EAD: A Legacy of Love and Friendship

Title: A Legacy of Love and Friendship
Author: Kylia
Fandom: MCU
Genre: Alternate Universe; Sentinel Fusion
Relationship(s): Tony Stark/Bucky Barnes
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings:  Dark themes (because brain-washing), and also Bucky murdered Howard and there’s no getting around that.
Word Count: 3800
Summary: Tony Stark and Bucky Barnes had given up on finding that elusive connection.  A bunker in Siberia was not the place for them to realize that connections formed in trauma are forged in iron.
Notes: Originally written for one of the TS fusion-themed RT. Not sure when this will get worked on/completed.

This takes place directly after the bunker scene in Civil War, though it ended differently. Also, Maria didn’t die with Howard.

*

Tony had locked himself in the lab on the lowest level. Before long, someone was bound to come find him. He could feel the concern, even twenty floors down. He just needed a minute, or a thousand, to get his head on straight. This was a cluster-fuck that he just could not get his head around.

“Boss?” 

Tony sighed. He knew FRIDAY wouldn’t leave him alone, not with how things could have gone in Siberia, but still, “Yeah, Baby-Girl?” 

“Captain Rogers is demanding an audience.” 

Tony wanted to smile at the way she said his name. But he just didn’t have it in him right then. “Where is he?” 

“Floor sixteen, Boss.” 

Tony raised an eyebrow. Floors sixteen through twenty were marked as common floors and the elevators weren’t locked down in any of the areas on those floors. You didn’t have to have special privileges to get around on those floors, but if you didn’t have them, those were the only floors you could access. 

“Have you locked him out of the other levels, Baby-Girl?” 

“Maybe,” FRIDAY answered. 

“Why?” 

“I was monitoring Sergeant Barnes during Captain Rogers’s demand for entry and it was clear that he would prefer that the Captain remain where he was.” 

Tony tilted his head and thought about that. “Is he awake?” 

“Not yet, Boss, but I think some of his senses are online and engaged.” 

Tony nodded. “Right.” He stood up. “Tell Steve I’ll meet with him shortly. We haven’t offered him coffee or anything, have we?” 

“No. And little-bro is refusing to leave level twelve.” 

“Butterfingers? U? Are they with him?” 

“Butterfingers is. U is with Sergeant Barnes.” 

Tony hummed in surprise. U didn’t warm up to people easily. His kids were excellent judges of character, though, so he’d trust their judgment over his own. 

The closer he got to the level with the medical wing, the more he could feel Barnes reaching out for him. He may have been doing it subconsciously, but it was still a little disconcerting. Especially considering Barnes was doing it unknowingly, asleep. What would he be like when he was fully awake? 

Tony shut down that line of thought as the elevator stopped on the sixteenth floor. Dealing with Rogers was something he needed to do now, but he wasn’t sure if he was ready for it yet. He tried to remember what Howard had said about the Howling Commandos and how codependent he found Steve and Bucky, at least at first. He warned Tony that if his theories proved fruitful and they ever found Barnes and Rogers, they might exhibit some of that same codependence, considering how out of time they might be. Then again, Howard thought it might be just as likely that their experiences were too different from one another that it changed that dynamic forever. 

Tony sighed. He hadn’t let himself think about everything Howard tried to prepare him for. He’d thought he was content to live his life alone, without his Sentinel 

Apparently, he was still able to lie to himself. 

“Tony!” 

Tony stepped out of the elevator and came face-to-face with Steve Rogers for the first time since they had arrived in New York from Siberia. “Rogers.” 

“I tried to follow you, but the elevator won’t go anywhere but up a couple of floors, and there’s nothing on any of them.” 

“You’re a visitor. Visitors are only allowed on floors sixteen through twenty.” 

Steve gaped at him. “Visitor? But we’re teammates. We practically lived here. We came and went whenever we wanted.” 

Tony rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried not to sigh. “We were teammates. You used to practically live here. Then you moved to the compound. I don’t know where you call home now. All of that’s in the past. And FRIDAY decided on her own to keep you isolated to the public floors. I had nothing to do with that decision.” He paused, wondering if he’d be allowed to leave now. He doubted it, and so he waited for Steve’s next volley. 

“They can do that?” Steve asked, sounding part bewildered and part suspicious. 

“Who can do what?” Tony asked. He frowned, wondering if he missed a part of the conversation. 

“Your…Friday. She can just decide to not let people onto floors. On her own, I mean.” 

“Yes.” Tony said slowly. “She’s a person. Still learning, yes, but a person with awareness and will of her own, separate from me. I thought you understood that. That JARVIS…that Ultron, that he…” 

“Boss,” FRIDAY interrupted, her voice soothing on Tony’s nerves. 

“Yes, Baby-Girl?” 

“Helen is asking for you.” 

“I’m on my way.” He turned away from Steve and moved back towards the elevator. 

“Wait! Tony wait. What about Bucky? I need to know…how is he?” 

“I don’t know. Doctor Cho was treating him, but I won’t know his condition until I speak to her.” 

“Wait… Tony, it wasn’t Bucky’s fault.” 

Tony looked up into Steve’s face. “Sergeant Barnes wasn’t responsible for what happened in 1991. But you are responsible for keeping what you knew to yourself.” He allowed the elevator doors to close before Steve could rally another argument. He really didn’t have the energy for this. 

“Speak to me, baby doll.” Tony said as soon as they were enough floors away that his shields felt stable enough to do more than shift agitatedly around him. 

“Sergeant Barnes is stable, though Doctor Cho is unsure of his state of consciousness.” FRIDAY paused for a moment in hesitation, which caused Tony to tilt his head up towards the camera in the elevator. 

“His vitals are irregular. Not consistent with what she would expect for someone of his history and circumstances, but she has no frame of reference for what he’s been through, either.” 

“Does she know he’s a Sentinel?” Tony asked. 

“No. My research indicated that she hasn’t dealt with Sentinels or Guides sufficiently to recognize them without more information.”

“Have you reached Doctor Featherwood?”

“She’s on her way, but it will be another six hours before she’s able to reach you.”

Tony sighed. That’s what he got for not planning ahead for this SNAFU of epic proportions. “You’ve locked us down?”

“Of course, Boss. I left the open floors open, but the security grid is live starting on floor fourteen, with lethal parameters beginning on floor ten.”

“And the upper levels?” Tony asked as he felt the elevator sink into the more secure floors. His empathy was opening itself up the closer he got to his sentinel and if he wasn’t mistaken, he thought he felt an answering hum in the awareness surrounding the man.

“Lethal starting at twenty-three.” FRIDAY paused. “If they haven’t gotten the message, they don’t belong without permission, I will explain it to them in small words even they can understand.”

Tony huffed out a laugh. “Try not to kill anyone we might need later,” Tony said as he stepped off the elevator and into the security infirmary ward.

Doctor Cho was looking at a digital display with a frown on her face, so she hadn’t noticed her patient was awake.

There was a tiger laying on the floor next to the bed. U was rolling backward and forward near the tiger, almost as if she was trying to comfort the beast. Tony assumed the tiger was invisible to the mundane, otherwise, Helen would probably be a little less calm. His bots, however, had been built at a time when he needed sheltering from the psionic chaos that was his life, so they were a little more attuned to things.

“James,” Tony said cautiously.

Helen turned at the sound, startled, and noticed that her patient was awake.

“Anthony,” the words were whispered, almost as if in a dream. “I remember you…you were…smaller….and not…” He looked around the room, “Not here.”

Tony frowned. “No, if you mean when I think you do, I was somewhere a lot less pleasant. Thanks for that rescue, by the way. I guess it’s my turn to rescue you now, Sentinel.”

*

“You should have told me you had a Sentinel assassin down here.” Doctor Helen Cho snapped. “I should have been told.”

“A Sentinel Assassin, as opposed to what? A regular assassin?” Tony scoffed. He’d known Helen a long time, and while she had known he was a Guide, at least since he went to MIT, she had never seemed very comfortable with the concept. He’d never scanned her though, preferring to keep his illusions.

“I should have been told,” Helen repeated, speaking slowly as if Tony was having trouble comprehending.

Tony raised an eyebrow at her. “How long have you known me, Helen?”

She snorted. “Thirty-five years.”

“And in that time, have you ever known me to discuss anything until I was damn good and ready?”

Helen narrowed her eyes. “I told Maria allowing you to spend so much time alone was a bad idea.” He took after Howard in all the bad ways.

“Spending so much time with my creations was the only thing that saved me.” Tony corrected her gently. He loved Helen in his own way. But she wasn’t Maria and she never could be. For as much as she studied cybernetics and the intricacies of bio-mechanics, she didn’t fathom artificial intelligence, even after some of the things she’d seen in the past few years. She never understood him or his father, and that was the crux of her difficulty now.

“He’s your Sentinel, isn’t he?” Helen asked. There was a sharpness to her words that Tony didn’t miss. He just stared at her levelly. It didn’t matter how long they had known each other, he would not allow her to talk to him like he was a recalcitrant three-year-old. “Did your parents know?” Helen asked more quietly.

“What are you really asking me, Helen? Do you want to know if they knew what the future had in store for me when I came online? Or are you really asking if this was why Howard was so obsessed with finding Captain America? If he knew Bucky Barnes was also out there somewhere? If this was why, even after he died, my mother continued with the legacy he left behind and refused to tell you why. Is that what you really want to know, Helen?”

“I never understood Maria’s relationship with Howard,” Helen admitted. “They seemed so different. He was all about science and technology and the future, and Maria was all about art and culture and the children. I didn’t get why she was with him. I…I tried to get her to leave him once.” She whispered. “Did you know?”

Tony shook his head. “No, but I’m not surprised it didn’t work. My parents were soul mates, Helen. Wherever they are now, they’re together. The only reason they didn’t die together was because of me.”

Helen sucked in a breath of air. “What? Don’t say that! That’s not true!”

Tony looked at his mother’s oldest friend. “It is. My mother was supposed to be with Howard the day he died. Only something happened to me that morning at the house. I was visiting, and I’d had…an episode, let’s call it, and mom stayed with me while Howard made his stop. He was going to come back to the house afterward, but he never made it.”

*

“FRIDAY?” Steve Rogers called. He felt ridiculous talking to the air.

“Yes, Captain Rogers?”

Was it his imagination or did her computerized voice sound sharper than usual? “I’d like to speak to Tony.”

“Boss is busy right now.”

“Just tell me where he is and I’ll go to him.”

“You are not cleared to know the location of anyone in Stark Tower, Captain Rogers. Is that all?”

Steve huffed out a breath in frustration. “Can you tell me about Bucky?”

There was a pause. To Steve, it seemed like a really lengthy pause for a machine. Since his return from the ice, he’d learned machines could do all sorts of things, and they usually did them really fast.

“Sargeant Barnes is well,” FRIDAY said after a moment.

“He’s awake? Can I speak to him?” Steve stood up straighter, even though he knew it wouldn’t make any difference to the voice.

“One moment.” There was another long pause, and then the voice was back. “Sargeant Barnes is not accepting visitors at this time. I suggest you return to wherever it is you’ve been and contact Boss…later. Much Later.”

Steve frowned as there was a definitive silence at the end of her sentence. He had a feeling if he called her again, she wouldn’t respond. He wanted to demand to see Bucky, but he was pretty sure that would be ignored too. He honestly wasn’t sure what kind of security Tony had, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to test it out.

Maybe he should figure out what was going on with the others and they could all work on helping him with Bucky, together. That’s how things were supposed to work, after all.

*

“Do you know where you are…when you are?” Tony asked. He had stepped back inside James’ room and pretty much ordered Helen to monitor from the room next door. He didn’t think she could do anything for either of them, and her presence was just going to agitate his Sentinel.

Tony didn’t think James was going to freak out, at least not right now. But who knew what might happen later? 

James looked around the room. “I’m not sure. I’m not in the other place. But my head doesn’t feel weighed down like it usually does, so I don’t feel as foggy.” He looked at Tony for a second. “You’re not a little kid though, so…” He looked down at himself, “I’m not either. This isn’t a dream?” 

“No, not a dream, James,” Tony assured. 

“I told you to call me that…James…when I took you away. You were…I’m not sure where you were. It was small and smelly.” James frowned. You were under the building, hiding…with” James closed his eyes, trying to remember. 

“Hey, hey, it’s okay. It was a long time ago. You rescued me. You saved me, remember? That’s the important part, okay? You found me, where they were trying to hide me, under all the machine parts, left behind.” 

“Michigan. I had an assignment in Michigan. I was supposed to take out a man traveling, but something distracted me. I went off-mission, ended up in the old warehouse district. There was a kidnapping. A kid had been kidnapped days before I got there. Something went wrong. My handlers didn’t know what happened. How I ended up in the middle of it. By the time they tracked me down, it was all over. The kidnappers were dead and…” 

“Kid was rescued.” Tony finished for him. “The kid and the robot he was building to rescue himself.” 

“Anthony.” James said again like he wasn’t sure if he was remembering right. “He told me his name was Anthony.” 

Tony smiled softly. “But only momma called me that.” 

“You were so small.” James blinked, pushed the memory away, and focused on the man in front of him. “I thought about that a lot, but I always thought it was a dream. Something they put in my head to get me to comply. 

Tony frowned. “Did…did Hydra know you were a Sentinel?” 

Barnes thought about that for a long minute. “Yes, but I don’t think they knew how or when it happened. They assumed it was a side-effect of one of their experiments, but they couldn’t determine when or where, or what the primary factor in bringing me online was, so they were leery of trying to replicate it, especially considering they had such dubious experience controlling me.” 

“And Michigan…did they know your Sentinel imperative was a factor there?” 

James’ lips twisted slightly. “They thought that the proximity of a child in danger interfered with my programming, but they didn’t know the specifics about the kidnapping.” 

“So they never knew it was your guide being in danger that upset your programming and not some random kid in a bad situation?” 

“No.” James tilted his head. “But Howard knew, didn’t he?” 

“Let’s get you something to eat,” Tony said, taking a step closer. “I’m going to help you get out of bed. Is that okay?” 

James took a deep breath and blew it out, centering himself. “Yeah, I…yeah. I feel okay. More settled than I have in a long while. Do you…know why that is?” 

“I have a theory, but I’d like to wait until my doctor gets here and she and my aunt Helen can compare notes. Assuming she’s off her mad by then. Between the two of them, they should be able to figure out anything I’ve missed.” 

“Aunt Helen?” James asked, trying to remember if Howard ever talked about having a sister. “Her mad?”

“Well, she’s not really my aunt. She was my mother’s best friend. Doctor Helen Cho. She’s a specialist in cybernetics and biomechanics. And I neglected to tell her some stuff…well, my whole family did, apparently.” 

James nodded at the explanation and sat forward a little. He felt a shield go up around him and suddenly everything was muted. The jittery feeling that was making him edgy just eased away. 

“Better?” 

“Yeah. How did you know?” James asked. 

“Your shoulders are like granite. Even the one not made of metal, and your eyes look a little tense. Come on, let’s go somewhere better. Less security, but more buffering.” 

“Less security?” James asked warily. 

“They weren’t sure what the situation was when I called. And you were pretty out of it. We’ll need to talk about what you did on the plane. That wasn’t a Winter Soldier fugue state. I’m pretty sure there would have been more damage if it had been. And it wasn’t a zone out or any other Sentinel thing. I’d have recognized that.” 

James looked away, embarrassed. He felt Anthony touch his face with gentle fingertips and looked up. 

“It’s fine. I’m sure you’ve learned to deal with things in your own way. So have I. I built robots because I couldn’t deal with people and their emoting all over everything they touched. My dad…he loved me. I know he did, but the older I got, the harder it was to be around him. It was torture for us both.” 

“I, uh, I make myself shut down sometimes. Not completely. I’m aware of everything that’s going on, but not really awake. I can’t answer questions or be given directives.” James looked at Anthony, unsure.

“But your senses are still cataloging everything.” Anthony guessed.

“Yes.” James wasn’t entirely sure of everything that was going on, but he felt pretty safe, which he guessed was a good thing. “Where are we going?”

“My floors.” Anthony helped him out of bed and led him out of the room. “I’m guessing you know Steve was here?”

James tensed a little, not wanting to talk about his old friend. He always felt so conflicted around him. Stevie wanted everything to be like it was eighty years ago, and it wasn’t ever going to be like that again. James wasn’t even sure he’d want that if he had the choice. His years were full of things he sometimes wished he could forget as easily as HYDRA thought he could but it was also full of other things, things he knew he shouldn’t forget, because if he didn’t remember them, who was left to do so?

“Hey? You still with me?” Anthony nudged him gently.

“Yeah. I just…I’m not ready to talk to Stevie. Or about him, either.” He paused and stopped them just as they were about to get into an elevator. “But maybe we should talk about Howard?”

Anthony sighed. “Yeah, we probably should, but not here in the hall. “Come on, James. Inside, and then food, and then I’ll do the heavy lifting for a while.” He waited for James to step inside after him.

James watched, confused for a moment as the elevator door didn’t close immediately. He wondered if there was something wrong, but then he saw the little machine that had been rolling around on the floor in his room roll right into the elevator. The doors closed immediately after the machine was safely inside.

“James, I don’t think you’ve been properly introduced to U. She’s one of my kids. U, say hello to James.”

James was wondering if he was supposed to shaker her hand. She had some sort of appendage. She rolled forward and beeped at him, though he did not know what she was trying to say. He remembered hearing the beeps and whirls when he was in his other place and found the sounds comforting. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

The elevator arrived at their destination and the doors opened. U rolled out before either of them could move. “Remind your brothers they need to charge as well!” Anthony shouted after her. James could hear her beeping in response.

“Doctor Feathwood will arrive in an hour, boss.”

James stilled for a second but then realized he recognized this voice as well. He must have cataloged it as part of the environment. “James, this is FRIDAY, the youngest of my children. She runs the suits and the Tower.”

James frowned. There was something…not right about that. But he couldn’t quite remember what it was.

“It’s nice to officially meet you, Sargeant Barnes.” FRIDAY piped up, her Irish lilt pleasant.

“James. Please, call me James. Sargeant Barnes died a long time ago.”

“Food. Then the emotional bloodletting. Come on, Sentinel.”

James just followed his Guide. His Guide.

One Comment:

  1. I love sentinel stories! Tha k you for sharing!

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