Bucky is under no illusions. However politely the Avengers and their subsequent hangers-on treat him (with a few notable exceptions), he knows he is not a guest here. Hell, Stark had made a point of telling him that as soon as he'd arrived. He's a prisoner.
Having mostly free reign of a very large cage does not make it any less of a cage.
Still, it's a better cage than any he's been in, at least as far as he remembers. Which isn't saying much - even after Wakanda, the past is just a jumbled blur, disjointed images. Gunfire and blood, mostly. Figures, doesn't it, that he remembers the stuff he'd rather forget?
He remembers killing Stark's parents but he doesn't remember his mother's name. He remembers training other Soldiers but he doesn't remember which corner the bakery his Ma worked at was on. He remembers falling from the train but he doesn't remember what it was like to be Steve Rogers' friend.
Not really, anyway. And what he remembers confuses more than reassures him. He knows they were close. There's an entire exhibit about it in the Smithsonian, back in D.C., and if that weren't enough evidence, there's also the fact that Steve has put himself on the line, thrown himself into trouble, to protect Bucky even when Bucky had actively been trying to kill him.
Steve's the clearest memory he has, foggy or not, confusing or not. He remembers Steve wore newspapers in his shoes, remembers he was small and frail, remembers Bucky used to be the protector, not the other way around. He remembers waking up in Azzano and Steve impossibly there...
But he doesn't remember the details, the minutia. The little things that build the foundation of a relationship between two people. He doesn't remember the emotions, or how to feel them again.
Emotions in general have been tricky since... Well, 1945, he's assuming. Emotions hadn't been useful to the Soviets, or Hydra after. He doesn't know how they did it and doesn't want to know, all he knows is he hasn't felt beyond basic human needs and fears in a long time, other than brief flashes when he was with Steve.
And Steve's not here.
So Bucky fills his time the only way he really knows how - wake up, train, consume the necessary calories (and maybe a little more, now that he's allowed to eat what he wants when he wants, now that he's allowed to enjoy food - he's discovered he has a little bit of a sweet tooth), meditate like the doctors in Wakanda had shown him how to do, journal and try to jog his memory. Sleep.
He's taken to wandering the Tower to fill in the yawning gaps of open time left between his makeshift schedule, exploring carefully one floor at a time. He's sure Tony's watching him, feels the cameras like an itch between his shoulder blades, but what is Stark gonna do about it? He hasn't been denied access anywhere other than Tony's own floor. He isn't doing anything wrong. Just... It helps, to know the layout of the Tower. Access points, escape routes, security checks, cameras, windows. He isn't planning anything, but he feels more secure knowing the best way out, if it ever comes to that.
He's also just bored. Very, very bored, and there's only so much Netflix and Google he can take in one sitting. He isn't used to this. He'd been fridged between missions for the better part of a century, he doesn't know what to do with idleness. Add it to the list of skills he must have had once upon a time, but had been wiped away with everything else.
God, he's a fucking mess.
So he tries to take his time, limit himself to one floor per day. (It still won't take terribly long to finish, but maybe Steve will be back before then, or Stark will find a way to 'accidentally' put a bullet in his brain.) Today he's tackling one of the lower floors. Clint says there's a pool down here somewhere, and Bucky figures swimming laps would be a good way to fill the time.
Only there is no pool. At least, not that he can locate. He finds something else instead.
There is music. Faint at first, but it... Pulls at him, tugs him after it, and he doesn't know why. He follows it anyway, down the hall and around the corner, until he discovers its origin in a small room with wood floors and mirrored walls.
A dance studio.
Bucky blinks and takes a half step back, drawing in a breath as something... Shifts, and the past superimposes itself over the present.
There's a girl dancing in the middle of the room, striking red hair at odds with the soft pastels of her wrap-skirt and tights, with the calm and ordered way she steps across the floor. Elegance and precision with the fire underneath, hidden from all but those who know to look for it.
He's one of those chosen few.
Or, he was, once. Timelines blur, the clock ticks back, and he loses track of where - of when he is. All he knows is he's taken her hand, and they're stepping around the room, around each other, like they've done this before.
Because they've done this before. The Tower and all of modernity fade into the background as the music winds to a close, bringing them closer together. The sounds of other students practicing other lessons echo in his mind, the teachers biting out sharp criticism in Russian, demanding - "Again. Again." - until it's not just right but perfect, flawless, inhuman. And he does the same, drills all human frailty and error out of them, but not with her.
He didn't have to with her. She was already perfect.
And wicked, he remembers seeing that in the quirk of her lips as they grappled during training. Remembers that she was the only one of the Red Room girls quick and clever enough to land a blow or two of her own against him. Remembers that she was beautiful, and dangerous, and vibrant, and charming.
He holds her in place when the dance finishes, eyes wandering her face as if chasing every trace of familiarity, because he remembers. He remembers. How had he not seen it before?
Bucky reaches his hand up and tentatively brushes the tips of his fingers against her cheek, half expecting her to image to flicker and fade out, like the ghost she has to be. Instead, she feels solid, and warm. Alive.