- Dark Themes
- Canon Divergent
“Hey,” Sam said, smiling, when Bucky stepped out of Shuri’s lab, straightening up from where he’d been leaning against the wall opposite, waiting for him.
Bucky helplessly returned his smile. “Hey.”
They fell into step, slowly making their way back to their rooms. They shared a room they used as living room, just like Sam had shared with Steve and the others. Here, it was only the two of them, however. Clint had decided to turn himself in after his mind had been his own again. Scott had chosen to do the same when he had learned all that had been kept from him. Sam couldn’t blame them, they had family back in the US, young children. If there was any chance they could mitigate the consequences they would have to face, any chance for them to return to them, they had to take it. He had instead asked to stay in Wakanda, to keep Bucky company and offer him support as tried to rebuild his life.
Sam waited until they were sitting across from one another, as they often did now, each with a glass of water, then asked: “How was it today?”
Bucky shrugged with his right shoulder. Then, knowing Sam would wait him out, he said: “Fine. She says I’ll be rid of the triggers soon.”
Sam brightened. “That’s great.”
Bucky nodded. “I’ll soon be ready to fight again. Without worrying about someone taking control of me, I mean.”
“Is that something you want?” Sam asked.
Bucky shrugged again. “Earth is on the line in the invasion. I can’t sit out the fight.”
“And afterwards? Have you thought about what you want to do afterwards?” Sam made sure to keep his voice casual, to not push or demand. Enough people had demanded things from him.
“Haven’t thought about it.” Why should he? The fight was sure to be dangerous, there was a possibility he would not survive it, so why make plans?
Sam tried to break down the decision into smaller choices, to make it easier for him. “We’ll travel to the US after the pardons are through because the preparations are centralized there with the UN. Do you want to stay in the US afterwards?”
Bucky considered it. “No. That was my old life, as Bucky. I’m no longer that Bucky. I can’t…”
“You can’t be that Bucky anymore.” Sam nodded. “I know I wasn’t the same when I returned from my tour of duty. I can’t imagine how different it must be for you.” Steve would hate it, would not accept it, but it made sense that he could not return to the life he had led 70 years ago, before the war and being tortured by HYDRA for decades. It made him wonder, however. “Are you okay with my calling you Bucky or would you rather I use another name?”
“What?” He did not understand what he meant. What else could he call him? ‘Barnes’ again? He hoped not, he liked that Sam no longer called him by his last name, that he was allowed to call him Sam now.
“I could call you James.” Sam grimaced. “I’m not sure about calling you Buchanon.” Bucky’s – James’ mirroring grimace showed that he agreed with him. “Or you can pick another name entirely.”
“James. Yes, I’d like to go by James.” It was a connection to his old life, part of the name his mother had given him, but also something new, something neutral, not tainted by HYDRA or his failure to be the man he’d been before the war.
“James,” Sam confirmed. “Do you want to go to Europe again? To Bucharest?”
“No. Too many memories. Of fights. Missions.” He paused. “Hadn’t been to Romania before.”
Sam swallowed. He’d been in Romania because it had been somewhere he did not associate with war and violence and they had taken that from him.
“If… if possible I’d like to stay here, in Wakanda,” James admitted softly. It was safe here. Safe from the outside world but also safe for him. He didn’t have to worry as much about accidentally hurting someone, of being used to hurt someone again.
“I can’t blame you. It’s beautiful here.”
“And they’re nice.”
Sam grinned. “Especially the children and the goats?”
“You know about that?” Did everyone know about that?
Now it was Sam’s turn to shrug. “I saw you from a window once. You seemed to be enjoying their visit.”
He had seen him? He had not realized someone had been watching him, something he was normally very aware of. But then he had never felt threatened by Sam. “I do,” he admitted. He waited, expecting him to warn him off, to remind him that he was dangerous, far too dangerous to be around children or animals.
“I’m glad. I’m happy you have things you enjoy, James.”
He enjoyed spending time with Sam. He enjoyed hearing him call him James. Not that he knew how to tell him that or if he even should.
They were just sitting down for dinner when they’re was a brief knock and Shuri came in, followed by Ayo and Nareema. They both stood to greet her. “Princess, what brings you here?” Sam asked.
“I have the information I promised you I would look into.” To Sam, she explained: “Bucky has been having trouble with his sense of touch, taste and, I suspect, hearing.”
Sam frowned. “You didn’t mention anything, James.” Had he been hiding his problems from him? He did not like the idea that he might have suffered in silence while he could have helped him.
“James?” Shuri repeated.
At Sam’s encouraging nod, James explained: “I’d prefer to go by James now, not Bucky.” He waited for her reaction, unconsciously holding his breath.
“James. Right, I’ll remember that and tell the Dora, if you’d like.” She paused to give him a moment to accept or reject the offer. When he’d nodded slightly, she continued: “Now, back to your senses. It seems that you are coming online as a Sentinel. Sentinels were watchmen, with all five senses enhanced. They are instinctively driven to protect the tribe, to protect their territory. They’re less common today and have become lost from general knowledge but they still existed, coming online when needed.” She shook her head. “We have not had any Sentinels come online in Wakanda in a long time. With the Black Panther protecting the country, it seems that no Sentinel was needed. Until now, until this invasion. T’Challa has come online. So have a number of people in other countries.”
“And you think James is such a Sentinel?” Sam asked.
“It makes sense. You’re showing a lot of the same reactions as T’Challa. Slower, perhaps, but that makes sense. You are recovering and so you are slowly going from dormant to online as you get better.”
“What does dormant mean?” James asked.
“If a potential or even an online Sentinel is too injured or too traumatized, they can go dormant, meaning their senses are temporarily or permanently at normal human level. If you like, I can give you information on the theory, both what we have here in Wakanda and what we have been given by Sentinels and Guides in the US when we started pooling resources to prepare for the invasion.”
“So if I really am a Sentinel,” something James was no convinced of yet. The Winter Soldier, a protector? “what does that mean for me? How do I control those senses, especially in a fight?” He had to admit that his senses had been getting stronger, even more than they had already been through the serum. But he could not see himself as a protector, not after all the deaths he had caused.
“You can learn to control your senses,” Ayo said. “It requires training and discipline. But the quickest and easiest way is to bond with a Guide. They’re… partners to the Sentinels, a balancing counterpart. Guides help a Sentinel keep control over their senses, Sentinels shield a Guide from being overwhelmed by the emotions of those around him. Guides, they’re empaths, some also have other gifts.”
“And how do they bond?” Sam asked. “What does it entail?”
“It’s a partnership, often also a romantic one. Intimate, in any case. The bond is usually formed during sex,” Ayo explained. “The information contains details for this as well.”
James paled. Sex? He needed to have sex to bond? Just the thought of it made his skin crawl. And yet what choice did he have? The alien army could arrive any day. He already spend much of the day working on getting rid of the trigger words, he likely would not have the time to learn how to control his senses on his own. His hand clenched and unclenched. He’d have to have sex. His stomach rolled. He’d have to get through it, at least once, enough to bond. A deep breath, trying to swallow down the sudden nausea. Without control, he’d be a liability in the fight. He’d accepted the chance that he might die but, without a bond, without control, he might get others killed.
“James?” Shuri asked, taking note of his distress.
He took a step back, stumbling slightly. No, no touch. No more of this conversation. No more. Just no more.
Suddenly Sam was standing between them. “Back,” he growled, taking a threatening step forward.
Shuri’s eyes widened when she suddenly felt pressured to leave, to back up. From the way Ayo and Nareema stiffened, they must feel the same. She held her hands up and took a few steps back. “Of course. We mean him no harm.” She waited for him to relax at least slightly. “Well, seems there is one compatible potential Guide for him.”
James could not help the whine he let out at her words. Sam was a Guide. That explained the connection he felt to him, the way some instinctive part of himself was always urging him closer to him, to shield him. And yet he could not bond. Even with Sam, he could not imagine having sex.
But Sam would need a bond, would want a partner. Another Sentinel would…
“No!” Away. He needed to get away. Without another word, he stormed out. Back to his room. Back to his space, where he’d be safe.
“James?” Sam knocked at the door to his room. He had not eaten dinner and had also not come out for breakfast. He did not want to force him to talk about it or even interact but he’d like him to at least eat. He knew how much a supersoldier usually ate from his friendship with Steve, after all. “James, may I come in?”
There was a long moment of silence, then a soft “Come in.”
He found him laying on the bed, the blanket pulled up high and his back to the door. “Hey,” he said softly, slowly stepped closer to the bed. He barely managed to keep from reaching for him. A part of him felt a driving need to make him feel better, to protect him from what was hurting him. Part of it, was being a Guide, he figured, at least according to what he had read in the sources they had been given, but part of it was that he liked James and hated to see him hurting.
The silence stretched again between them, then James said: “I don’t think I can bond. Not just with you. Not at all.”
Sam pulled a chair closer and sat down. “Why not?”
“I can’t… the idea of having sex…” James trailed off. Then, quieter, he admitted: “I’m not sure I could stop myself from… from lashing out.”
Sam froze. Did he mean…? He was torn between fury and worry at the possible implications. “Did HYDRA…?”
“No,” James answered, making Sam breath a sigh of relief. Then, after a moment, he qualified: “I don’t think so. I don’t remember them… don’t remember that.” Silence again. “I… I don’t remember ever wanting sex.”
“Steve talked about your being a ladies’ man back in the 30s.”
“I never slept with them. They knew… they could tell that I wouldn’t… that I’m defective.” He snorted. “At least I could offer to be an alibi for them to go out with their girlfriends.”
“You were a beard for lesbians?” Sam laughed softly. Steve certainly hadn’t realized that. He sobered quickly. “But you’re not ‘defective’.” He hated that James was back to talking about himself as an object instead of a person. “There is nothing wrong with not wanting sex. There are other people who are asexual, who are not interested in having sex.”
James turned slightly, just enough so he could see Sam out of the corner of his eye. “Asexual?”
Sam nodded, holding his gaze. “You are not the only one to feel that way. And there is nothing wrong with that,” he repeated insistently. “There is nothing wrong with you.”
“It means I won’t be able to bond.” James paused thoughtfully. “Perhaps they have bonds that can hold me. If we can prevent my turning violent –”
“I will not force myself on you. Or allow anyone else to rape you. I’ll kill anyone who tries.” A deep, primal part of Sam prompted that frank statement. The idea of someone forcing James, another Guide attempting that, pressuring James, had him homicidal.
James swallowed hard, feeling oddly touched by Sam’s words. He attempted a smile, though it came out more a grimace. “You can still bond. Shuri said that others came online as Sentinels. T’Challa perhaps.”
Sam was not interested in bonding with T’Challa or any of those other Sentinels. Part of him already felt that James was his Sentinel and he wanted no other. “We have time yet. Let me look into that whole Sentinel and Guide thing. Perhaps a bond isn’t really necessary.” Slowly, giving James enough time to protest, he reached out and rested a hand on his shoulder. “Okay?”
James looked at him, then finally nodded slightly.