Cutscene: Who Is James Buchanan Barnes?

Summary:
March 04, 2015 The Winter Soldier broods on the stain spreading across his existence. (NOTE: The date is approximate; I mostly just didn't want to break something by not including a date.)

New York City, The H.U.B., a bathroom

'Hail HYDRA!' is probably scrawled on one of the walls somewhere.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
*None


"What if, he was telling the truth?"

***

It might not be real, but Bucky wouldn't trade the tri-toned disc with its own director's chair for anything tonight. Granted, his grimace is sharply tinted by the red, white, and blue layers it's reflected in, but he can more or less make out the bags forming under his eyes after two hours of post-mission sleep, early morning training and twelve hours of filming. If he squints, he can tell that his hair is a disheveled mess— and not in the rugged way that the make-up girl painstakingly arranged at the outset of this thing.

A mirror would be easier. Steve's probably in his dressing room, using his to make sure his smile still has the proper amount of glisten. Unfortunately for James, this is the third long 'five' in as roughly as many hours, thanks to his… unique interpretations of the material he's been given, so the director has notes.

'Notes' being, as far as he can tell, Hollywood for 'yell at the star about 'authenticity' and 'blocking' for ten straight minutes'.

Bucky still isn't a hundred percent sure what blocking is, but he's apparently pretty good at fucking it up.

"— as a goddamn favor! I don't need this shit— hey!" The director pauses mid-rant and stops stomping through the fake trees planted around the soundstage to whirl on Bucky. "Hey, are you listening? Can you read?! What kinda soldier can't even follow a basic set of stage directions?! How many of these things have you done, you grandstanding little—"

"Look," Bucky flatly replies as he looks over his shoulder to the man, "Me and the big guy have gotta hop on a plane so we can get back to fighting actual Krauts in a few hours; you must have a whole reel between all these takes, right? I don't see what you're snappin' your cap over— wait, this ain't about that thing I shouted while I was tossin' that grenade last take— " Bucky twists his body towards the director with a bemused squint. "I mean, that's just the kinda stuff you say when you're in the heat of battle."

"You're— !" the director sputters. "You're here to INSPIRE CHILDREN and TEACH THEM THE VALUE OF PATRIOTISM, not— not CORRUPT them with your filthy goddamn— fucking— "

With a wordless shout, he tosses his script down and storms towards craft service for a smoke to take some of the edge off. "— fuck this! From here on out— ACTORS! I don't care WHAT the Army has to say about it!" he declares on the way.

"Thank God," Bucky murmurs beneath his breath as his eyes return to the shield.

***

"What if your name is really James…"

***

Bucky doesn't dare slow down, doesn't even look back; he doesn't need to, because he can still feel the ground trembling underfoot and he knows what he'll find back there:

A fireball greedily consuming a German supply depot, the French copse it was nestled in, and the soldiers unlucky enough to be posted there tonight.

In other words, a distraction to give the other Invaders a little bit of leeway as they move on a larger installation a few hundred yards away.

Instead, his attention is on the muddy, rock-strewn path in front of him and the jug of dark, licorice-scented tucked into his German officer's jacket and clutched to his chest. A hasty retreat is important, of course, but so is preserving the bottle: nabbing it without provoking an alarm pushed him to the absolute limit of his timetable, but now that he has it…

Well. A case of beer from the officer's mess got him one of Lady Blackhawk's caps; a bottle of J├Ągermeister from behind enemy lines could well be worth a cheek-kiss.

The memory of gun oil and Chanel No. 5 almost makes him forget the spent ammo scent of Nazi blood wafting after him.

It doesn't quite chase away the sight of jacket's former owner staring back at him in his last moments, though; that'll probably be with him for a while.

***

"… and you really are… someone that he used to know."

***

Sharp clicks and soft thumps sound from the supply tent in an unsteady rhythm as James Barnes cleans and services a camp's worth of M1s. Rain drums on olive drab walls and a procession of screams and trampling boots periodically thunders by; he's missing morning PT for this, but it's…

Worth it? Maybe: a few cackling guys used the chow line to discuss - in carnal detail - their desires to contribute to the war effort by finding some local frauleins to teach the true meaning of patriotism, and James used his knuckles to critique their plan. Hindsight tells him that they were probably joking, but he isn't laughing about it now any more than he was then. Some things just aren't funny.

Granted, most things aren't all that funny to James these days, but he'd like to think that sixteen year-old him would've ended up in the supply tent too. It's the war, he thinks: it has a way of narrowing people's focus until it's the center of their worlds, leaving them to fill what little space is left as best as they can. For all he knows, they could've been struggling to find their own versions of joy amidst the horror.

Maybe by the time their noses and/or jaws heal, they'll have found healthier outlets.

"Buck?"

James freezes and darts his eyes to the Captain studying him with a frown from just inside the tent. How long has he been standing there?

For that matter, how long has he been working? The young Invader briskly studies the piles of guns on either side of him; hard to tell. Now that he thinks about it, though, he can't remember when the last group of soldiers ran by.

"I just got word from the President," Steve continues in a sobered voice without waiting for a greeting; that moment of eye contact was acknowledgment enough. "We've gotta go get ready, pal. It's Zemo— and it's big. We've got a plane to catch; the safety of the free world depends on it."

Tired eyes briefly sparkle as Bucky sets the gun he's working on aside and moves towards the tent flap. "Don't worry, Cap; ol' Sock Face is gonna be washed up for good when we're through with him this time," he assures his partner with a taut grin.

***

"What will you do, then?"

Fracture's words linger like broken glass as the Winter Soldier stares into the eyes of a monster. Scenes from a film he's never seen before well up from the places where her question sticks the deepest and gush through his mind's eye in a disjointed loop.

He liked it better when this sort of thing was restricted to down time; dreaming through the eyes of his murderer wasn't significantly more or less jarring than the dreams of drowning and darkness that normally haunted his sleep, but then, at least, it was contained.

"What will you do, then?"

He should march out of this bathroom, find his— father— find Dr. Zola— and tell him everything: about the Blackhawk, the Captain, the Keeper, the visions, the dreams.

The bedroom door he spent an hour staring at before sleeping.

Fracture.

Everything.

A few days(weeks? Months? Years?) of rest would probably do him some good. He hasn't spent much time with HYDRA's psych team, but they'd probably be able to help him make sense of things— or at least give him something to silence the noise infecting his green and gold thoughts.

"What will you do, then?"

A shudder passes through his mending body and he balances on the edge of the sink before him with a heavy hand. His eyes fall, but not from the mirror; not entirely.

Letting them fade his confusion into the background would be easy, but how could he be trusted to serve when he's so tangled in the web of lies that HYDRA's enemies have spun for him that his own memory betrays him?

What's the point of forgetting the web when the spider could strike at any time?

"What will you do, then?"

What would they gain from making him forget? A weapon that that doesn't jam, a blade that never chips; a Soldier who serves without questions.

Their tool comfortably nestled in the confines of its box, ready to be used and set aside as their whim.

Tremors run up and down his arm as he struggles to turn the wary eye his former masters helped him develop towards the father he doesn't remember raising him and the revolution infusing his being.

It would be so, so much easier to forget.

"What will you do, then?"

The Winter Soldier's eyes squeeze shut as the curses of a director pushed to the brink thunder through a dark forest and shake the endless multitude of rifles hanging from its trees. A single white star dominates a black sky shot through with blue splotches, shedding just enough light that when he looks down

"What will you do, then?"

he can make out icy blue eyes staring back at him, asking, taunting,

"What will you do, then?"

Muddy earth crumbles underfoot and gives way to an endless ocean studded with ice; he falls, and

"What will you do, then?"

falls, and

"What will you do, then?"

the mirror cracks.

Dead eyes snap open to observe a hand studded with glass and streams of blood. He watches himself withdraw the extremity from his shattered reflection for a closer examination, squints at the damage as it's slowly turned over a time or two.

These wounds, he'll need to seek treatment for.

***

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