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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17. Chapter Seventeen

The blast damaged my eardrum. I could feel it as the world went silent and all I could hear was the high pitched ringing that blocked out everything else. I could see bricks and ash shift as I moved out of the rubble at my feet. I could feel the warm wetness of blood as it dripped out of my ear and down my cheek. But there was freedom in the silence. I lifted my hands, examining them for scrapes and burns, and the first thing I noticed was that I had complete control over them. They were still shaking, but I no longer felt like I was fighting a battle with my own mind.

Captain Russell couldn’t have known that. He just knew that I’d killed two members of his team and would likely kill more. He didn’t know that I felt free again. So when he found me, he had to make sure I didn’t get the chance to kill again. I could see him weigh his options out in his mind. He could kill me for what I’d done, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. So he shot me in the shoulder instead.

It was the Colonel that brought me out of my daze. I saw him run into the open courtyard where he was exposed and vulnerable to sniper fire. He hit the ground when a bullet struck his thigh. I knew I’d never be redeemed for the lives I’d taken, but I couldn’t let another person die when I had the chance to save them.

So I started to crawl. My legs were too weak to carry me, and I’d lost too much blood to stand. I wasn’t sure if I could reach him in time or what would happen when I did. I just knew that I had to try. I would never forgive myself if I didn’t.

The grenade rolled into view before I reached him. I didn’t know if it was a delayed explosion or a dud, but I reached for it and sent it back where it came from. It ignited in midair, and the explosion was loud enough to break through the ringing silence. I felt the heat of the blast as shards of metal and fire rained down over the courtyard. It took out half a building, killing the people who’d sent it.

The Colonel was yelling at me. I could make out to the sound of his shouts as I continued to crawl toward him. I knew he wanted me to get out of there, but I would use my damaged eardrum as an excuse to disobey his orders. I moved to his side, pulled myself up onto my knees, and examined the wound. He tried to shove me away, but I refused. I knew what I had to do to keep him alive, and I was going to try it.

He lost consciousness after I dug my fingers into the hole in his thigh. I felt the artery slipping between my fingers. I needed to pinch it. To hold off the bleeding long enough for it to form a clot. It would be dirty and messy, and he could end up with a severe infection in his blood, but I might be able to help him with that if I could keep him alive long enough to worry about it.

I could hear rapid gunfire and shouting from far off as the ringing began to fade. I could feel something trying to burrow its way back into my brain like a slippery little worm.

“Sever it,” my mind instructed as the artery slipped between my fingers. I shook my head.

“I won’t,” I spoke out loud. I’d fought it once to save Jimenez. I could do it again. I couldn’t save the others now, but I could still save him. I wasn’t going to let it win.

The shouting grew louder, and my concentration began to slip. I looked up as Lieutenant Jimenez rushed down the road, yelling for me to get out of the courtyard. I couldn’t hear his exact words, but he was waving his arms, and I could read his lips.

“They’re coming!” he was saying as he motioned his hands for me to run. I felt my feet respond, and I managed to get myself standing. My hands moved for my gun, and I heard the voice again at the back of my head, slippery like an artery.

“Kill him.”

So I lifted the gun and fired.

“Wake up, spooners,” I heard someone say. Then I felt Bucky jolt behind me. His arm shot off of me in a flash, and I listened to the metal come into contact with his gun. “Jesus. I’m sorry,” Graham was saying. “Where did you have that thing anyway?”

“Couch cushions,” I mumbled as I pulled the blanket back over my head and buried my face into the warm crook of Bucky’s arm. He relaxed and lowered his gun. I could feel him shove it back into the cushions. “I felt it in there when I was tucking the blanket in.”

"And you couldn't have warned me?"

“What exactly did you expect me to tell you?”

“Fuck if I know. But it would be nice to walk into a room without someone holding a weapon to my face—or throat.”

“Here’s your warning then. He’s always armed. Always.”

“You startled me,” Bucky added.

“Believe it or not, I managed to work that one out for myself,” Graham retorted. I could hear his feet on the floor as he walked away. Presumably toward the kitchen. Bucky sighed and dropped his head back onto the arm of the couch.

“I’m not used to seeing you caught off guard,” I noted.

“I was comfortable,” he told me.

“Mm.” I pulled the blanket down off of my face and blinked as my eyes adjusted to the light. “I have to get ready for work.”

“Is that absolutely vital?”

“Unfortunately.”

I moved his arm off of my waist and sat up. My eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the bright sunlight filtering through the blinds. I could hear Graham rummaging around in the kitchen for something to eat. He was apparently having no trouble making himself at home. Bucky stayed on the couch behind me, and when I turned around to check on him, his eyes were closed, and his arm tucked back under his head. It was unbelievable to me that he could lie in that position all night and not regret it in the morning. My shoulders were aching, my neck was stiff, I must have changed my position at least twenty times.

“I need to check your stitches,” I told him as I stood up and everything cracked and ached.

“They’re fine,” he mumbled. He didn’t bother to open his eyes.

“I might have pulled them out while we were sleeping.”

“They’re fine.”

“Just roll onto your back. You don’t even have to do anything.” He took a deep breath and let it go. Then he readjusted himself onto his back so I could examine the sutures.

I took my seat beside him again. I wasn’t too worried about the smaller ones since those wounds would likely heal on their own. It was the big one that worried me. I knew it was unlikely that it would get infected, and he’d probably heal quickly. But there had been so much internal damage and blood loss that I couldn’t say how long it would take.

“I never took you for lazy,” I muttered.

“Mm,” he replied, flopping his arm over his eyes to block out the light.

I put one hand on his chest to balance myself on the narrow seat and moved my other thumb just below the wound to check the swelling. His skin tensed, and he whispered something in a language I couldn’t understand. It sounded like Russian. I glanced at him, but it was hard to judge his expression with his arm covering half his face.

“Does it hurt when I do that?” I questioned.

“No,” he replied in a flat and emotionless tone.

“When does it hurt?”

“When I’m moving. Or breathing.”

I nodded and moved my hand up to the second biggest set of stitches. I didn’t really need to check them since I could see that none of them had pulled, and they already appeared to be healing. But I was testing a theory. So I gently ran my finger over his skin below the stitches, and he reacted the same way. His stomach clenched, and he held his breath, but he didn’t speak.

“Hurts?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Then why do you keep holding your breath?”

“Your fingers are cold.” He was lying. Lying up against him all night was like lying on a furnace. I’d actually thrown the blankets off more than once.

“Mm-hmm. I’m sure.”

“The kid is in the other room.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just making an observation.”

I reached forward and pressed my lips against the line of his jaw, just an inch from his mouth. I would have gone for his cheek if his arm wasn’t in the way, but he didn’t move it until he felt me. He lifted it over his head, exposing his blue eyes to the light. They searched my face, but I kept my distance.

“Please be here when I get back tonight?” I asked him. He moved his hand again, this time trailing his knuckles along my cheek and moving the hair that had fallen in my face.

“I will be,” he said. I stood up and stepped away from the couch. He dropped his hand again.

“Waffles or cereal?” I asked him.

“Either is fine,” he replied. So I nodded and spun around to head toward the kitchen, but ran right into Graham instead.

“Wha!” he said when we collided.

“Oh jeez, I didn’t hear you. Sorry,” I told him as he tried to regain his balance.

“How did you not hear me? I stop like an elephant wherever I go.”

“I heard him,” Bucky said from behind me. I turned back around to glare at him, but he just gave me that half-smile and covered his eyes with his arm again.

 

 

I'm back! *Dances*

Uh... I saw The Bronze ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°), got a tattoo, I went to Disneyland, overdrafted my bank account, had a bad reaction to something and got a rash on my face, got stuck in a snowstorm on the way home and spent 16 hours on the road. But it was good times.

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