Title: Return of the Winter Soldier
Series: Winter Soldier
Fandom: Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man,
Category: Drama, Angst, Action,
Pairings: Steve Rogers/James “Bucky” Barnes, past Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, past Tony Stark/Steve Rogers,
Spoilers: All Movies including Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Summary: Captain America and his sidekick, Bucky have gone missing. SHIELD is thinking HYDRA while Iron Man is pointing his finger at Bucky. The rest of the Avengers straddle the fence, wanting to do anything to find their wayward Captain and his oldest friend.
Notes: This started brewing in my head the second that I found out the title to Captain America 2…SQUEEEE!
Avengers Tower, New York
Iron Man and War Machine landed on the pad that would disassemble their armor. Tony landed first and walked to the end before Rhodey stepped into the machine and did the same. Pepper and Bruce met them at the doorway into the actual tower but before they could speak a new voice spoke.
“Good evening, Sir. I hope that all is well. Should I make room for JARVIS?” Jeeves asked his American voice a start for Tony who forgot what Jeeves had sounded like. It had been so long since he had ever listened to him.
“No. Not yet at least. He might be leaving messages and want to talk to us but he will not become master of the Tower just yet. Just a visitor. I am sure that he has already downloaded a small part of his system into yours.”
“Yes, Sir. He has. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No,” Tony said with a smile on his face.
“It’s odd. I never thought I would miss JARVIS,” Pepper said with a smile. She linked her arm with Tony’s and led him to where everyone was gathered. A new table had been installed into the dining room area. It smaller but still fit everyone at the table. Clint and Natasha were seated on one side with Thor at the head of the table. Tony sat at the end opposite Thor while Bruce, Rhodey, and Pepper sat in the chairs that were left on the side opposite Natasha and Clint.
“What do you know?” Tony asked.
“That when Steve and Bucky left Malibu, they went on a private plane that was supposed to be from SHIELD. The SHIELD plane came to get them and they were gone. SHIELD assumed that Bucky had talked Steve into taking a little vacation since they were not needed. It wasn’t until we came back and they had not checked in that red flags were thrown. No means of communication contacted us with the two of them and then we received word from HYDRA that they had the both of them,” Natasha slid a piece of paper over to Tony.
“What are their demands?” Rhodey asked.
“They want nothing. They are just stating that they have them.”
“No demands at all?” Pepper asked. She knew that was odd. Kidnappers always wanted something.
“They have what they want. They have their operative back and they have Captain America. Their worst enemy.”
Clint and Natasha just stared at him but Thor was the one who spoke. “Operative?”
“After you left, JARVIS brought some things to our attention. HYDRA had an operative that they kept in cold storage, a specialist if you will. The one to do what others couldn’t. This man was wiped of all of his memories and turned into the perfect soldier.”
“Winter Soldier,” Natasha said, her voice was bored but antsy. She knew all about him and he had nothing to do with the situation at hand.
“JARVIS?” Tony called. A screen dropped from the ceiling. The first thing that JARVIS pulled up was a picture of Bucky from the 60’s. It was easy to tell it was Bucky and very easy to tell the year from the surroundings. A cascade of pictures followed, some from before and some from after the 60’s. The final picture was of Bucky in the early 90’s, holding a gun and showing his victim.
“Why didn’t you take your suspicions to Fury?” Clint asked.
“JARVIS gave us this just hours ago. I wanted an airtight case against him. I wanted no wiggle room because Bucky is good at that. Look how quickly Steve dumped me in the relationship sense and in the friendship. Bucky broke my arm while he had no scratch on him.”
“We seriously fell for that?” Clint asked. He let his head rest against the table. No one tried to make him feel better. Everyone was feeling the same thing.
“I was on the fence about him. The Other Guy wasn’t. He knew from the start that he didn’t like Bucky. I knew that I should have been more vocal about it but I was treading water with SHIELD as it was.” Tony could see the guilt on everyone’s faces but there was nothing he could do to make them feel better. He wasn’t petty. That past long ago. He may dislike Steve at the current for falling for what the Winter Soldier was spewing but he didn’t want to see him hurt.
“Lay the blame where it belongs. At Fury and at Roger’s feet. He wanted Bucky so bad that he looked over a lot that he shouldn’t have. Fury had to have known about him being Winter Soldier and he told no one or if he told Rogers, Rogers didn’t tell us. We should have known about the fact before Bucky ever set foot in this tower.”
“I agree,” Thor said. Piping in for the first time since the meeting had started. Everyone looked at him. “We need to get our Captain back.”
“I agree. SHIELD is not going to be much help. They think that Bucky is not Winter Soldier anymore or they never would have let him out of SHIELD or they really don’t know. They will hold that HYDRA alone has the both of them.” Tony debated for a few seconds what to do. To reveal his new tech or not. Extremis was something that they would find out about, was it better going into a fight with them knowing or not knowing? Making the decision, Tony activated his link to JARVIS and the tower. The screen was hijacked in seconds and he was looking through security feed. He started with following Rogers and Bucky out of SI headquarters and traced them.
The gasps let him know that someone was watching the screen. He looked over at Pepper and saw that it wasn’t her. Tony looked over at Thor, Natasha, and Clint. Natasha was the first to recover. “You lied.”
“You had no reason to know at the time. I have no loyalty to the Avengers anymore. The only reason I am doing this is because of the friendships I once had will you two and Rogers. Thor will always be welcome in Malibu.”
“What is going on?” Thor asked. He was looking at the screen.
“Extremis worked for me. I changed my file to make Hansen think it wouldn’t. She thought she was killing me. I changed the dose that she gave me though. I am not like Mallen. I kept the speed, healing, some of the strength, and the invulnerability. I also am able to interface with almost any tech out there. If it has wireless I can do it by that otherwise I have to touch it.”
“You really didn’t trust us did you?”
“Everything that you knew about me would help you attack me and I was sure that within a few years, SHIELD would see me as an enemy. SHIELD doesn’t trust many and I was OK when I was safe under their roof. They were biding time until such a time that they could take me out in one fell swoop. I could see it in Fury’s eyes at the meeting.” Tony knew the contingency plans that were made in conjunction with him. He had hacked and found them. he was sure that every time he created something new, the plans would change but he could deal with that.
“Bruce and I will stay here to coordinate,” Pepper said, taking over the group. “Thor, Natasha, Clint, you three work with SHIELD to see what leads they have. Check in every three hours. Rhodey and Tony will Bucky and try to find where he would take Steve.”
Tony spent hour upon hour searching for where the plane landed. He had hacked into SHIELD and taken over their cameras. He couldn’t find it at all. Cursing, Tony turned his eyes back to home. The plane hadn’t landed anywhere in Europe. In fact, the plane had never left America. Starting in Malibu, Tony started to search outward. He was going to find and kill Bucky Barnes if he had to die himself doing it.
Natasha accessed the SHIELD computers to bring up the files on HYDRA only to find them locked. Her access was not high enough to access them. That was odd there were very few files that she was not able to access. Sending off a text to Stark she found that the file opened just seconds later.
“You’re Welcome!” appeared on the screen with a little Iron Man head at the bottom of the exclamation mark. Clicking past that Natasha spent the next three hours looking at the HYDRA files. There was nothing in them except all the instances where they were able to connect Winter Soldier to deaths and stolen files from all around the world.
Closing down the files, Natasha cursed that she learned nothing. It was hours wasted. She only hoped that Clint had been able to find something. Thor was stalking around SHIELD keeping eyes on Fury so that Natasha and Clint could stalk around in secret with less eyes looking for them. Clint was in the air ducts, trying to listen in to Hill and Fury, hoping they would say something.
Tony nearly beat his head against the desk when he found where the plane landed. Everything always happened in New York. He should have started there. Sending out a ping to Jeeves, he alerted the Avengers that he had a location. It was just seventy miles away. Taking a SHIELD jet and they would be there in no time.
Tony just hoped they were not too late. HYDRA’s only goal was to kill Captain America.
Steve woke up, wondering where he was. The last thing that he remembered was getting onto the plane that SHIELD had sent and fund HYDRA troops with guns trained at him. The blow had come from behind, he knew that much. That meant they had to have taken out Bucky.
Bucky! Steve opened his eyes to find a bright light shining into them. It was so bright he could not see where he was. Trying to move, Steve pulled at one of his arms. It wouldn’t move. He was strapped down to some kind of table. He wasn’t able to move at all. He could hear movement around him.
“Hello? Who’s out there?”
“You are going to wish that you were dead, Captain Rogers. I may grant you that wish.” The voice was heavily accented. Steve hadn’t heard the accent in nearly a year but it actuality it had been years. It was a heavy German accent and Steve’s stomach fell at the sound of it. “Welcome to a new HYDRA base, Captain. This time you won’t get out. With your life or your buddy’s.”
Buddy? Bucky! That meant that Bucky was still alive. Another set of feet on the other side of the room crossed to join the speaker. Steve listened hard and found that the second person had something mechanical on him. He could hear the servos. He knew the sound. The rhythmic sound told Steve that this person was clenching and unclenching their fist. The exact same way that Bucky did when he was nervous. It was the exact same movement and hesitation that Bucky did.
Steve could only think of one thing. That meant that Tony had been right the entire time. SHIELD had told Steve that all of the Winter Soldier programming had been removed. They had been wrong. Steve had been drawn up in having Bucky back that he had let so much pass. He had wrecked his friendship and relationship with Tony because he couldn’t see what Bucky was like. The Bucky he had known in the war would have never broken Tony’s arm like that, he knew that but he was so hurt that Tony wouldn’t try to get along with Tony that he hadn’t cared.
“Just kill me,” Steve said in a whisper. He moved his head to look at where Bucky was standing. The light was so bright that he couldn’t see him but he could hear him. “Just kill me, Buck, get it over with. You won’t get anything from me.”
“So Captain America finally sees the truth of the situation. Your decision to follow me instead of Stark has led to Stark’s death. He was injected with something that killed him. Your Avengers will be picked off one by one. Stark was the first, you will be the second, Barton next, Romanoff and then Thor to follow. We have not found a way to kill the Hulk yet but all else fails we will send him off into space. This world will be ours.”
“You’ve gone crazy, Bucky.”
“My name is Winter Soldier, Rogers. You will call me that. You are nothing but a mission.”
“No, you are James Buchanan Barnes my best friend. They’ve turned you into Winter Soldier but it’s not who you are.” Steve heard it coming but he couldn’t dodge it. The whirring of Bucky’s arm got closer and then he felt the breeze before the arm connected with his face. His head was snapped to the other side of the table so that he was looking the exact opposite direction of what he had been. He felt part of his jaw break. It was painful but he had felt worse. The blood from his now split lip started to run down his chin.
“Be quiet,” the German told him.
A door opened and Steve could hear the sounds from outside the room. It wasn’t a normal base of operations. Bucky and the German both walked out of the room. Steve was left alone to think. He would never be able to do enough to get Tony’s forgiveness. Steve had looked for a bully in someone who could never be that kind of bully. Tony pushed people to extremes but never those weaker than him. Bucky had become the bully. Pushing Steve so far away from the others that even now, Steve wouldn’t be surprised if no one came for him.
The small bunker was deceptive in its size. Tony had the plans pulled up on his HUD. This was only a tenth of the base. The rest was underground. There was only one entrance. Pepper had been left behind at the tower to watch from afar and alert SHIELD if something went wrong. Bruce was in his black pants, ready to Hulk out when needed. Natasha and Clint were putting the finishing touches on their gear. Rhodey was already in his armor. Thor was in his armor and Mjolnir was in his hand.
Tony was ready to go in but he had no way to see inside to know what they were up against. He was almost inside though. Their firewalls were pitiful. It was like they were not expecting him at all. What he found first was the security footage. He saw the footage of Bucky telling Rogers that he himself was dead. Tony watched as Bucky told Rogers that soon all of them were going to die.
If Bucky really thought that then he was not going to expect him to come in, armor blazing. Tony started to think his armor off, it fell around his feet. Iron Man was going to be too flashy. No one else going in would be able to go in. HYDRA would be looking for them. They would not be looking for Tony. They thought that Tony was dead.
“They think that I am dead,” Tony blurted out and everyone looked at him. He turned to look at all of them. “They don’t know that I survived Extremis. They think that I died. They have some kind of face recognition software. I can’t get to it because it’s not hooked up wirelessly. I can’t trick it. It’s not looking for me though. It’s looking for everyone but me.”
“How can we get in?” Natasha asked.
“I’ll go in first and try to disable the face software. If I can’t. I’ll pull power. Rogers is fine except for a busted up face. HYDRA reports he may have a broken jaw but they aren’t checking that as of now. Rogers knows that Bucky is not on our side. He’s begged Bucky to kill him.”
“He’s not in a good place then?” Bruce asked.
“He got a glimpse of his past, Bruce and that was taken away. How should he feel?” Tony spat as the last of his armor left him. “I have a plan. I’m going to get a hold of some of their gear and infiltrate the base. Leave my armor on the craft and let it be able to come to my call.”
“You can call it?” Clint asked, looking at Tony with surprise on his face.
“Yes, with Extremis, my armor is now at my beck and call. Just leave it accessible. I’ll do the rest.”
“We’ll hold for your call,” Natasha said as she checked the clip of her gun.
Tony motioned and the back hatch of the craft opened. He quickly exited and headed for the tree line. The others watched as he got to a guard station and overwhelmed a guard.
Steve was left alone for an unknown period of time. His jaw hurt him like a son of a gun. His lip had stopped bleeding but that was the only upside to this entire thing. The straps were too tight for him to be able to release himself. He wasn’t strong enough to snap them.
A noise alerted him to the fact that someone was messing with the door. He turned his head to put an ear on that side of the room. Someone was picking the lock to the door. He wasn’t sure who it would be. For a few seconds, he let himself think that it was Tony. Tony was coming for him. That could never be though. Bucky had told him that Tony was dead. Tony had been killed and had thought that Steve hated him. Steve could never hate Tony. He had been disappointed in Tony but he could never hate him. Tony had been his lifeline and he had let Bucky mess with that.
The door opening pulled Steve out of his reverie. He tensed waiting for something to happen. He could hear the person breathing but nothing else. The door shutting shut out all other noises and he could hear something else. Something normal that was always present and spoke of Tony. Steve jerked in his bonds. He was going crazy. He thought he was hearing Tony’s arc reactor. It couldn’t be though.
“Rogers?” Tony called out.
Steve didn’t answer. He didn’t react at all. A hand on his arm and still nothing. HYDRA had to have drugged him. That was the only explanation. Tony pulled his arm free of the binding and set about releasing the rest of the bonds.
“Don’t talk. HYDRA thinks they broke your jaw. I have you and I am signaling the rest of the team to come in and free us. I disabled the software that would recognize them.”
“How?” Steve whispered.
“How what? How am I alive after they told you I am dead? How am I signaling the team? I can explain later. I need you to walk. I know that the light is bright. We need to get out. Hulk is getting ready to wreck this place. We all want it gone and we don’t care how. Bucky left an hour ago. I don’t know where he went. I haven’t found him yet.”
An arm was underneath his shoulders, helping him to sit up. As he sat up, the room spun a little. Tony held him up, kept him steady. He was on his own two feet with only Tony steadying him a little. He started towards the door and Tony didn’t stop him. Instead he opened the door and waited for Steve to step out.
Steve tried to backpedal into the room but Tony stopped him. Before he could try and shove at Tony, he heard a rattling. He turned to see a guard running and trying to get of the way of something. Tony pushed past him into the hall and Steve watched as the Iron Man armor flew through the hall in pieces. It formed around Tony in record time and then he was blasting his way through the guards now running at them. Tony grabbed Steve and pulled him behind him.
“Stay behind me. Hawkeye and Widow are just a minute out. Hulk started at a lower section and his ripping his way through. War Machine and Thor are dropping it from the top side. Just stay behind me. I’ll protect you.”
Steve nodded, knowing that Tony couldn’t see him but just saying the one word that he had spoken, hurt like hell. He stayed behind Tony the entire trek through the base. Tony dropped all the guards who tried to attack them. By the time that they reached the exit, Steve’s eyes had adjusted to the lower light. He looked around and saw the destruction from the Hulk. Tony led him over to the aircraft and put him in a seat.
“I’ll be back when we have emptied the place. I am alerting SHIELD now that we have you in our hands and they can send who they want to take care of HYDRA. You are coming back to the tower with us and Bruce is going to look at your jaw.”
Steve nodded, letting himself relax as Tony flew back out of the aircraft.
Tony dropped to his landing pad. He had been the last to leave the HYDRA base. The Avengers and Rhodey had left an hour before to take Steve back to the tower to get him looked at by Bruce, who had calmed down once he had run out of walls to smash. All of the HYDRA agents were now in SHIELD custody. Tony was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. He was glad that he at least still had his room at the tower. All he had to do was take his armor off and then he could crash.
Pepper met him when he entered the tower, she had coffee in one hand and wet rag in the other. Tony took the rag and wiped off his face, smiling at her when he was done. A large gulp of the hot coffee and Tony started to feel human again.
“Everyone is in medical with Steve. If you want to slip out, now’s the time.”
“I’m gonna crash in my room. I’ll have Jeeves lock it down so that only you and Rhodey and Bruce can get in. Wake me in the morning, if I’m not up already.”
Pepper smiled at him and kissed his cheek. Tony pulled her in for a quick hug before he went to his room. Jeeves opened the door before he even reached it.
“I already have the lockdown in place, Sir.”
“It is my will to serve, Sir.”
Tony shook his head to clear it. He had forgotten how Jeeves was and creepy he could be. The room was exactly like he had left it. It wasn’t even dusty which meant that Jeeves had aired it out earlier in the day.
Waking up hours later, Tony barely remembered his head even hitting the pillow.
“JARVIS, update,” Tony said as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. When there was no answer, Tony looked around. He wasn’t in…then he remembered. “Jeeves.”
“Yes, Sir. Miss Potts left to visit the Stark Industries branch in New York. She left instructions for you to be left to wake on your own. Doctor Banner is asleep, having stayed up most of the night working in the medical bay. Miss Romanoff and Mister Barton are at SHIELD headquarters. Mister Thor left stating that he was going to Central Park to think. Captain Rogers is in the kitchen, drinking a protein shake that Miss Potts made for him. She left one of your usual shakes in the fridge.”
“Thank you.” Tony rolled over onto his back and looked up at the ceiling. His stomach growling told him that he would need to get something to eat. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate. Deciding that he would have to brave going to the kitchen, Tony got up and started getting ready.
Half an hour later, Tony entered the kitchen to still find Steve sitting there. Steve jerked a little, surprised, Tony hoped.
“Hello,” Tony said as he went to the fridge and pulled his shake from the fridge. It was in a drink bottle like he liked it. He shook it up before he started walk out of the room.
“Please, don’t.” Steve’s voice was soft and Tony wasn’t sure whether that was because Steve couldn’t talk well or he was afraid to make Tony mad. Tony stopped but he didn’t turn around. He just stood there. “Can we talk please?”
“Why?” Tony asked. He heard Steve sigh and so he turned around. “Why do you want to talk now? You never made the time to talk to me before. I was yesterday’s news as far as you were concerned.”
“I know that I made some mistakes. I’ve paid for those don’t you think?” Steve asked, locking his eyes with Tony’s.
“Bucky is still out there. What do you think of that?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if he can be helped or just locked away. I want to try to help him though.”
Tony nodded and didn’t say anything. Instead he just sat down opposite Steve. “Some wounds take time to heal. I don’t know that Bruce’s plans are but I am heading back out to Malibu.”
“The Avengers need you.”
“I know and I can be here in no time, if I am needed. I can’t move back here right now, Steve. I can’t.”
Steve nodded and looked away from Tony. Tony waited a few minutes, taking a few drinks of his shake before he left. Steve didn’t try to call him back.
Tony lay down in his bed after being back in Malibu for a week. His bruises from the fight with HYDRA were long gone. He was enjoying his time in R&D here at SI but he was getting bored. Bruce and Thor had both come back with him. Pepper was in contact with SHIELD about what they can do as a small group. A west coast Avengers as it were.
SHIELD didn’t like that the Avengers were split like that it was better than only having three Avengers total. Fury had not come forward with any type of apology for the situation but Steve had come clean about knowing about him being Winter Soldier.
A vibration jerked Tony into a sitting position. He looked around and saw his phone lying in the middle of the sheets; its screen was lit up. A shield was lit up as the caller ID. If the sound had been on the phone would have been playing Star Spangled Man. Tony grabbed the phone and pressed the answer button.
“Hello?” Tony asked. He wasn’t sure if this was a social call or not.
“Steve,” was all that Tony said, waiting for Steve to tell him why he was calling.
“How have you been?” Steve asked cautiously. As if he was unsure if Tony was going to hang up on him.
“Been going really well. How about you?” Tony wasn’t sure what this was about but he could go with it for now.
“Well. Fury is still mad that you took Thor with you but I told him to get over it. Thor goes where he wants. Plus he’s closer to Jane. I think that’s the main reason he went with you.”
“Woe be the one who keeps an Asgardian from his love. Any news on Bucky?” Tony lay back down and pulled the covers over himself. This was probably going to be a long call. He might as well get comfortable.
“Nothing but I know that you know that. I wanted to tell you that Miss Potts told me…about the thing. SHIELD doesn’t know.”
“Good. I’d rather them not know, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Clint and Natasha have kept it from the reports. It’s down that JARVIS did it all.”
“Is this line safe?” Tony asked.
“You know it is Tony.” Steve chuckled and the sound carried through the line. Tony smiled at the sound. He hadn’t heard it in so long.
“So, what are you doing?” Steve asked.
“Just laid down to try and sleep. Nanny Bruce told me I had to go to my room and wasn’t allowed out for twelve hours.”
“How long have you been up?”
“Two days. It’s not bad. I’ve been working on my armor. You saw the Mark 42 armor. This is the Mark 43. It’s made for my new enhancements fully instead of just adapted like the 42 was.”
“How is it coming?”
“Really well. Another few days and it will be ready to start forming.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“DUM-E enjoys it. Even Butterfingers gets excited.”
“What about Yu?”
“He couldn’t care less.”
“Only you Tony.”
“How is Jeeves working?”
“I know that you upgraded him before you left a week ago.”
“It was a parting gift. I hadn’t updated his software in years.” Tony rolled to his side and got even more comfortable. His phone was pressed to his ear that was up. “What are you doing?”
“I’m on the couch watching some infomercials on mute. No one is home right now. I guess Clint and Natasha are training a new group of spies.”
“More like scaring the shit out of them.” Tony laughed and thought the lights in the room down to ten percent. He could see shadows moving but that was it. It was all he needed.
“Probably. You should really go to sleep, Tony. I’ll call back tomorrow night.”
“That sounds good.” Tony waited to hear Steve hang up before he did. He rolled onto his stomach and pulled the blankets up around him tighter. He and Steve were on their way back to friendship. Tony wasn’t sure if he wanted something more than that.
To Be Continued in Quiet Nights