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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15. Chapter Fifteen

Letting Graham give me the idea to sit everyone at the kitchen table was terrible. Dinner was awkward. I really just wanted Bucky and Graham to talk and possibly find some kind of common interests. Maybe they’d never learn to like each other, but if I could get them to tolerate each other I’d call it a win. After the first few minutes, I decided that was never going to happen. Graham was staring at his plate, pretending we weren’t there. Bucky took the chair closest to the wall so he could watch everything, as usual. His shoulders were tense and his eyes were dark. He hardly touched his food at all, and I knew for a fact that he liked pizza.

“One time when I was a kid,” Graham started as he picked an olive off of his slice of pizza, “my mom brought this guy home for dinner. It was the first time she’d dated anyone since my dad died. It was a lot like this. Very quiet. Very uncomfortable. Only I think the roles were reversed. Because he clearly wanted me to like him, she wanted me to like him, but it was obvious I never would. Now I think I know how he felt. You know—except he probably didn’t feel like he was going to be murdered.” Bucky only glanced at Graham like this was the most obscure story he’d ever heard. Then his eyes were back on me.

“Um…” I said. “So what happened? To the guy?” Graham shrugged.

“I guess he had a wife or something. Like they were in the process of divorcing but he didn’t bother to tell my mom. She was really upset about it. Never saw him again.”

“Well—um—I’m sure you guys have more in common than you think. You both have military backgrounds. That’s something. Kind of.” Graham looked up at me.

“It’s completely different,” he said.

“How is it different?” Bucky asked.

“I’m pretty sure you weren’t a marine.” Bucky shook his head. “See? Plus the whole—time period thing. Military was a lot different back then.” Bucky froze and gave me another dark look. I shrugged.

“He would have figured it out eventually,” I explained.

“You know who I am?” he asked Graham.

“She’s right. I would have figured it out eventually. My dad was REALLY into Captain America when I was a kid. I mean—I didn’t know much about you. But it wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure it out.” He looked down at his plate. “Actually, I never would have figured it out.” Bucky cut his eyes to me again.

“Why?”

“I wanted him to understand the situation,” I explained. “If he thought you were just some random guy off the street, he wouldn’t have cared.”

“I might have cared,” Graham remarked.

“He didn’t understand why we couldn’t just take you to a hospital. And I didn’t go into detail. I just—casually let him know what it was important for him to stay quiet.”

“You know you’re an easy target,” Bucky said. “If I had been sent to kill you, I wouldn’t even have to try very hard. You would have been dead the moment you walked into this house. Maybe even sooner.”

“What?”

“They know everything about you. They were in your head. They’ll know exactly how to get to you again.”

“What exactly are you implying?”

“I’m saying he’s too much of a coincidence. You just happened to find a kid who…”

“Twenty-three,” Graham muttered. Bucky ignored him.

“Who needs a place to stay? They would have known what you would do. They could have set you up. They wouldn’t even have to try very hard. You brought him into your home. You’re telling him things you shouldn’t be telling anyone.” I sighed and dropped my slice of pizza back onto the plate. I was suddenly not hungry anymore.

“If they wanted me, they would just come and get me,” I pointed out. “They would have no reason to set me up with some kid—sorry, twenty-three-year-old—to get into my house. I haven’t told him anything they wouldn’t already know. And he couldn’t have come here hoping to find you. Because they tried to make damn sure that you wouldn’t know who I was. There’s a reason they haven’t made a move yet. I’m fairly confident that when they do, they’re not going to try and manipulate me into caring for them or sneak their way into my life. They’re just going to show up and toss my ass into the back of a truck. Do you understand?”

“So why aren’t you doing anything? Why are you making it so easy for them to take you?”

“What do you want me to do, Buck? You expect me to go back to Stark and hide behind my friends?”

“Yes, actually.”

“Well, I’m not doing that again. I didn’t go to Malibu to heal. I went to hide. And I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“You don’t care? You’re just going to let them win?”

“Honestly, Bucky, I wouldn’t care if they came charging in the front door right now. Actually, no. I would care. But only because the two of you are here and I don’t want you to get caught in the crossfire. But if you weren’t, or I could be sure that you’d make it out safely, I wouldn’t care. I don’t care if they come. I don’t care what they want from me. I just want them to hurry the hell up so I can figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life.” I pushed myself away from the table and left the kitchen.

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