I can't believe this story is almost as old as Harry is in it. And I neglected this story for half its life, too.
James doesn't feel when Harry lets go of the prosthesis, as he would with his flesh hand. Harry sprints down the hallway as fast as his short legs allow and grins back at James. "I'm faster than Cap'n Turtle!"
Beside James, Steve sighs, but ends up sketching a red, white and blue turtle with a star on its shell, much to Harry's delight. Harry's eyes practically bug out when Steve sketches a realistic rendition of Harry scoring a basket on a broomstick.
As Harry's eyes start drooping, Stark enters and throws himself on the couch.
The stick in Stark's hand is not weaponized the same way wands are, but it could be equally dangerous in the hands of an enemy. As dangerous as the red book with the black star, if not more so.
The Bucky voice urges him to reach out and crush the device, but Harry is currently clinging tightly to James' hand, curled up in his lap.
"Is this common now?" Steve asks, "People putting their brains in machines?"
"I would say no," Stark shoots the stick a scathing look. "But then again, I'm surrounded by wizards, mutants and super soldiers in a special-powers school. I don't even know what's normal anymore."
He's got a point there, Bucky says in James' mind.
Stark mutters, "Still, it shouldn't have been possible for him to back up his brain on that crappy computer."
Steve stops drawing to study James' face. "Did they do that to you?"
Why would they have backed me up, Punk? Bucky asks sardonically. They were aiming to erase me. Besides, they did the opposite. Put a machine inside a man.
THE ASSET IS NOT A MACHINE.
Perhaps it would have been easier to rearrange his brain if he was.
"Bucky's voice is in my head, not a machine." James replies, which only makes Steve's face look physically stricken. He should try to echo Bucky's voice, but instead looks at the stick.
"Yeah, guess it's a literal memory stick now." Stark grins humorlessly, and his expression quickly grows more serious. "Zola was a mole inside SHIELD the whole time. I mean, you told me about the infestation, but did you know it was Zola?"
James sits rigidly. He remembers Zola watching as the surgeons sawed off his stump and drilled the prosthesis into his bones. Remembers the man pronouncing him the new fist of HYDRA.
ZOLA CREATED THE ASSET BEFORE PIERCE.
James glances up, a phantom agony lingering in his shoulder, more than the usual pain from the weight of the prosthesis. All eyes are on him- he must have been unresponsive.
"We have to extract some more information from Zola," Stark says. "But once we do, you should be the one to destroy this remainder. I know, crushing a plastic stick isn't very satisfying, but maybe we can blow it up or shoot it."
"Or hit it with a bludger." Harry says, swinging a fist through the air.
Stark spins the memory stick in his fingers. "You're good with knives, right?"
"You said no knives." Harry accuses, almost slashing his finger at Stark.
"I said no knives for you." Stark replies. "I trust James with stabbing a memory stick."
"I've got you covered there, bub." Logan remarks as he enters the room, making a fist, but keeping his claws retracted.
"If he was still alive..." Steve's jaw is tight and his pencil snaps in half.
"Jarvis is combing through every SHIELD file we can get a hold on." Stark has a similar spark in his eye. "If they're trying to back someone else up, we'll know."
"Chuck's got a computer." Logan grunts. "Increases his power, lets him find anybody in the world."
"Seriously?" Stark gapes. "That would've been a nice thing to mention. Could he make Pierce admit to everything? Say 'Hail Hydra' on national TV or something?"
Steve frowns. "Isn't that what HYDRA did to him?"
HYDRA has wizards and witches on their side, and may have access to a similar device, making it only a matter of time before they locate him. They could use the codewords telepathically, reset him without ever stepping foot in the mansion.
James barely hears Steve asking if Johann Schmidt's brain is in a machine.
As James carries a sleeping Harry to the bedroom, he knows he won't be getting much sleep, himself.
"Dad?" Harry shakes his dad, who's laying in bed, but not asleep. He's a statue again.
Someone stole his brain. Harry shakes him again, but his dad remains frozen.
A dark figure stands silently in the doorway before entering the room.
The man is dressed in black clothes, but not in the nice way Dad and Batman are. He's holding a memory stick like Mr. Stark had, and Harry just knows that his dad's brain is on this one.
"Put it back." Harry demands. He looks down, realizing he's holding his own stick- a wand, like Mr. Moody's. Nothing happens when he waves it.
Harry stands up to hit the man with the wand, but the man just laughs. Punching him gets another laugh. Harry wishes he brought a basketball to bed, so he could throw it at the man.
Another shadowy figure appears at the bedroom door. Harry watches as it slowly enters, wondering if it's a gun guy or a bad witch.
Captain America strides into the room with his shield. He punches the bad guy, but instead of taking the memory stick, he pulls out another one and taps it against Dad's head.
Dad looks at Captain America instead of Harry. He stretches, then stands up.
"Bucky," Captain America hugs him, and Harry watches metal and flesh arms wrap around Captain America, over his dumb turtle shell shield.
"It's me," Dad says, but he doesn't sound like himself. Harry stares at the star on his Dad's shoulder and the star on the shield. Harry wishes he matched Dad, but he's stuck with a lightning bolt.
The hug finally ends, and Harry holds out his arms, but both men turn toward the door without looking his way.
"Daddy!" Harry calls as they walk out. There's an evil laugh and a flash of green light in the hallway, and then everything is quiet. Harry jumps off the bed, but tangles in the sheets and falls to the floor.
It's as silent as his cupboard was in the middle of the night, and suddenly almost as dark. Harry squirms out of the blanket and hurries toward the door.
There's probably a bad wizard out there, but Harry doesn't hear any fighting, or any sounds at all. He peeks around the door. No evil wizard, no Captain America.
Harry walks down the long, empty hall, sure a gun guy or witch will jump out of the shadows at any moment. The hall feels huge, endless. He wishes Dad was beside him, like when they lived at Mr. Stark's house.
Harry stops at the top of the large staircase. Nobody is fighting in the space he can see below. Harry creeps down the steps and past where the cupboard would be.
The downstairs is just as empty as when his dad found him at Privet Drive. Harry looks around, hoping his dad will appear from the shadows, but he's alone. He makes his way toward the living room, which is a little bit brighter than the hall. Harry glances over his shoulder, just to make sure nothing's sneaking up on him.
Suddenly, gunfire and screams explode from the living room. It's not Dad's scream- surely he won.
An older kid yells "Gotcha!"
Harry enters to find an older boy and girl slouched on the couch. The telly shows an arm holding a gun, and it looks a lot like Dad's flesh arm.
"Daddy?" Harry runs toward the telly, barely paying attention to the other guy, who looks like he fell on the ground.
"Get out of the way," one of the older kids tells him. "Go back to bed."
Harry refuses to move. "That's Dad! Dad, come out!"
"It's a game." the older girl huffs.
"Dad!" Harry exclaims, almost hitting the telly like Dudley had. Where's Mr. Stark? He'd know how to get Dad back out.
"Your dad's with Logan." the girl says. "I think they're going to be drinking buddies."
"They're having hot cocoa?" Harry frowns. It almost hurts more than when he lay in his cupboard, trying to quiet his growling tummy as Dudley slurped mug after mug of cocoa and cried about dreams of freaks.
"Just go," one of the older kids tells him. Harry runs off and bursts into the kitchen, where he finds Mr. Logan, Mr. Stark, Cap and Dad all sitting around the table.
Harry charges toward the captain and punches him in the stomach. "Give his brain back!"
Cap doesn't laugh at being punched, like the other guy, but he mostly seems confused.
Safe, familiar hands, one metal and one skin, lift Harry up and pull him away from Cap.
"You're still pulling little guys out of fights, huh, Buck?"
Harry kicks the air. "He's James."
"I was Bucky."
Harry pauses, then keeps swinging. Dad's only saying that because Cap messed with his memory stick. "Give Dad his mem'ry!"
"Steve didn't take my memory." Dad says quietly, and Harry stills. "Zola did. HYDRA did."
Harry points at Cap. "He used the wrong stick."
"It wasn't a stick." Dad closes his eyes, his face tight. Finally, he says "A chair."
Harry slides off Dad's lap and tugs at his hand until Dad stands from his seat. Cap starts to stand too, and Harry tells him. "Go hide in your shell."
"Do you want cocoa?" Dad asks, heading toward the counter. Harry nods. Only Mr. Stark has a mug- Dad, Mr. Logan and Cap all have glass bottles.
"I think you had a bad dream." Mr. Stark says. "Nobody did anything to your dad. Well, not today, anyway."
This isn't a dream, because Dad doesn't know who he is.
"You're my Bat Dad." Harry insists. "Not Bucky."
Dad says nothing as he helps Harry measure the cocoa mix, which is more like himself, but as he's stirring it in, he speaks. "If it wasn't for Bucky's voice, HYDRA would have us both."
Cap stares at Dad. "You're still Bucky, deep down."
"Really, Rogers? He's not going to be the Bucky from 1945 after everything." Mr. Stark pinches his nose. "I'm not the same man I was pre-Iron Man, and that was three months, not decades."
Cap looks confused.
"I built my first suit in a cave." Harry opens his mouth, and Mr. Stark holds up a finger. "Not a batcave. It wasn't a good place, and I blew it up."
"There was a fire when my A'set dad James found me." Harry shares.
"He rescued you from a fire?" Cap asks, and Harry nods.
"Harry, I set the fire." Dad isn't looking at Harry, or anyone else. He stands like a statue again, and Harry turns to scowl Cap, but he looks worried too.
Maybe Dad's getting a flashback memory instead of having it taken.
Finally, Dad moves. He lets out a long, shaky breath, closes his eyes.
"I started the fire." Dad says. "I did bad things for HYDRA."
"You didn't have a choice." Mr. Stark's voice is firm, his dark eyes flashing.
Dad looks at his metal hand, so long that Harry wonders if he's having another memory. "I still did it."
Harry can't think of anything bad his dad's done. "You beat the gun guys an' the giant at the castle."
Bucky hadn't done that.
That doesn't seem like it cheered Dad up any. If anything, he looks worse. "I hurt people."
"Only bad guys." Harry argues, and suddenly every adult is giving him a look, and then Dad and Mr. Stark stare at each other without saying anything.
"Bucky would have been a better father." Dad says, and Cap nods.
Harry stomps out of the room and sits against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He hears Mr. Stark demand "Why would you say that?"
"You know what I did." Dad replies.
"It wasn't your fault," Mr. Stark snaps. "Do you want me to blame you?"
"You don't know everything I've done." Dad says, his voice flat but not quite like usual. "I don't know everything I've done."
"Join the club, bub." Mr. Logan growls. "Make 'em regret what they made you. I did."
"That's the plan." Mr. Stark says. "Look, James. Bucky. Whoever. Whatever you did before, you just made your kid run out of here. Plus it's probably the Bucky voice that made you almost abandon him. That's not great father material."
Harry goes still, trying not to breathe, but Mr. Logan says he can smell Harry outside the door.
"I was the fist of HYDRA." Dad says.
"Well, the whole time I've known you, you've been the fist of Harry." Mr. Stark says. "So go out there, give Harry his hot chocolate, and go find Charles. This is above my paygrade, and I'm a billionaire."
I've been watching a ton of scenes from Logan recently (sadly the movie isn't on Disney+) but that might've influenced the mood of this chapter. That movie's stuck in my head more than a lot of the recent MCU movies, even Endgame (though I do love watching the Tony and Morgan scene).
I know there wasn't much progress on the HYDRA part here, but I honestly kind of wish I'd kept this more small-scale. I'm way better at writing family fics than huge, world-stakes scenarios, plus I always liked the smaller stuff more (hence why the Tony and Morgan scene sticks in my head but not the huge battle. Same with Logan and Laura).
For some reason I haven't been able to get invested in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.