I Still Recall the Taste of Your Tears

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His memories are cold. Blinding snow, frigid metal, ice creeping through his veins. He remembers the experiments first. These give way to memories of Brooklyn, which is quite a relief. It was cold there, too, but it was good. Far better than what came after. The war comes next, confusingly intermixed with later assignments so that he cannot be sure who he was during each. Paying attention to his hands helps with that – are they both flesh and blood or is one heavy and terrifying? Terrifying to others; he isn't bothered by it.

Eventually, he comes out of hiding to find Steve Rogers. Because he thinks maybe he deserves to do more than just survive, to just wait for this hell to end and a fresh one to appear. He thinks he has no shortage of enemies, and being found by any of them would not be a pleasant experience. And now he's allowed to consider having pleasant experiences. Well, maybe. Avoiding unpleasant ones is something he'll consider, at any rate. So he goes to Avengers Tower.

He is not welcomed with open arms, but he did not expect to be. Steve is happy, of course, and welcoming, but the others are suspicious of him and do not keep him company often. Which is fine. He sees Steve and Sam Wilson, and they are friendly to him. He doesn't think he would know what to do if the others were as friendly, so it is just fine to rarely see anyone else. Steve wants Bucky back, but knows on some level that this is impossible. He tries to be as much like that person as he can. It's hard. Sam understands more, sees him as whom he really is. He decides he's glad Sam is so frequently there.

At some point, he is deemed trustworthy enough to accompany them on missions. He isn't sure if Steve pressed for this or if he wanted to keep him safe at home. Sam is more reliable with his assessments of the Soldier's wellbeing, and likely had a lot to do with getting him something to do outside of the Tower. He's pleased to be on missions again, even if he's not supposed to have enjoyed the old ones. It's something he knows he can do well, and there is precious little of that in his life.

He goes on missions with Steve for a while, and is somewhat redundant because they do not use his skills. That's logical – it's too early to think they would put him in a position where his unexpected response to something might jeopardize the whole thing. The first few are with just Sam and Steve anyway, and they see no need for stealth. He doesn't agree with that assessment, but doesn't say anything. Then Stark's kid joins them, perhaps because everyone agrees he can't hurt a man in a metal suit (he's not sure they're right). He gets along with Tony, though, with another man who's been a prisoner of war and unwillingly had mechanical implements attached to his body. Not that being with Tony is like being with Sam or Steve, but they share enough experiences to work together.

Finally, he starts accompanying the Widow or Hawkeye on the more spy-like assignments. He likes these. He can't compete with Romanoff in her field, though his sharp-shooting skills rival Barton's. He is a valuable asset and feels useful again. The two of them speak to him rarely, which is fine. They have similar goals and training, so speaking during a mission is not much of a necessity. And he doesn't usually talk to anyone outside of assignments. He likes to keep to himself; reading, training, anything to keep the nightmares at bay.

Now that he's going on missions, the memories of his others start to become more focused, less confusing. He doesn't like them. He likes that his memories of Brooklyn have come back, but would be fine with not knowing the specifics of what he's been doing since the 1940s. It wasn't anything good, he knows. Rationally, he supposes it could help him identify potential enemies, but he doesn't want to do that anymore. He just wants to be left alone.

"You ready, Buck?" Steve's voice, in that hesitant tone seemingly only used for him. The others mainly call him Barnes, anyway.

"Yeah," he replies, fastening the last piece of his gear. It's not the same as what he wore for HYDRA, but it's similar. It was a tactically useful uniform, even if it does conjure bad memories, so he doesn't deviate from it too much in his current choices. Having the ability to choose what to wear is a pleasant change, though.

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