A/N: Remember that each story in this series are unrelated.

While Sam spoke to the elderly Steve Rogers, Bucky slipped away. He needed to escape. He was struggling to breathe, well aware that he was on the verge of a panic attack. He headed to the guest cabin provided by Pepper Potts-Stark after the funeral, needing a quiet spot to work on the methods provided by Princess Shuri of Wakanda of reversing the attack before it went too far.

Just as he reached the path leading to the cabin, Bucky ran into Gerald, the alpaca that wandered freely around the grounds. The animal butted his head against Bucky's chest, pushing the man back a few stumbling steps. He lifted his hand to stroke the soft neck. "Hey, buddy, you missing Stark?"

He fought back the tears threatening to fall from his blue eyes. Crying wasn't going to solve anything. It never did, not when pre-serum Steve was on the verge of death from rheumatic fever or pneumonia or heart palpitations or asthma attacks. Not when Bucky was strapped to the table in Azzano, Italy, shot up with drugs that later turned out to be a Hydra knockoff of the serum that transformed Steve into a supersoldier. Not when he struggled to survive after falling from the train in the Alps. And definitely not when his very soul was ripped to pieces by crude electroshock and torture.

His arm flung over Gerald's stocky body, Bucky found himself wandering off with the alpaca, not caring where he might go. Being with the sturdy animal seemed to be helping redirect his panic. The alpaca didn't seem to mind the company, nudging his big lips against Bucky's shoulder, leaving slobber on the leather jacket.

Leaving the cabin behind, the two soon left the close-cropped grass behind, moving into the cooler shadowy forest area that surrounded the Stark property. The crunching of dead leaves lowered the human's stress even further, turning his focus from the grief of losing his best friend to the sounds of wildlife, from birds to squirrels to rabbits.

"Where are you taking me, bud?"

The alpaca blinked his large beautiful eyelash framed eyes at him in answer, walking delicately between trees and shrubbery. Shrugging, Bucky dug his fingers into the sinfully thick fleece, following along.

Bucky found himself relaxing the further he and Gerald wandered. It also allowed the pain of Steve's desertion to tear his heart to pieces. All the work and effort to free himself from Hydra's control, to have a future with Steve, whether as best friends or possibly more.

He laughed bitterly. "So much for that idea."

Gerald found a clump of flowers that attracted him enough to start nibbling. Bucky leaned against a nearby tree, trying to deal with the fact that had had no future with the man he had loved from the moment they had met on the streets of Brooklyn. While any relationship between them beyond friendship was illegal and dangerous back in the 1940s, the world has moved on since them. There had been a chance for them. He had been so focused on proving himself worthy of Captain America, of Steve Rogers, that he didn't have a backup plan.

He had remained in Wakanda after the programming was removed because he was tired of fighting. Plus too many countries would have tossed him into a deep dark hole, if not outright killed him, for the horrific crimes he committed as the Winter Soldier. Wakanda, thanks to both King T'Challa and Princess Shuri, had provided sanctuary and peace once his mind was cleared.

Although Steve had left shortly after Bucky had gone back into cryo, he had kept in contact with Shuri about his progress. Not watching to bring unwanted attention to Bucky being in Wakanda, Steve hadn't returned there in person until war broke out with Thanos. The two men kept to infrequent telephone calls.

Rubbing his flesh hand roughly over his face, Bucky knew it was time to do what was best for himself. Steve Rogers had made his choices, now James Barnes would make his own. For the first time he wouldn't have to consider his friend's needs or wishes.

With a deep sigh, he released the pain and disappointment of Steve's decision to be dealt with later. He pulled out his cellphone, pressing the third contact in his directory.

"Princess Shuri, this is James. White Wolf," he said, using the name given to him by the children living near his small farm and adopted by Shuri with great glee. "I wondered if it was possible for me to come home?"

~ September 2019