Chapter 25

Bucky dreamed of ice. He dreamed of crystals forming in his blood, crystals that poured out like grains of sand when they cut him open and dragged out his pulsing heart.

"Defective," they pronounced, and they threw the heart out.

Bucky dreamed of fire. He dreamed of flames licking at his skin, drops of heat that burned off the flesh he wore like a mask and revealed the metal underneath.

Bucky dreamed of darkness, and cold, and warmth. He dreamed of water pounding his skin in freezing jets and water streaming down his back in warm rivulets. He dreamed of steel clamps holding his arms down and soft sheets blocking out the chill in the air.

He dreamed of cars and highways and beating two men he should have known to death.

He dreamed of Steve.

He dreamed of falling.

"Defective," they pronounced, and they brought a new heart in. This one beat with blood made of nails and veins of wire.


His frozen lips refused to part.


He stayed still as they set the ugly thing in his chest. It fit. Perfectly.

I don't want it.

They sewed him up with bloody sutures and he stood.

"How is it, Soldat?"

He lifted his hands. He fastened them around their throats. He squeezed.

They clawed at his hands from beneath him, their faces bruising and broken.

"Bucky," they gasped, their voices resolving into one as the world fell apart in showers of sparks and blood and his head was pounding, "Bucky."

He squeezed tighter.

And woke up screaming.

He didn't know what drove him to Steve's door beyond a primal need to make sure that Steve was there, that he was alive. And he was—spread out on his bed by virtue of his large frame, one arm clutching a pillow so tightly Bucky was surprised it didn't burst. His sheets were so twisted around his legs that Bucky wondered how Steve was going to get out of them in the morning.

Steve shifted and mumbled something under his breath before settling on his back. Bucky leaned against the doorframe as Steve began to snore at a volume befitting his serum-enhanced lungs.

Sensations echoed along Bucky's body at the familiar sound—a warm body pressed against him, uneven breath against his neck, cold air on his back, thin sheets barely blocking out the morning light—

He was smiling. He was in Steve's doorway in the middle of the night watching the big goof sleep and he was smiling.

Bucky didn't go back to sleep. He couldn't. But he spent his solitude with a book in the main room, using the moonlight to read. He nursed his hot chocolate—prepared with help from JARVIS, who had been surprisingly careful about introducing his presence to Bucky—and wedged himself a little deeper into the couch cushions.

His nerves were still frazzled from the previous day, and memories of the conflicting needs to get away to leave to attack to defend to run to fight to scream to stop when Stark had gotten so close kept him from exploring the rest of the building. The rest of the day had been a whirlwind, too, to the point that Bucky had nearly attacked someone and Steve had needed to pull him into a bathroom to calm him down while the movers finished organizing everything in Bucky's new room.

It took Bucky too long to calm down after that. He didn't eat dinner, and he and Steve went to bed early after Steve fumbled his way through an attempt to talk to Bucky.

Bucky had shut that down. He didn't want or need to talk. He was doing a shitty job, but he was handling this.

He had to handle this.

He would handle this.

Sam had tried too, but he hadn't been able to stay for long enough to press the issue after arriving late in the afternoon. Something about his family in the city—Bucky hadn't been paying attention, too focused on checking his room for any bugs.

JARVIS had already informed him several times about the security of the Tower. Even Natasha—in the brief phone call—had told Bucky the Tower was the safest place in the city. But Bucky had thought of at least two ways to circumvent the security measures long enough to enter the building without being detected immediately, though he doubted HYDRA would find them anytime soon.

He took another drink of hot chocolate.

Next time, he was going to try marshmallows.

Next time.


At this point, I'm planning on rewriting Innocent as well (because oh dear god). I'll probably come up with a better title than "Innocent (Rewrite)" though, so keep an eye out for that.

Thank you for all the support! I loved reading all of your reviews!

Until we meet again,


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