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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49. Chapter Forty Nine

The only thing that marked the time was the temperature. Sometimes my cell was so cold that my body ached. I would curl into a ball on the floor and hold back tears. I had to be strong. Even if it was just to piss them off. But sometimes the cold would be a little more bearable. Still freezing, but not painfully so. Or maybe I was just getting used to it.

The light never changed. The hall remained dark and silent except for the single light down in the tunnel that gave me just enough to see my darkened surroundings. Just like before, I didn’t hear him when he approached, but I knew he was there when I noticed the glint of metal in the dark. He didn’t waste time watching me. He walked right to my cell and slid a cup of water through the bars at the bottom. I jumped right up. I’d had enough water to last me, but since most of it had gone into my lungs, I was dehydrated. I reached for the cup as he stood and watched.

“Why are you bringing me this?” I asked him.

“Why do you ask so many questions?” he retorted.

“You’re the first person I’ve seen in hours. Days maybe. What else did you expect?”

“You talk too much.” I gulped down the water, enough to spill it over my face.

“Never heard that before,” I said when I stopped to breathe. He stayed where he was, watching me silently through the bars. I emptied the cup and set it back down by the bars. The water tasted metallic and stagnant, but it was better than none at all. He made no move to pick it up. “They send you here or did you come on your own?” I questioned.

“They sent me,” he replied in that same flat tone.

“Why?”

“You’re no use to anyone dead.”

“Well great. Now I can look forward to freezing to death instead of dying from dehydration.”

“You’re cold,” he stated. I nodded sarcastically.

“Just a tad,” I replied. “But you know, I’m also starving, in a lot of pain, uncomfortable, and still bleeding. So you have to pick and choose, right?”

“I’ve never done this before.”

“Done what?” He kicked the bars, barely nudging the cup with the tip of his boot.

“They’ve never asked me to do this before.”

“Why am I so special?” I asked. He looked down at me like he was trying to find the answer to that question too.

“I don’t know. I did what I was supposed to do. I’ve been awake too long. I thought they would have…” He trailed off and didn’t finish his thought, but he was thinking. “Why do you talk to me and no one else?” he asked me.

“Voice maybe. You’re the only American I’ve encountered here.” He moved his head just slightly to the side as if I’d said something odd. I’d heard him speak to them, but not in English. He spoke Russian to them, sometimes German. But when the conversations were in English, mostly for my benefit, they spoke with thick accents. But not him.

“That’s not it,” he said. “They cut you open, held you underwater, and you didn’t give them what they wanted. You told me without question.”

“Now look who’s asking questions. Feels good, doesn’t it?”

He took a step back and looked up to into a dark corner of my cell. It was too dark there for me to see, but I was pretty sure I knew what he was looking at. They were watching us, and he wasn’t supposed to be asking questions. I leaned forward on my knees and gripped a bar with my one good hand.

“You don’t want to be here,” I stated. He looked back at me again. His eyebrows knitted. His expression was dark. “I can see it on your face. I saw it before—when you were holding me by my hair.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He turned to walk off, but I pressed my face between the bars.

“I think you do, Sergeant Barnes.” He froze and turned sharply.

“What did you just say?” he asked.

“You think I’m just giving away information? To the man who helped torture me? What makes you think I’m not exactly where I want to be?” He didn’t move. “I wanted to hear you say your name. It’s James, in case you were telling the truth about not knowing. James Barnes. No, they called you something else. Bucky.” He was in the shadows now, but I could still make out the form of him. The set of his shoulders was tense and imposing. He looked dangerous again. Like he would lash out at me if I continued.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“A few decades ago, you watched my mother throw herself off of a bridge. You never wondered what they wanted her for. You probably don’t even remember her. I can only imagine the things that you see when you close your eyes. I know that they made you kill. My mother knew all about you, James. So you want to know why I’m asking you so many questions or I who chose to talk to you after what you did to me and my squad? I needed to confirm you were really him. James Barnes. Steve Rogers called you Bucky. Do you remember him?”

He finally marched forward, he knelt down to my level, reached through the bars with his metal hand and yanked me forward. He slammed my face into the bars and brought his face close to mine.

“You’re lying,” he growled. I smiled.

“Am I?” I asked.

“You’re a spy.”

“They didn’t just send you after her because she had something they wanted. She had the ability to tell the whole world about you. Want to know why she jumped off that bridge? So you didn’t have to kill her. She didn’t want you to have her blood on your hands. Because James Barnes was a good man.” He gripped my shirt harder and pressed my face against the bars. I’d lost my balance, so my wounded shoulder stung on contact with the cold, rusted bars. I winced, and he seemed to like that.

“I’m not him,” he insisted.

“Not anymore,” I agreed. “But you could be.”

“Why did you need to confirm I’m him?”

“I needed to prove you had no memory.”

“Why?”

“He wants to set you free.” He released my shirt, and I righted myself.

“Why?” he repeated.

“Because it’s what my mother wanted,” I explained. He leaned forward and wrapped his hands around the bars.

“They’re never going to let you walk out of here with that information. Even if it’s true. Neither of us will remember.”

“Unless you get me out of here,” I suggested. He stood up, and I watched him.

“What makes you think I’m not exactly where I want to be?” he asked. Then someone started clapping from the hall where the light came from. He stood back as the other man approached. The one who’d instructed him to hold me underwater.

“Bravo,” the man said, clapping his hands together. “Excellent work, Corporal. Not a butterfly after all. A sly little fox.” He turned to Barnes, who was now standing back, still and silent as he waited for more instructions. “You’ve done well, Soldier,” he said. “You can leave.” Barnes turned to leave, following orders without question. I didn’t believe for a second that he’d been acting. He was a soldier, an assassin. He wasn’t made to manipulate his targets. He was trained to kill, not to lie. My words got through to him, but I didn’t know how long he’d be able to hold onto them.

“You can still go free, James,” I said as he retreated. “Remember what I said. James Barnes is a good man. He’s still in there. I know it.” He didn’t come back from the shadows.

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