Bucky sits in the closet. Peggy's safe haven. His safe haven.
He doesn't have the nerve to go anywhere near her blanket nest. The nest is just as she left it, untouched, unchanged, and Bucky is going to keep it that way. It still smells like her. Like roses, like fresh air, like sunshine, like Peggy.
Bucky can't wear any of her clothes, they're too small to even remotely fit. Peggy was always the one wearing his shirts, even though they were more like a dress on her. Bucky had never minded not being able to wear anything of hers before, but now he would give anything to be able to put on a sweatshirt of hers and drown in her scent.
It's been one week since Peggy died.
Bucky doesn't have any tears left to cry.
The day of her death was hard, but he somehow didn't quite believe she was gone, and when morning came the next day, it sank in that she wasn't coming back.
Peggy told him one day that the next time, she might not come back. Bucky had none of it, said he'd take care of himself when she was gone to appease her, not wanting to think about the inevitable day she would die.
He just didn't think it would be so soon.
Over the course of the week, it hadn't gotten any easier. Bucky didn't want to talk to anyone, see anyone, or do anything. Mostly he sat in their room and cried, cried until he couldn't anymore.
The wizards couldn't bring her back this time. They told him they were sorry. Bucky wanted to scream, to shout, to beg them to try one more time, but he knew it wouldn't work, they'd told him so, and he couldn't bring himself to get up and do it.
Bucky made a promise to Peggy that he would take care of himself if she were to ever leave. He'd broken that promise on day one. He hadn't eaten, slept, showered, or done anything to take care of himself since she died.
Although yesterday, Bucky decided he needed to eat. But he walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and saw a half-eaten box of strawberries and a plastic container filled with their leftover macaroni, and broke down on the spot.
So today Bucky is smelly and hungry and tired, but he couldn't find the energy to care. Peggy is gone. Peggy is gone. Nothing else matters to him.
All their little polaroid pictures are in a box somewhere, probably on the top shelf of the closet, and Bucky can't bring himself to look at them, but every so often he finds a stray one around their room, and he picks it up and puts it facedown on the desk, trying not to look.
He'd told Peggy he'd rather become Winter than live without her. This week he's remembered why.
The pain of the loss of Peggy is greater than any pain he's ever felt. It's suffocating, like being smothered in ten blankets and trying to breathe. Bucky feels like he's drowning, chained to the bottom of the ocean floor.
He twists the ring he's just barely managed to fit on his pinky finger. Peggy never wore it, but she might have, in the now impossible future. Bucky hadn't asked her yet.
Now he wishes he had. Then the ring would have really been hers. But there are only dreams, wishes for something that never was.
Bucky is tired. So tired. Tired of the pain. The pain of not being able to hold her hand, or play with her hair, hug her or kiss her, or talk to her, or even just be with her. He never imagined feeling so much love for someone that the loss of them would break him inside.
Bucky knows what he’s going to do. He can’t go on living like this. Without her.
He collects himself and wearily goes over to the desk, where the box of photos is. He looks carefully at each one, and he’s able to hear and see the moment the picture was taken in his mind. The one before they cut their hair, with Peggy kissing his cheek. The one of Peggy sleeping peacefully under a soft blanket. The one of Bucky hugging Peggy from behind while she stirs mac n cheese. Memories of a life filled with love, a life that will never be again.
Bucky wipes the tears that slid down his face, getting up to go, but then he turns and stacks the photos neatly in the box. He twists the ring around his finger for a moment before slowly sliding it off and putting it in the box. Bucky lets out a choked sob as he places the lid on the box and grabs his little red notebook.
He tries and somewhat fails to get it together, but he walks out the door anyways, down to the room Loki called his lair. He doesn’t bother knocking, just enters, knowing he’s there.
Bucky takes a breath, wills all the tears away, clutching the book, and begins to speak the first words he’s spoken in over four days. “Please. Just a few words. I’ll do whatever you want, I won’t ask for anything else from you again. I just want to forget, please.”
The holding it together part didn’t last very long, Bucky is sobbing by the end of his few sentences. Loki doesn’t look up for a few moments, then appears to have reached a decision. He carefully takes the book from Bucky’s hands and flips to the once dreaded, but now welcomed words.
Loki looks at him with a blank expression, and Bucky nods, pleading him to read the words on the page.
Loki waves his hand over the book then runs his fingers across the page, feeling the dots that make up the words written there.
Bucky breathes a shaky sigh of relief, he’s going to be Winter, emotionless and free from the pain of loss.
Tears run steadily down his cheeks, but he’s unsure if they’re from joy or pain or sadness or fear.
“Daybreak. Seventeen. Benign.”
Bucky begins to have second thoughts. Peggy told him to never, ever do this if she were to leave. But he wants this, he needs this, he’d rather exist as Winter than live without her.
“Nine. Homecoming. One.”
Loki pauses here, looking at Bucky, expression still blank, but hesitant. Bucky nods as best he can, the code words trying to push him away and bring out Winter. “Please.”
“Freight car,” Loki whispers, and it is done.
The Asset awakens for the first time in a long time. There’s water on his face. He wipes it off. He feels an ache in his chest, but doesn’t feel any sort of wound to have caused it. Not-him was careless while he was in control.
The raven-haired man standing in front of him had long since turned away, and was now occupied with other business. He waved a hand at the Asset. “Dismissed,” he said. The Asset turned and walked to the room he stayed in.
There is a strange box on the desk. The Asset opens the box. Inside are tiny pictures, pictures of...him? It must be Not-him. Not-him and Not-her. They look happy. The ache in his chest is back. Why? The Asset doesn’t really care.
There’s a ring in the box. It’s clear now. Not-him and Not-her were in love. That was stupid of them. The Asset needs to eat. He leaves the room.
He finds a box of strawberries in the fridge.