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I need to get me some Marvel icons, at the rate that I'm diving into this fandom...

Today the dice selected that I used a daily-prompt prompt.Now, what I should have done was make sure that daily-prompt was still prompting daily, apparently they haven't been prompting daily since May 18th for some reason... so, I just used May 18's prompt. I figure I'll work my way backwards.

Today's ficlet has extremely mild spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier (seriously, if you saw the trailer, then you already know these spoilers.)

Yesterday was cracky, so today not only am I diving into a new fandom, but I'm also writing something serious...

I'm also putting the prompt at the end of the story this time.

The Present
Words: 1302

Even though the last known location of The Winter Soldier was in Washington, DC, they still end up in Eastern Europe. Agents from SHIELD and Hydra have been taking each other out that it’s hard to tell the difference between the work of The Winter Soldier and the work of other highly trained individuals. Steve’s convinced that the dead Hydra agents fit some pattern though, and Sam has to give him the benefit of the doubt, because Steve’s read that file more than anyone – he hardly lets it out of his sight. He could probably recite the thing backwards, in multiple languages.

Still, Sam can’t help but feel they’re chasing a ghost.

Nights spent in safe-houses give Sam plenty of time to work on repairing his wings. They’re sophisticated technology, sure, but any good soldier knows how to maintain his equipment, so really all Sam needs is time and he’s got plenty of it. Steve uses the time to read the file, to try to figure out where The Winter Soldier might go next, to maybe get one step ahead of him. Sam was never really a strategist, so he leaves that job to Steve.

Steve also spends the time talking. It’s good for him, Sam believes, to have someone to talk to – and it’s good for Sam to know what’s rattling around in Steve’s head. Sam is... a little concerned about what is rattling around in Steve’s head.

It started innocently enough. Steve told Sam about using words from the past to try to reach out to Bucky on the helicarrier – how he thinks maybe it’d worked, since he wasn’t dead and all. So, Steve tells Sam about his mother dying, and Bucky offering him a place to live... and that leads to Steve telling Sam about Bucky rescuing him from fights, and looking after him when he was sick, and how Bucky was the very best friend that a guy could ask for – charming, strong, wonderful, brave...

And that eventually leads to Steve trying to figure out what memories might be important to Bucky – what memories he might be able to use to reach out to him again, to get him to remember. He tells Sam about Coney Island and how they had talked about it just before Bucky had fallen from the train, that he’s remembers it was Bucky who brought it up – that maybe that means that it’s a particularly strong memory for Bucky.

Sam starts wondering if maybe Steve thinks that if he combs through his past, he’ll be able to find some key to unlock his friend and remove seventy years of mind-wipes and torture.

They’re in Arkhangelsk, of all god-forsaken places, when Sam realizes that something needs to be said. Or, to put it more honestly – he snaps.

Again, it started innocently enough...

Sam was complaining about the cold. It was Russia, they were further north than Sam had ever been in his entire life, and Sam was cold.

“If he leads us any further north, I am going to have words for him,” Sam promised, huddling into his parka while indoors, and wondering if they ever even tested his wings in extremely low temperatures.

“Sorry, Sam,” Steve said, from his perch on his own single mattress, where he had once again spread out The Winter Soldier’s file.

Sam shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.”

But apparently, that was like asking the sun not to shine.

“I’d understand if you wanted to go home,” Steve said. Sam was a little bit offended at that, because there was no way in this frozen hell that Sam would abandon a fellow soldier halfway through a mission. He tried to tell himself that Steve didn’t mean it that way, but before he could, Steve went and said the only thing that could have made it worse.

“I mean, I appreciate your help,” Steve continued. “But, it’s not like you have any reason to be here.”

“What?”

And Steve must have known from his tone of voice that he had said the wrong thing. And maybe... maybe if he wasn’t currently freezing to death, Sam would have realized that Steve was exhausted and cold too and possibly didn’t mean it like that, but Sam was cold and tired and he was not going to let this one go.

“Give me that goddamn file,” Sam demanded, but didn’t wait for Steve to move – instead he strode over to the bed and picked it up himself. Steve made an abortive grab at it, but Sam just gave him stern look. If Steve didn’t like Sam touching the file, he was really not going to like what Sam did next.

Sam grabbed the picture of Bucky that was in the file and tossed it over his soldier. Steve made a small noise of distress.

Sam then slammed the file back down on the bed, facing Steve, and placed his hand over the portion of the page that had Bucky’s name.

“I want you to forget about your friend for a minute,” Sam ordered. Steve’s brow furrowed. “Pretend that I showed up at your apartment one day and I showed you this file – and the guy wasn’t someone you recognized, he had a name you had never heard before,  he was born in the 1950s when you were still caked in ice, and he’s from Philly, not Brooklyn, and you do not know him. Now, you read this file and you tell me what you see.”

Steve glanced down at the file, even though Sam knew perfectly well he knew what it said.

“I see... someone... “ Steve started, glancing up at Sam’s eyes quickly and then darting back down to the page again. “... someone who Hydra... trained and... tortured... and... kept frozen and.. had his memories erased-”

“And if I showed you this stranger’s file, and I said, ‘Hey Steve, I think this guy might need some help,’ what would you say?”

“Yeah,” Steve answered immediately, then looked between the file and Sam. Sam waited as Steve took a steadying breath and continued. “I would say, ‘yes, how can I help?’”

“Exactly, so don’t you tell me that I have no reason to be here,” Sam said. “It’s insulting.”

“I’m sorry,” Steve said. “I’m so sorry, Sam. I just-“

“You just got so focused on it being your friend, that you forgot that he’s also just a guy who needs help,” Sam concluded. “But Steve, if you really want to help him, you’re going to have to realize that right now – he’s just a guy who needs help. Your friend fell from that train in ’45 and they wiped his mind so many times, that there’s a good chance that your friend who fell from that train – Steve, there’s a good chance that he died then and there just like you always thought.”

Steve turned devastated eyes up at Sam, and Sam had to swallow against the urge to take the words back.

“I’m not tryin’ to be cruel here, man,” Sam said. “But if we find him- when we find him, you can’t be putting that kind of pressure on him. You can’t be thinking there’s some story from Brooklyn that you can tell him that will undo all those memory wipes and give you your friend back. You can’t be expecting to have some miraculous happily ever after with your best bud in the whole world. He might always be just a guy who needs help – a guy who bears a striking resemblance to someone you used to know, but who is not, and never will be, the person you want him to be... and you’ve got to be okay with that, Steve... and if you aren’t, then maybe it’s not me that has no reason to be here.”

Prompt: "Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." -Buddha

The End.
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