Metro Opens Doors

by Tenshi

Sticks and stones have made me smarter
It's words that cut me under my armor
St. Vincent - Paris is Burning

He probably should have walked. Had he been uninjured he would have, no matter how many miles lay between him and his destination. Even with his considerable physical damage, he could have covered long distances without complaint, but the Winter Soldier was wounded more deeply than in his body. Memory was always unreliable. The details of your missions are too delicate even for you to know, his keepers had said. Your sacrifice and heroism means everything to our cause. And with the old language of valor as sugar to coat the bitter pill, he had submitted to the searing light of oblivion again, and again, and again. And then the cold would come.

But now, his memory was all he had to guide him. Fractured, muddied, it surged and seethed behind the blank spaces in his mind like a barely-contained tide, soon to overtake its walls and rise into flood. Now and again a scent or a sound would arrest him in mid-motion, as he struggled to recall its relevance. More often than not, it was gone before he could place it, and he moved on as his sense of unease grew. He spent one sleepless night in a strip of wilderness that divided one apartment complex from another, propped up against a tree in the mottled dark. Orange streetlights glowed in the distance. He pressed his steel palm to his broken arm and waited for a police car to shriek by before shoving his bone back into place, the wailing siren covering his involuntary noise of pain. He was on the move again before dawn.

Stealing clothing was easy, through a back yard and off a clothesline. His work had not often required him to pass unnoticed--at least, he did not think that it had. Why else would the shirt and jeans feel so alien in his hands? He stuffed his combat suit in a tattered duffel he'd found among some trash beneath an overpass, shoved his hair under a ball cap, and limped out of the scrub and into the streets. The homeless population of the nation's capital was so ubiquitous, he became invisible in an instant.

From there it was easy enough to jump a fence, climb onto an empty metro platform, slip into the open door of a waiting train, and sink down onto the scuffed orange seat. It didn't really matter to him where the train was going. Away, was all that mattered. He would ride it to the end and move on from there.

Move on to where?

He tried to fall back on the old support of the mission, but it crumpled underneath him. There was no mission. Only a still body by the water's edge, a battered face, a voice he thought he knew. For a moment he felt weightless, and realized--dangerously late--that it was only the train pulling out of the station. His edge was dulling, he told himself, and for a second he wished for the simplicity of someone telling him what to do. It didn't last, and he hated himself for such weakness, no matter how brief. The train shifted and swayed as it went around a corner, and his stomach twisted. Maybe he was hungry? He didn't really remember what that was like. He barely knew what fear was like, but he thought that might be what he was feeling, as the train clattered into the dark underground. I don't like this, he thought, closing his eyes and slumping down in the seat. I don't like this at all. The only problem was, he didn't know why.


Your name is James Buchanan Barnes.

(You never called me that.)

Bucky! Take my hand! The rush and racket of a moving train, cold air knifing into his lungs, fear--like he had never known it, mortal and inexorable--and he was falling, falling, falling.

He landed, with a gasp of pain and sudden consciousness, in the back corner of a metro train. He opened his eyes and found the face of his oldest friend looking back at him, larger than life and regarding him with a cool, unwavering gaze.


But he was gliding away, as distant and unreachable as the past. Captain America, the poster said, one of a dozen mounted in the plexiglass waiting areas between the underground platforms. Captain Steven Rogers' face flickered like a zoetrope as the train picked up speed. The Legend Continues at the National Air and Space Museum.

Memories rose and burst like bubbles through the murk.

What happened to you?

I joined the Army.

Just go, get out of here!

Not without you!

Hey everybody, let's hear it for Captain America!

The train was moving through the darkness again, but the Winter Soldier no longer looked out the windows. There was a station map across the seat from him, rainbow-stripes of train lines woven into a straggling asterisk behind a scratched pane of plastic. Rosslyn to Smithsonian, just a few stations after Metro Center.

Captain America was waiting for him, six metro stops away.

And wherever Captain America was, Bucky Barnes would not be far behind.



b i s h o n e n i n k