Hell Bound

Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
aren’t shaking.

When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.

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8. Chapter Eight

I could feel the heat of the sun against my back as I walked through the debris of a crumbling church. Shattered stained glass made beams of colored light through the dusty air. I could still hear shouting and voices from outside, but I moved away from them. I knew I should have returned to help them, but I had to go back to the trucks and confess what I’d done. I had to surrender my weapons and tell them to hold me down until I no longer felt the urge to murder my friends. So I kept my feet moving forward, crunching through bits of colored glass and chunks of stone.

I was terrified of what would happen if I found another member of my team. I could still see the momentary shock of confusion on Tran’s face right before I pulled the trigger. There had been a brief flash of betrayal before I took his life. I could still hear the frantic tone of Captain Russell’s voice as he begged for my gun. What if he was who I found next? What if the next person I saw when I left the church was Russell and I killed him? Or even Jimenez or the Colonel? I was going to spend the rest of my life in prison, or worse, trapped in my own head and unable to control my own body.

When I left the church, I could hear more shouting and footsteps. I told myself to stop so that I didn’t hurt anyone, but my feet kept moving. My fingers slid down the weapon and rested on the trigger. When he came around the corner, my friend and my comrade, I shot him between the eyes.

I woke up gasping. I was still on the uncomfortable chair in the living room. I’d kicked the blanket to the floor in my struggle. The sun was already up, spilling beams of golden light in stripes through the blinds.

Bucky was still lying on the couch but was awake now. I wasn’t sure how long he’d been that way or if I’d just woken him up. He moved his head to the side and glanced up at me, but I couldn’t find any words, and I was sure he didn’t need to hear them. I could see the understanding on his face.

I decided not to give him a chance to speak anyway. I jumped out of the armchair and headed right toward the hallway.

“What time is it? Are you hungry?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” I heard him reply from behind me.

I went to make breakfast anyway. It had been a long time since I had people to cook for. Not that I particularly enjoyed cooking. I usually looked for any excuse not to. But it helped me keep my mind off of things. And Bucky liked waffles. Maybe he couldn’t remember that he liked waffles, but I did. Plus, the kid probably liked them too and the process of making them helped me push stop thinking about killing my friends.

Graham was still asleep and when I went back to check on Bucky after getting the coffee started, I found him asleep on the couch too. I didn’t want to put on any music in case I woke them, but I couldn’t stand the silence. My ears always started to ring and I couldn’t handle it for very long. So I hummed to myself as I prepared the batter just so I could have something to listen to.

I heard Graham when he woke up. I could hear creaking from upstairs and then footsteps coming down the hall. It reminded me of how silent Bucky always was. Even in a house that was always shifting and had wood floors, he never made a sound unless he wanted me to know he was there.

Graham headed right for the kitchen once he reached the bottom floor.

“What are you making?” he asked me as he appeared in the entryway still groggy from sleep. His short brown hair was messy and sticking out of his face. He was still tired from the events of the night before.

“Waffles,” I told him. “I hope you like waffles.”

“I would worship waffles if that was an acceptable religion.” I shook my head and rolled my eyes. He limped over to the table and nearly collapsed into the closest chair. “What were you singing?”

“Oh, I don’t really know. Just trying to break the silence, I guess. I hate when it’s quiet.”

“How’d the patient?” he asked as I got the first waffle started.

“Still breathing. He was awake earlier. Probably won’t be able to move for a while, though.”

“He handles pain really well. I mean—aside from the passing out part. But I think that probably had more to do with the fact that blood was squirting out of his stomach like a fucking hose. And I mean—he did yank that piece of metal out without even stopping to think about it. I guess that’s not the worst he’s ever had, though. That arm—looks rough.” I turned back around to hand him a mug of coffee.

“It was,” I said.

“How did you meet that guy anyway? I know you were Special Forces and were probably up to all kinds of weird stuff, but how does a girl like you end up with a guy like him?” This time, when I turned around, I crossed my arms over my chest and glared.

“What exactly do you mean by that?” He was looking into the purple mug and not at me, but he sensed the hostility of my tone and quickly looked back up. His eyes were wide.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” he insisted. “I’m sorry. My mouth kind of runs ahead of me sometimes. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“No, now I’m curious. Exactly what kind of girl do you think I am?” He shrugged.

“I don’t know. Kind. Gentle.” I gritted my teeth and turned back to the hot waffle maker.

“You think if I were soft I would have ended up in the Special Forces?”

“No, I guess not. But you’re still nicer than I’m used to.”

“And what kind of guy do you think he is?” He took a moment to respond as I assembled a plate and balanced the creamer and syrup in one arm. I set them down on the table in front of him but he was still busy contemplating my question.

“I think he’s dangerous,” he finally concluded.

“Funny. He thinks the same about you.” He huffed and reached for the syrup.

“I’m a huge wuss. I couldn’t even make it through one tour and now I can never serve again. I’m a twenty-three-year-old homeless veteran with the body of a twelve-year-old and a knee made out of plastic. What kind of danger could I possibly be to a guy with a robot arm, who can rip chunks of metal out of his own skin and not even scream?” I didn’t answer. I went back to the counter to get another waffle started for Bucky. “No, I get it,” he muttered from behind me. “He’s not worried that I’m dangerous to him. It’s you.”

“What?” I asked.

“He’s worried that I’m a danger to you.” I turned back around to face him. He was making his coffee and not paying any attention to me. As if this was a completely normal conversation to be having at the breakfast table. He was probably letting his mouth run ahead of him again.

“Stark said HYDRA was after you, right?” he continued as he stirred in the coffee creamer. He finally looked up at me, but I still didn’t answer. I turned my back on him again.

I had barely gotten the second waffle going when I heard Graham yelp from behind me. I turned around to find Bucky in the kitchen, silent on his feet even when he was in pain. He had Graham by the head and my pink knife pressed against the kid’s exposed throat.

“He knows too much,” he said, looking right at me. His expression was dark again, most of it hidden in the shade of his blood matted hair.

“Put the knife down. He’s just a kid,” I told him.

“Twenty-three,” Graham squeaked. We both ignored him.

“He knows too much about you,” Bucky continued. “If they haven’t gotten to him yet, they will.”

“Everything he knows is everything they already know.”

“He knows about me.”

“He doesn’t know anything about you except that you have a metal arm and a high tolerance for pain.”

“That’s enough. He runs his mouth to one person and we’re both dead.” I sighed.

“He’s not going to tell anyone. I trust him.”

“And if he does?”

“Then you have my permission to stab him, but not with my pink knife. Sam bought it for me and it’s my favorite.” I went to his side and yanked the knife out of his hand. He let it go but kept his metal grip on Graham’s face. The poor kid’s eyes were wide and terrified. Bucky forced his head back, making him look up so he could threaten him some more.

“You tell anyone I’m here. Anyone at all. And I won’t kill you, but I’ll make you wish I did. And if you hurt her, I will destroy everything you love and make you watch. And then I’ll kill you. Painfully. Slowly. Understood?” Graham tried to nod but his head was stuck.

“Yes, sir. I understand, sir,” he mumbled through metal fingers. I wrapped my hand around Bucky’s free arm and pulled him away from the table.

“Come on. You shouldn’t be up unless you absolutely have to,” I reminded him.

“I thought it was necessary.” He let me help him back to the couch and sat down with a pained grunt.

“How are you feeling?” I asked. He grunted again in response.

Since he was awake, I decided to set him up with the TV to give him something to do for the rest of the day. I pulled the coffee table closer to the couch so he wouldn’t have to reach very far to change the channels and so I could leave him with water or snacks or something.

“How long?” he asked as he watched me shuffle around the living room attempting to make him comfortable.

“How long for what?” I replied.

“How long was I here? Before.”

“Long enough for me to know you like waffles.”

“Uh—I think your waffle is burning,” I heard Graham say from the kitchen.

“Shit.” I hurried back to the kitchen to see if I could save it. Luckily, it wasn’t burned. But it was crispy. And Bucky seemed to like those ones more anyway. “Sorry about that,” I told Graham as I assembled Bucky’s plate and checked the waffle for burns.

“It’s alright. I really should watch what I say.”

“It wouldn’t matter. He doesn’t trust easily. I don’t even think he trusts me.”

“I think he does. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have come here.”

“Or it was just a matter of convenience.”

“Still. He’d have to trust you. Plus that whole—starry eyes thing he got when he looked at you.”

“I’m pretty sure that was just blood loss.”

“You’re right. I always look at people like that when I’m delirious from blood loss. I tried to propose marriage to all of my nurses.”

“You talk too much, kid,” I said as I passed him to take Bucky his waffle and some ibuprofen.

“I’m twenty-three!” he called after me.

Bucky was right where I left him on the couch. Only this time he’d moved the pillow to the other side so he could lie on his side without bothering his stitches. I set the plate down on the coffee table and then knelt beside him so I could look him in the eye.

“I brought you some ibuprofen. I’m afraid it won’t help much with the pain, but it might relieve some of the inflammation.” His face was half smushed into the pillow and the only word I could use to describe him like that was “adorable.” Like an angry and defeated cat. But I’d never say that out loud. His blue eyes were dark and his skin was pallid. But even then, he seemed so much more alive that he had before. As if he’d finally regained something of himself. And was comfortable expression irritation.

“Thank you,” he muttered even though the pillow was squishing his face.

“You’re welcome. Now will you tell me what happened? And I’m afraid ‘boom’ isn’t a sufficient enough explanation.” He lifted his hand and motioned toward the TV. I turned around to see what he was referring to. He was watching the news on mute. There was an image of a burning building they were still hosing down. The words “Explosion in downtown DC,” were under the picture. I couldn’t make out exactly what building or where it was. Just that the damage was substantial, and it was likely a government building. I turned back to Bucky. “That was you?” I asked.

“Them,” he said.

“You’re not with them anymore?”

“No.”

“How long?”

“Since I saw you last.” I nodded slowly.

“I knew you were starting to question things again.”

“I kept putting my hand over my heart,” he told me as he lifted his right hand and pressed it against his bare chest. “And counting to four.”

“Did you have any idea why you were doing that?”

“No. Just that you knew. And that was enough. Something wasn’t right.”

“But you don’t remember anything?”

“I remember some things. Him, mostly.” I nodded slowly and chewed on my lip.

“You mean Steve?”

“He was my friend.”

“He still is.” He didn’t say anything to that. He just studied my face and I couldn’t handle it for long. So I stood up. “Eat your waffle. I’ll help you get cleaned up afterward, but I have to work today and I’m going to take the kid to get some job applications. I’ll be back sometime in the late afternoon. Don’t even think about leaving this house or I’ll hunt you down myself.”

“They’re coming for you,” he said as I walked away.

“I decided not to worry about it,” I admitted. But I stopped in the hall with my hand on the banister. Then I turned back around to face him again. “I thought they just wanted me to use against you, but the last time I saw you, you said it was something else. Something big.” He shook his head slowly, even though it was still half smushed into the pillow.

“Whatever it is, it’s been a long time coming.” He paused. “It has nothing to do with me anymore.” I nodded.

“Let me know if you need any help.”

 

*Looks at the world's most deadly assassin* Aww.

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