blinding white hot pain in your metal shoulder takes over your whole body as you’re thrown back and roll to your knees on the floor. Turn your head to see your metal arm, to assess the damage, but it’s gone, glowing hot ripped metal edges and sparking wires on your shoulder are all that remain. Shock, my arm… then agony as Tony blasts you in the side under your missing arm and sends you flying back, crash down to the floor and fade into blackness.

__________________________________________

 

Tony feels himself pinned to the wall, the Soldier is trying to pull out the arc reactor! The bionic arm is crushing it, he thinks. Enough! Quickly decide and focus the unibeam in his chest to burn the Soldier off him, to kill him. Watch the man as he’s thrown back and lands on his knees, his metal arm gone. Still alive. Hit him with another repulsor blast and send him tumbling away, his body rolling limply to a stop.

Take a step towards him but someone gets in the way. Sam. “Sam. Move.”

Sam is back, bloody, his arms out, trying to stop him. “No, man, HYDRA had control of his mind, he didn’t have a choice. Don’t do this.”

Walk around Sam. “He killed my parents, and he killed Steve.”

“Please, Tony, stop this, this is murder!”

Turn and raise the hand repulsor to Sam. “Get out, Sam, I won’t ask again.” Sam’s face is streaming blood from your hit, but you don’t feel any remorse.

Something grabs your leg, the Soldier has your ankle. Jerk away, spin and kick him in the face. He edges away on his back but follow him, notice he’s holding up his remaining hand, something white in it, but ignore it as not-a-weapon and stand over him, arm stiff, ready to fire.

Look at the Soldier’s bloody face, into his incredibly blue eyes. “You killed my mom.” The Soldier’s mouth opens but you don’t want to hear it. Fire into the Soldier’s chest, point blank.

His body jerks up and convulses, forcing him onto his side, the blasted hole of his shoulder still sparking. Watch him gasping, writhing in pain. Hold Sam back with one arm, he’s yelling something. Feel nothing, except satisfaction. The Soldier, twisting in agony, gasps out “Nat…” and jerkily extends his right fist, with the white paper. Don’t take it. The fist falls. The Soldier’s head rolls back, his body relaxing on the floor.

Tony can barely hear him when he breathes out “Ssteevve…end of…line… his eyes close as his head turns away and stops, and doesn’t move again.

Tony stands there breathing hard, looking down at the body, the killer, motionless except for the still-sparking wires in the shredded metal shoulder. “Stay dead.” he says. Sam curses as he finally gets around and falls to the floor beside the Soldier, feeling for a pulse, anything. Lean down and touch the body, ask JARVIS for life signs. In a subdued voice, JARVIS reports “None, sir.”

Natasha appears out of the smoke, but she just stands there, looking at him, but if looks could kill...

“A little late now, what kept you?” Tony snaps at her.

Her expression and stance change to one that conveys the promise of a quick death. Tony unconsciously takes a step back, his hand jerks to come up but he takes a breath and forces himself not to as policemen come in cautiously through the debris and smoke, breaking the awkward moment. They ask him if he’s ok. Open the helmet. “Yeah, yeah, I’m ok, check those men over there.” he says, pointing in the direction of the downed STRIKE team. His hip hurts like hell, but the suit has stopped the bleeding and is holding him up for now.

Sam’s in tears, holding the Soldier’s hand. Natasha is next to him with a hand on his shoulder, and whispers something to him. Sam gives her the bit of torn paper that the Soldier had tried to give Tony.

“What is that?” Tony asks, pushing forward, curious now. Natasha looks at him, unreadable, then tilts her head to the side. “A little late now, don’t you think?” and gives him a smirk that is somehow shows both a dare and contempt.

“Nat, come on, I just fought the…” He pauses, turning his head and choking back what he was going to say. “You’re lucky I don’t have you arrested right now.”

A loud crash makes them all turn, more of the roof is collapsing, the fire is out but firemen are working to check the building and search for victims. “Look,” he says, turning back, but that’s as far as he gets because Natasha has disappeared, like smoke in the wind. Sam is still there though, glaring.

“Well crap. Sam, what was on that paper?”

Sam just stares. “Really?”

Just then a team of firemen come up, and Sam stands back as they check the Soldier and struggle to lift his body onto a stretcher. “I’m not leaving him, so you know where I’ll be. I hope you’re happy now.” Sam pauses like he’s going to say something else, then just turns and follows the firemen out.

Tony stands in the smoking rubble. He's dead. It’s celebration time, I need a drink and a doctor. The police report can wait.

__________________________________________

Chapter Text

A WEEK LATER - WASHINGTON D.C.

Tony pulls up in front of Sam’s house in his orange Audi R8 and parks. Everything looks like a normal middle class neighborhood, trees, nice yards, regular cars on the street, quiet. Sam had sent a text yesterday, asking if he would come over, he had something to show him, he’s not looking for a fight. So here he was, regretting that decision already. “Yeah, I’m gone.”

Just then Sam walks around the corner of the house, water hose in hand, and sees him. “Hey” he says, and lifts a hand. Well hell, busted. Shut the Audi down and get out, adjust your shades and walk into the yard.

“You said you wanted me to see something?”

Sam raises an eyebrow at him, not smiling. “Yeah, hold on…” He turns off the water and drops the hose, walking towards the front door. “Come on in.”

The house is nice, at least it’s not a typical bachelor pad, Tony thinks as he follows Sam into the kitchen where hello, Natasha is sitting at the small breakfast table, peeling and nibbling on a mandarin orange. Trying not to show your inner panic, say “Yeah, ok, I don’t think so.” and turn to go.

“Tony! Just see what Natasha has, ok? Then go? You should see this.”

“Is this about Barnes? Because I don’t want to know. I. Don’t. Care.” Tony says, crossing his arms over his chest.

Sam moves right in front of him, so close Tony can smell his aftershave. “I guess you don’t care about your father, either.”

What? Return the stare. Sigh. “Ok. What.” Natasha smiles and gets up, leaving her orange. “This way.”

Follow Natasha into the living room, she’s wearing tight jeans and a loose white top, and no telling how many weapons stashed under there, Tony thinks, as he hangs back a bit.

Sam uses a remote to turn on the flat-screen, and pauses, turning to Tony. “This is…well, just have a seat.” Tony looks at the couch, that Natasha has already claimed. She pats the seat next to her and smiles. “I won’t bite.” Tony frowns but sits hesitantly on the couch next to her, as far away as he can get.

“The original recording of this was dated the same day as the fight on the highway, when the Soldier killed Sitwell and tried to kill Nat, Cap and me.” Sam says, as he starts the video. “Nat and I found it in an empty bank in Washington D.C., where HYDRA kept him.” The video starts and they watch the Soldier sitting shirtless as techs work on his metal arm, Pierce coming in, backhanding him, asking questions, having him ‘wiped’. They watch it all the way through.

When it ends, Tony just sits, frowning at the dark screen. In the quiet, Sam says “We think the ‘man on the bridge’ was Steve. That the Winter Soldier was Barnes, and he was remembering, so they…electrocuted him.”

Tony shakes his head and leans back, glaring at Sam. “Sam, this isn’t… I know Pierce turned out to be HYDRA, but to do this…”

“Yeah, Rumlow was there, and he was on Steve’s STRIKE team.”

“It wasn’t just Pierce, evidently HYDRA figured the ‘electroshock therapy’ out early and had been doing it long before he was around.” Natasha says, quietly. “Play the next one.”

Sam hits play again, this video is old, grainy, the camera jerky. “Nat found this in the possession of a HYDRA leader, but it doesn’t have a date.” The scene starts, showing a glass and metal tube creaking and sliding open, revealing a man standing, strapped down inside, his long, dark hair and a black mask obscuring his face.

“That’s a cryostasis tube…” Natasha says softly.

“I know what it is.” Tony snaps, and tries not to fidget under her stare.

White gas swirls and escapes as the tube opens, and light glints off the metal of his left arm, proving the man’s identity without a doubt. The shot cuts to a close-up of two Russian soldiers holding the Soldier up, dragging him unresisting, trying to see where he's being taken, his eyes confused and fearful, but with a spark of something dangerous.

The scene cuts to the Soldier reclining in a chair, a chair almost exactly like the one in the bank vault, but in a much larger space. This one is working, sending electricity charging through his brain as he screams. His flesh and metal arms are clamped beside the chair, his body convulsing. Technicians work seemingly unconcerned in the background. Finally the electricity stops and the head clamps release him, leaving the Soldier shaking and hyperventilating, sweat glistening on his skin despite the cold room. Instead of a doctor to check him, an officer behind him begins reading words out of a thin book.

Natasha translates each Russian word as he speaks. “Will. Rusted. Oven. Dawn. Seventeen. Good-hearted. Nine. Return to…the homeland. One. Freight car.” The officer pauses and closes the book. “Good morning, Soldier.”

The Soldier is quiet, as if swallowing, trying to speak. “Я готов отвечать“ he responds, his voice rough and low. “Ready to…answer.” Natasha translates. The officer continues. “I have a mission for you. Sanction and extract. No witnesses.” The video ends.

It’s quiet as they all stare at the black screen. “Why would they have to do that…? Tony rubs his face, leaving his hand over his eyes.

Sam leans forward, frowning at Tony. Natasha nudges him with her foot and says “We believe, from reading these records, that this was done every time he was taken out of cryo for a mission, so he would be easier to control. Erase his memories.”

Tony pauses, thinking. “Why read the words? What did that do?”

Natasha pauses. “The words were mentally, physically and chemically conditioned into his mind to turn him into the Winter Soldier. It forced him to be obedient only to the speaker, and do whatever was asked without question.”

“How do you know that?” Tony frowns and gives her a skeptical look.

She doesn’t move, but Tony gets the distinct impression that he’s in danger again. “I was there. I saw some of what they did, and… Barnes talked to me, then.” Natasha pauses, shifting. “We learned more through the reports we found.”

Natasha brings a folder with Cyrillic writing on the cover out of a drawer in the coffee table. “This is everything I’ve been able to find about the Winter Soldier project, the Russian and the HYDRA versions.” She then lays a red book on top of the file. “including the book that officer was reading from.” Natasha decides not to mention Karpov’s name, that’s something Tony doesn’t need to know.

Tony sits up and waves a hand over the files. “Why didn’t you show this to me, before? Not saying it would have changed anything, but it would have been nice.” He glares, but then looks away.

Sam stands, looking like he wants a fight. “We were going to, but you had to lose it and KILL HIM…”

Tony jumps to his feet.

“Sam,” Natasha says, touching his arm. “Sam. Wait, let Tony see this.”

“If you’re…yeah, he was tortured. I get it. It doesn’t change anything. And what does any of this have to do with my father.” Tony snarls.

“Tony, you needed to see those videos to put what we have to show you in context. We thought you should know,” Natasha pauses, and pulls a piece of paper out of the folder. “this.”

Tony glares but takes the letter, the paper stiff and brittle with age. It’s dated 1949, addressed to some office in Russia. There are hand-written notes in Russian in the margins. The letter, in English, begins with a list of parts, including the super-rare metal vibranium. It discusses how to acquire more of the special metal, and that the writer will donate the small amount he has. It goes on to discuss a ground-breaking technology used in making a bio-mechanical prosthesis, a left arm for an injured soldier. The writer hopes the technology will succeed, the first prosthetic to work directly with a patient’s own nervous system. Signed, Howard Stark.

Tony sits back down slowly and turns almost pleading eyes to Natasha. “My… Howard was working with HYDRA? To make the Winter Soldier?”

Natasha sits down, but doesn’t touch him. “No. At least not knowingly. He believed he was working with honest scientists and doctors, developing something new, something that could help thousands of injured people. HYDRA lied to him. In the end, there was only one made, Howard made a few upgrades to it before he started asking questions. So after he finished re-developing the super-soldier serum, HYDRA decided they didn’t need him anymore.” She softly adds, “Barnes was just the murder weapon.”

Tony puts a hand over his face, his arm trembling. “Why. Why did you show me this now?” he says, his voice breaking.

“Tony, we had planned to show this to you and the judge after the trial that day. We were too late." Natasha glances over to Sam, making sure he's staying calm. He just gives her a dirty look. He hadn't wanted to bring Tony in on this, until Natasha, ever the calm practical one, reminded him that there were five more Soldiers. But he didn't have to be happy about it.

"Remember that piece of paper Barnes had?”

Tony’s hand drops. “The one you hid from me?” He glares, but the effect is muted by the excess liquid glinting in his eyes.

Natasha smirks and tilts her head. “I don’t know how he got a pen and paper, but he wrote down coordinates for what is an old Russian missile silo.” She pauses, not smiling anymore. “He said he wasn’t the only Winter Soldier. There’s five more.” Tony stares at her, shocked.

“Do you want to go with us?”

Tony gets up, opens his mouth to say something but then just nods and practically runs out of the house, squealing the tires on the R8 as he roars off down the street.


TWO WEEKS LATER - ARLINGTON

It’s a beautiful morning, the sun just beginning to burn off the mist. Natasha and Sam stand beside a Catholic priest and watch as Barnes’ casket is lowered into the ground, just behind and to the right of Captain America’s flower-covered monument. Tony had pulled some strings, going all the way up to the President, to arrange this funeral with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

The headstone is already in place, having been there since 1945, marking an empty grave. They had decided not to change the date on the stone, but agreed to have the stone remade anyway, to take away the MIA (Missing In Action) engraving. All anyone needs to know, Sam said, is that James Barnes died falling from a train 70 years ago, and that his remains have finally come home.

The army honor guard comes to attention with a snap, “Preeesent arms! Ready, aim…Fire! BAM. Fire! BAM. Fire! BAM, the shots shockingly loud in that quiet place. Then the army musician raises his trumpet to play Taps, the simple melody echoing through the trees, a haunting last call for rest.

An officer presents the folded American flag that had covered the casket to Natasha. She had refused when Tony had suggested it, but he had persuaded her, telling her that she was Barnes’ closest living friend, since she had known him when he was the Winter Soldier, and had tried to take care of him after he was captured. She had mentioned Peggy, but Tony had argued that Peggy couldn’t travel. They hadn’t told Peggy about the Winter Soldier, only that Barnes’ body had been found. She’d sent a beautiful wreath of flowers, now standing by the headstone, the dark ribbons moving gently in the light breeze.

Natasha stands in her black dress with the folded flag under her arm, feeling strangely exposed, and out of place. It’s strange to say goodbye to him in America, standing in the warm sunshine holding an American flag, seeing him honored as an American hero. She remembers the Soldier’s low voice whispering to her in Russian, the confidence of knowing he was watching over her through the scope on his Dragunov*, and his strong body keeping her warm in the cold, dark Russian winter.

“I believe he’s with Steve now, and his family,” Sam says, quietly. “happy, no more pain.”

Natasha just gives a small nod. Except for mine.


A FEW DAYS LATER - SIBERIA

Natasha pilots the quinjet while Sam and Tony take turns napping and picking at each other. She’s about ready to drop them out over the North Sea, but at least they’re talking. The first half of the journey had been awkward and quiet, but Tony couldn’t stay that way for very long, so he had started asking Sam about the Falcon wings, and how to repair them, so that got them started, talking and planning.

They’re traveling fast and low to avoid radar, going over the north pole to the coordinates on Barnes’ note, an abandoned Russian nuclear missile silo just north of Mongolia. The mountainous area is cold and dead, snow and ice cover everything. There are no heat signatures. Natasha puts the jet down carefully, and shuts off the engines.

They walk carefully to the main entrance, where Tony uses a jet on his suit to melt the ice over the door controls, and Natasha uses the code from the red book to open the main door. The dark entry leads to an elevator which surprisingly still works, so they unwisely perhaps, all get in and ride it to it’s only stop, the bottom of the silo.

Tony precedes them, repulsor at the ready, but there is only silent darkness. Natasha and Sam have lights attached to their rifles, but only see cold metal walls and empty spaces, no signs of life, not even rats. Tony locates the door to the control room, and turns on the main lights.

Out in the missile silo, six cylindrical tanks light up, the foggy glass making it difficult to see their contents. Sam steps up and rubs the frost off a spot on the closest one. “What the...?”

There’s a man inside, seated, wearing shorts and a dark workout shirt, looking like he just sat down and closed his eyes. “They’re frozen,” Tony says, “these are the cryo tubes. But there’s six tubes here, the note said five.”

“This explains why the power is still on.” Sam says, abstractedly thinking about where the powerplant might be.

Natasha has paused, looking at the equipment in the center of the silo. “This is a chair like the one in the bank.” She trails off, thinking this must be the main one, the one in the video. Just thinking of all the torture that Barnes must have gone through here, all that time, alone, makes her stop. She takes a deep breath and joins Sam and Tony, looking into the tubes.

“Do we want to wake them up? How do we even start?” Sam asks the air in general.

Each tube has a similar still form inside, except one is female. But the occupant of the third tube is standing, and when Natasha rubs off the frost, she sees a man with dark hair, a black mask, and a metal left arm.


FIN