Pre-Edit Count – 1,529 Words
Song I listened to for this chapter: It Is What It Is by Lifehouse
With the last caress of his face, the being creates a wall in his head, making it where his mind, the real part of him, rests there, away from what is going to happen to him. He will find there are consequences for it, but it is the only way to have him save the core of himself from being torn from him. To have him able to fight in the future the brainwashing they are going to make him go through soon and later.
He will need it.
Not knowing how much actual time has passed, the being known as Bucky screams behind the partition that the being had given him. He watches as his mind and body are tortured and then made to follow the orders of HYDRA. To him, it has seemed as though years have passed, but for all he knows, it could be on a day or so.
The drugs they had given him before Steve had freed him the first time from his brainwashing and torture had made him stronger and given him a better constitution than a normal human. They had been painful and at the very least you could call them inhumane. But he had been glad to have them so that he could keep up with his longtime friend.
Now? Now it is pure pain and torture that they put his body through. Between the treatments and the brainwashing shock treatments, Bucky soon finds himself hiding more and more behind the curtain that hid his real self. The alternative was enough to frighten him since he could feel parts of himself starting to slip away before he started using the partition.
The only bad thing is that the more he hides, the more the curtain becomes less malleable. But he has no other recourse if he wants to be who he had been in the past when his freedom came. He had to decide to finally hide and end up watching everything his body did without being able to affect it except in the very slightest bit. Or losing this last portion of himself.
Soon, as time passed, the hope that the being had given him was the one thing helping him maintain his sanity and to stay behind the curtain. There were times when he had been frozen and was coming out, that he wondered if it was worth staying sane.
As they train him and start sending him out on missions, he finds himself shocked at the brutality that he did. Often Bucky hid behind the curtain any time he found himself killing in cold blood. He might have fought in a war, but he never assassinated someone like he was seeing the other side of himself, the Winter Soldier as they called him, do. He watches his body as the Winter Solider murder others, as he himself cries as he kills the best and brightest in the world.
However, during this time, as the killings are getting worse, Bucky wonders when the choices will come that the being had promised him. So far the things the Winter Soldier has done has made him wonder what could be more important for him to have a choice in their lives when he is killing so many.
Closing his eyes behind the partition, Bucky Bangs against the thick curtain. For God’s sake, he has killed presidents, priests, scientists. Mothers, Children and so many more. How can there be any other choices or even people that can make more of a difference than these? Then the innocent bystanders that their only sin was that they either see him, or someone else that never wanted anyone to know how dirty their hands really were!
Bucky can feel his very soul is crying in pain for the lives he has taken. He knows that it is the other side of him, but it is his hands which are coated in red. It is his face that is often the last thing many of these people see. With this in mind, Bucky retreats even more behind the curtain, sick at heart for the pain he is causing.
Time passes… Missions come and go as Bucky retreats more into his haven from the terror he wreaks on the world. Then comes a mission that makes him pay more attention. He is woken from Cryo to a bunch of men he has never seen before. No matter, they have the code words that activate the Winter Soldier and will make him into the assassin that has driven Bucky into impassivity so that he just watches the world pass but tries not to take note of anything any longer.
They start giving the orders, and as usual, Bucky is behind the curtain watching as he normally does when they program him. He has no idea who the target is, no longer is he given the names since it won’t help him find the objectives. Too often lately, they tell him where the Winter Soldier needs to be, and just show him who he is killing with pictures.
It is easier on everyone since names can be changed easily.
But what makes Bucky pay more attention is that these pictures look hauntingly familiar. Like he is seeing a shadow of someone he had known in that past life where he had choices. The life that felt like a dream as more and more time passes.
So on this mission, Bucky is actively watching as the Winter Soldier runs a car off the road, then goes to kill the driver and passenger as he had been commanded to do. Then everything stops as he realizes who it is that he has in his hands.
The being comes to him and sighs. “James, it is time.” She is sad, having seen all that their Warrior has been through. They also know that they had come to the point that Bucky might have given up. To watch as he killed another that they knew, well this is why Bucky had to be presented with a choice.
He needs to know that the deaths serve an actual purpose than just what HYDRA wants. More than the petty whims of those that have control over the Winter Soldier. That this death is more than it seems.
Otherwise, he will fade away, and they might not be able to retrieve that part of him. Ever. And this world, and therefore the universe will die.
Finding himself free for once in the hell that he has been in, Bucky turns to look at her, realizing only at that moment that he is not in the body that is holding Howard when he sees the Winter Soldier, frozen at that moment, still holding Howard by the back of his neck.
“Why now?” the pain in his voice is enough to make the being face him. Why now does he have to watch the being that inhabits his body kill one of the few people that he liked and got along with in the hell that was the War?
Softening in their bearing, the figure answers him, “Because the choices impact you. Only when they affect you or your other half directly will they have a chance to be decided upon.” And this is one of those times that it will impact them both significantly. Though in the future, this will complicate much, it will also allow them to meet.
Tears spill down Bucky’s face as he looks at the man the Winter Soldier is holding in his hand. “What is the choice here? What impact would it truly have if I let my old friend live?” He stretches his hand towards the man demandingly. He is angry but so very tired of trying to fight what has been happening to him. Is this just another means to break him?
Shaking their head, the being softly reveals to him, “It is not just Howard you have to choose on, it is his wife also.” A tear slips down the being’s face, knowing how much this is tearing him apart. But he needs to understand!
His head falls forward, his hand running through the hair. that on this being is as short as when he fell from that train all those years in the past, as he awaits the details. He desperately hangs onto his own perception of what he looks like as another way to differentiate himself from that being that he detests using his body.
Knowing what he is waiting for, the glowing woman reports the facts to him, “They have a son in college and who will suffer from this death, becoming more of a playboy than he is now. He will end up continuing his father’s work in the weapons fields until the day he is injured and kidnapped. Then the sheer brilliance of the man, who in fact exceeds your friend, his father’s, intelligence, will forge a way to escape, as well as shaping the world with his actions. He will also end up fighting against you.” She says the last to make sure that he fully understands what he will be making if he completes this mission.
His head still down as he can feel the tears falling off his nose, Bucky clenches his hands, but waits, remembering last time. There is always more. There is the other side of the equation he remembers.
“All of this will never come about if Howard and his wife live. Their son will never become a man haunted by the pain of what this moment will cause.” She pauses, then continues, “However, their deaths will save millions of lives in New York City. Their deaths will make it so others will take up the work they started and try to make it better. But their deaths will allow HYDRA more of a foothold in the governments of the world.” The death of these two will affect so much of the world and what is to come that it is, in fact, a pivotal point in history. But without the pain that will come, the future will have no chance.
Closing his eyes, Bucky swallows as his mind does the math. Yes, he will be making an enemy, one that will be fully justified in he made the choice to kill his parents. But the other side is that his home city, the home to what will come to hold millions of lives, will die because he could not stand the pain of allowing his alter ego to carry on with his mission.
As he had said before, the lives of the many versus the few, are what he has to choose for. If he allowed the woman he will come to know as his other half pain and misery, how can he save himself from the same?
With that in mind, Bucky answers the demand of the being, “I must allow this to carry through.” His voice is broken, as is the man in front of the being. He wanted nothing more than to curl up and cry, but he gets it. This is why he needed to make the choice. He needed to know this will make it possible to save lives by killing his friend.
Seeing this, the being’s heart breaks, but she tells him, “It is up to you. This action will make it possible for you to find your other half. It will also cause much pain for many who know about it. For Steve, the son of the Starks and for your other half. But without it, so much will never happen.” She wants him to understand, but she also hates causing him this pain. The choice is truly his, if he wishes fate to be changed, she will do so for him.
Bucky shakes his head, then turns to head back into his body, only pausing as the figure tells him softly, “For you, it will not be long now. The next two decisions will be close to the time for you to be free.” She needed to give him something, to allow him some hope for an ending to the pain and misery.
He had paused for her words, then Bucky nods, acknowledging her as he heads back to his hell on earth. For he will stand by and watch every moment to come, no hiding from the results of his decision.
So Bucky flinches as he sees Stark recognize who he is, but continues to watch what happens. Then when the Winter Soldier hesitates in killing Mrs. Stark, Bucky finds the strength from somewhere to manage to break through as he asks the wife of his friend, “Would you want to live if it costs millions of lives?” He cocks his head to the side to see if she would choose as he did.
She stares into his eyes, noticing the dead look, then she closes her own, waiting for the moment. At that moment both she and Bucky no longer know what happens for a while. The difference is that only one of them is able to wake up later.
For the next long while, Bucky remains in the background, his moment of taking over his body managing to take more out of him that he knew. In fact, the next time he surfaces is when the being comes and asks for him.
As he awakens, the memories of the Winter Soldier rush through him, and he shudders in pain at the death and destruction that he had been doing, as he trains others to become like him. He sees the woman his body has taken as part of their training, stealing something from them and himself. He never wanted to use a woman like that, and now he has to live with the fact that he has taught a woman how to kill using seduction, and to make sure that they understand that there is nothing romantic in sex.
As he looks out of the eyes of the Winter Soldier, this time, he finds himself looking down at a redhead protecting his current target. Her face seems familiar, but as part of those memories that he is now ashamed that his body had been part of, he shies away from it.
Instead, Bucky steps out of the body, turning to look up at the being, waiting for their information. He didn’t trust himself to do anything else.
It’s heart breaking for the man he is now, the being reports to him softly, “The target will die either way. But you have a choice in killing the woman.” Looking at him, they are now doubting that fate has made the right decision in allowing this all to happen. How could this help? It is tearing him apart, for he is basically a man of honor and there has been precious little honor in what he has been ordered to do.
They turn to look over the edge at one of the others who will stand by their Warrior’s side, they continue briefing him, “The woman is someone who, in her own words, has too much red in the ledger. Killing her now will not save many lives, no she has already in her young life killed thousands. In fact, she still lies, steals, cheats, and does whatever she can to carry out her missions.” The lady wants to smile at the woman below. The Black Widow is one who is trying to change her life around, thanks to the friendship of the man who had been sent to kill her. Their friendship will be the cornerstone that holds through the trouble to come.
Bucky laughs dryly, “In other words, she is another me.” He keeps looking down at the scene, wondering what had happened for it to come to this. But he can see that she is trying to protect, not kill. This resonates with him.
With a slow nod, the being informs him, “At the same time, she is one of the people who save those millions in New York City. She is also very loyal to those who win her trust. Her abilities end up helping protect Stark’s son, as well as his love. She is also one of the few who stand up to injustice, even if it incriminates herself. She will help you directly, after opposing you.” This woman works harder than any that she has ever seen to make up for the past. She would be a great example for her warrior that one can overcome the past.
Looking at the woman, Bucky has to admit that she looks familiar. “Have I met her before?” He doesn’t want to examine the memories that will tell him more, they tear at the very core of himself.
The figure answers him, “She was trained in the Red Room.” She knows why he is asking, but she will not lie. For in time, he will remember everything he has done to Natasha. Luckily, she does not remember Bucky in the painful memories. No, those are reserved for those that took away so much with their perverted graduation.
He closes his eyes in pity for the young woman, as a few memories flash in his mind of what goes on in the Red Room, as well as a few memories of the woman herself. But he makes his decision. “She lives.” She is trying to fix the red in her ledger, and he will give her that chance.
Bucky also hopes that she is able to gain the retribution that he never feels he is able to receive for what he has done to her and others like her.
Bucky remains awake behind the eyes of the Winter Soldier, preferring to see what the Winter Soldier does than remember it in a flood of memories. He also takes note of the things he is taught from time to time, thinking that he will need it soon since the being had told him that his time would be soon to be free.
As she had promised, for him the third time is after he had been battering the walls down, trying to save his best friend.
Bucky had started to break free earlier when his alter-persona begun remembering on its own the truth. Then they had put him back under and tore the memory away. He had barely gotten behind the curtain before the pain erased him.
Now as they fight, Bucky is screaming inside of his own head to stop, to not kill Steve.
The figure appears, then smiles at him. “I suspect that this one will be easy for you to decide.” The being is relieved that this is the final time, that after this choice, he will be in more control than he has been for decades. This is the beginning of the end for the Warrior. Not much longer and he will be entirely free of these shackles that he has suffered underneath.
Before they can go into what he thinks are the facts he turns to her and demands, “Is it HIS life? Then I will always choose his life. Even if it costs me mine.” Bucky wants to grab the woman and shake her to make her see that it won’t matter what, he will choose Steve. For Steve is doing the same right now for him.
Smiling the being advises him, “It is if you wish to try to save him, knowing that you will be hunted.” They knew this will happen, but it needed to be done. Bucky had to choose this route that is coming.
Shaking his head, Bucky declares to her, “No, you don’t understand. I don’t care who dies, or suffers or anything like that. Steve has always stood by me, as I have him. He has gone to extremes to save me and still is. The choice is always him!” Nothing else will suffice.
They nod, telling him, “Then your choice is made. And you are free.” She waves her hand, merging the Winter Soldier and Bucky into one being in their minds. It will take some time for them to balance it out, but Bucky will conquer his mind and start the process of making it all his own.
When he looks up at them in shock at realizing he is in his body over Steve, in control of it, the being warns him, “Until you meet your other half, your mind will be susceptible to attacks and their control. But you make the decisions now. You are in control for the most part. I suggest you leave and find yourself. To remind yourself of who you are and merge the two personalities. You will need the training and information that the Winter Soldier learned.” The figure is trying to make it easier for him. So much more is to come, and he will need the peace for what he has been told. It will make a difference.
Stepping to him, the figure solidifies more, showing her female body as she says to him, “My warrior, your shield is coming. You will feel the pain of being controlled again, but otherwise, it will not make the final piece come into place. I gift you with the rewards you have earned to be unlocked by your Shield.” With that, she gives him a kiss on his brow, and whispers “Good Luck.” As she disappears.
Bucky is in control, and he works to save Steve, then leaves to do as she advised. Work to find himself again, start the healing progress.
Final count: 3,633