vanillafluffy: (Evil genius at large)
[personal profile] vanillafluffy
Finding the Winter Soldier is absurdly simple. Barely a week after the Battle Over the Potomac, he’s sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn, gazing across the Hudson. Finding Bucky Barnes, however, is another matter.

“Are you sure that’s him?” Sam asks. Their quarry wears an old army fatigue jacket and has a heavy growth of beard, but Steve would know him anywhere.

“Wait here. Two of us would probably spook him.” He saunters over and sits at the far end of the bench. The Winter Solder glances over at him. Focuses.

The Winter Soldier mutters something—it isn’t English—but doesn’t challenge Steve. He looks unkempt and seems dazed, not at all the hyper-alert killing machine who’d caused so much destruction in D.C..

Steve tells him it’s okay, he’s not in trouble, that Steve is grateful to him for the rescue, and he wants to help. He’s quietly earnest, and after a while, the Soldier asks him, “Can you get me—?” But the subject isn’t a word Steve knows. Maybe it’s Russian?

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Get you what?”

A couple more words follow, and at Steve’s obvious non-comprehension, the other man pantomimes eating.

“Get you food?”

“Da, food.”

“Sure, we can go get something. I’m Steve, by the way,” he adds, because starting at Square One seems to be the way to go. “This is my friend Sam,” he says, when they walk past and Wilson falls in.

The Winter Soldier looks at him warily, but Sam doesn’t crowd him, just offers a calm, “How you doing?”

“C’est bonne.”

They take a cab to Stark Towers, figuring the fewer civilians around, the better. Within the hour, their guest has consumed two ham sandwiches, four cups of sweet black coffee and a huge wedge of custard pie. There’s not a lot of chatter, and what there is slips in and out of English. Finally, the Winter Soldier gives a satisfied belch, and says something that sounds like it might be thanks.

Sam replies and translates for Steve—apparently they both know some Arabic. Steve nods and offers him a chance to clean up. Soap and water and fresh clothes must sound pretty good, because the Soldier accepts with a soft, “Molto grazie.”

“What the hell?” Steve asks, while his former friend is showering.

“I don’t know,” Sam responds. “Maybe some kind of delayed head trauma? Might want to have a doctor look him over.”

Which is a sensible suggestion. Steve calls and explains to Banner what’s going on, and gets an okay to drop in. The Winter Soldier isn’t enthusiastic at the prospect of anything medical. When they enter Banner’s lab, he stops in his tracks.

Sam’s Arabic isn’t up to terminology like “CAT-scan” or “blood tests”. The patient isn’t following the English version, either. From the Winter Soldier’s reaction, he’s on the verge of bolting when Banner comes to the rescue, addressing him in what he later explains is Hindustani. The Soldier relaxes slightly and allows a scan, which shows old, healed injuries, but yields nothing to explain the current problem.

Fifty-plus years and who knows how many missions, Steve thinks, to who knows what ends of the earth. And this is the result—a man on his native soil struggling and failing to speak his mother tongue. Steve won’t let himself think of this guy as Bucky, not even now that he’s shaved off the stubble and slicked back his hair, because he’s so obviously not. He’s just someone who needs help, that’s all.

While Banner analyzes the blood samples, Steve and Sam take their guest to the gym Natasha is there doing barre work. She spots the Winter Soldier, does a dive-and-roll and springs up, mistrust in every line of her body.

“You fight good,” he says to her haltingly. “Not today. Maybe not—” More non-English, and Steve sighs.

Natasha seems to have followed it, though, and a brief exchange follows.

As the Winter Soldier demonstrates expertise on parallel bars, Steve asks her what they’d talked about

“My Estonian’s a little rusty,” Natasha admits, “but he said he doesn’t want to fight any more. I told him we’re all friends here. Either that or I asked if his goose was wearing shoes. I’m pretty sure—”

Doing a one-armed maneuver, the Winter Soldier’s right hand slips and he crashes to the mats. He comes up swearing at length, and fires off a few epithets that Sergeant Barnes would’ve been proud of—“useless chicken-shit cum-bubble” stands out of the litany.

Natasha snaps something about matroshka—Steve’s fairly sure it’s the Russian equivalent of “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

The Winter Soldier looks abashed. “Sorry,” he mutters. At least he knows that word.

Banner has test results for them by the time the Soldier has done a circuit of the weight machines.

“Linguistic aphasia,” Banner pronounces. “As opposed to simple aphasia. I can’t tell what, exactly, they were dosing him with, but his blood gases read like he’s detoxing from something. It may be interfering with his language processing center.”

“Is it permanent?” Steve wants to know.

“I wish I knew,” Banner says sadly and translates it for the Winter Soldier who sighs and meets Steve’s eyes. He gives a little shrug, a universal “Who knows?”

Steve returns the gesture. They’re both at a loss for words.




The highly edited prompt-fill is here: http://comment-fic.livejournal.com/559622.html?thread=78934790#t78934790

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