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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6. Chapter Six

I managed to slow most of the bleeding and got the wound sutured before I could move onto the other ones. Bucky had fallen unconscious before I finished. I knew this because he only made pained noises for the first five minutes before going completely silent. I wanted him to stay conscious but neither of us could get him to respond and if being jabbed with a needle wasn’t working, I didn’t know what else would. Besides, it might be better for him to be unconscious while I dug through a hole in his stomach with a pair of long metal tweezers.

He had one other large piece of glass in his chest just below the area where his skin was fused with metal. I was afraid to dig it out, just in case it affected his arm, but it didn’t end up very deep at all. The bleeding was minimal compared to the one in his stomach. The rest of them were easier after that. The glass or chunks of metal and rocks were smaller and only required a few sutures here and there. Graham stayed by my side, offering towels and holding the flashlight as I instructed. And I spent a good hour picking out every piece that I could find. The ones on his head hadn’t been very deep, thankfully, but head wounds tended to bleed a lot. And I took a long time sorting through his tangled brown hair to make sure they hadn’t fractured his skull. My guess was that he’d lifted his arm to block his head, which probably saved his life.

He never woke up.

By the time I was done, he had a significant amount of stitches and I was thanking whatever gods that were listening that I’d stocked up on supplies. He had them ranging from the top of his hip bone and all the way up to an area just above his ear. The largest was the section on his abdomen, and the smallest were two spots on his cheek and chin. I wasn’t sure how many I’d given him since I lost count. But once I finished, I slid back into the floor between the couch and the coffee table. I was too tired to clean him up. His metal hand was limp as it hung off the edge of the sofa. His fingers barely grazed the floor at my side. I lifted my knee and rested my hand on it. Both of them were covered in drying blood.

Graham was sitting on the coffee table at my side. He looked as exhausted as I felt. Though I wasn’t sure if it was physical or emotional. He probably didn’t expect to see anything like that again.

“Thank you for your help,” I said after a long silence. I dropped my head back, resting it on Bucky’s immobile thigh.

“I don’t really know what to say to that,” Graham replied. He was looking down at his hands now, still shaky.

“I’m sorry you had to see all of that. I wouldn’t have asked you to stay if I thought it was a possibility.”

“Who is this guy anyway? I mean—you said he was a sergeant but he has a metal arm. He won’t go to the hospital. You called him ‘baby.” I pinched my eyes shut and had to remind myself that I couldn’t rub them with bloodied fingers.

“It slipped out.”

“Stark said the last guy you dated put a bullet in your shoulder.”

“You know you’re really observant.”

“You’re not the first person to say that.” I sighed and lifted my head again.

“It’s complicated. We never dated. He was never my boyfriend. There was a just a thing. An almost thing. It didn’t last long enough to become a thing.”

“And he shot you?” I shook my head.

“He saved my life. If he didn’t shoot me, I’d be dead.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I’m too tired to explain it to you right now. Like I said, it’s complicated. He bought me time on a technicality. That’s all there is to it. He saved my life, but yeah, I got shot in the process.”

“And you love him?” I didn’t answer. I studied the blood caked to my fingernails instead. “You don’t have to answer that. That was rude.”

“No, it’s fine,” I assured him. “It’s just that—I don’t really know how to answer that. I didn’t know him long enough to love him.”

“It’s not about time, man. It’s about an emotional bond. My parents only knew each other for two weeks when they got married,” he told me, as he picked the blood out of his own fingernails. “It was mostly because my dad was in the Navy and being shipped out soon. I was young when he died so I can’t really remember if they loved each other. I just know they were together until he got sick. And she stayed with him even when he was sick. I guess that’s love.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” He shrugged.

“That’s life, right? Marry a girl you’ve known for two weeks because you think you’re going to die in war, only to get taken out by your own body turning against you. Could be worse, though, I guess. Could be frozen for seventy years, like you said.” I regretted making that comment now that Bucky was lying bleeding on the couch behind me.

“Believe it or not, it could actually be worse than that,” I informed him.

“How so?”

“You have no idea who this man is, do you?” He looked at Bucky beside me. I could still hear him breathing softly, but he’d lost so much blood. I wasn’t sure how long it would take for him to wake up. And I certainly didn’t know how long it would take for him to recover.

“Does he work at Chipotle?” Graham asked. I smiled and shook my head.

“No, I don’t think he even knows what Chipotle is.”

“Then I don’t know him.”

“You know someone with a metal arm at Chipotle?” He laughed softly.

“Nah. I was just trying to make a joke.” I sighed heavily and dropped my head back again. “He’s not going to make it, is he?” I looked back up at him.

“I think he’ll be fine once he recovers from all the blood loss.”

“I’ve never seen anyone survive after losing that much blood.”

“He’s resilient.” He shrugged.

“I guess you’d have to be with an arm made out of metal. Those scars look—brutal.”

“I imagine it required resiliency.”

“You never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“About whether or not you love him.”

“I don’t know,” I told him truthfully. “I don’t think I’m really qualified to make that call. But it’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to that. Romantically anyway.” He nodded slowly and looked back at his hands.

“I think he loves you,” he said, speaking in a hushed voice as if Bucky was going to overhear.

“Why do you say that?”

“Just the way he looked at you when you called him ‘baby.”

“Like how?”

I was honestly expecting him to give me something cheesy or romantic. Some kind of ridiculous analogy. He liked to read a lot. But he just shrugged and said, “He just looked at you like a guy looks at someone they love; I don’t know.” I shook my head again. I didn’t really know what that meant and I was under too much stress to know how Bucky looked when I’d said it. I didn’t mean to say it either. I’d never called him that before. I hadn’t seen him in months. But maybe seeing him there bleeding everywhere and not opening his eyes; I just panicked.

“You should get cleaned up and get some sleep. Bathroom is upstairs. First door on the left. Yours is the second door on the left. Sheets and towels are in the closet. Though I guess there aren’t any towels right now. There might still be a few in the bathroom.”

“Are you going to stay down here with him?” he asked.

“Yeah, I can’t leave him alone like this.”

“We could take shifts.” I shook my head.

“No, he doesn't know you. I don’t know how he’d react if you were the first person he saw after all this.” I watched him climb back on his feet. Now that he was tired it was more evident that his knee was injured. He hobbled like an old man with back pain as he came around the table.

“Do you want any help cleaning up?” He nodded toward the grocery bags we’d abandoned on the floor. “Or putting the food away?”

“No, it’s fine. It’ll give me something to do. I don’t sleep much anyway.”

“Alright. Well—goodnight.”

“Night.”

He disappeared up the stairs and I waited until he was gone before I got back to my feet. I went to the kitchen to wash the blood off of my hands and spent the next few minutes putting away the groceries that were now warm. When I was done, I went back to the living room to clean up the blood that had dripped all over my couch and onto the floor. Luckily, the towels had collected most of it, but there were still going to be stains. Bucky didn’t wake up, even as I lifted his arm up and pushed him on his side so I could exchange the towels beneath him for clean ones.

My phone was still in my back pocket and I could feel it buzz for what must have been the third time. I was carrying the towels into the kitchen so I could clean them before they stained and I was pretty sure Stark was calling. I was also pretty sure that he wasn’t going to let me get away with ignoring him for much longer. So I pressed accept and brought it to my ear.

“I’m fine,” I assured him.

“Why the hell haven’t you answered? I’ve been trying to get ahold of you all night,” he retorted.

“I was busy. I’ve had some friends over. I didn’t hear my phone.”

“JARVIS lost connection for almost an hour. I was about five seconds away from getting into a suit.”

“We’re okay, Stark. The raccoon cut the power and I called a friend to help me fix it. Now he’s staying over. Nothing to worry about.”

“What friend?”

“Just another ex-soldier from my meetings.”

“I know about the kid. Who’s the other guy?”

“I’m not telling you because I’m not going to let you do anymore background checks on my friends. They’re both fine. They’re both nice guys. Don’t worry about it. I know what I’m doing.”

“I find that really hard to believe.”

“Just butt out and let me make my own mistakes then. Clara’s my sister. Not my mother. I don’t need you to babysit me.”

“I really hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Goodnight, Stark.” I hung up and slid the phone back into my pocket.

I got the towels soaking in the washer and the blood cleaned off of the kitchen floor and the hallway before I returned to the living room. Bucky still hadn’t moved, and I wasn’t sure how long he would be out for. So I pulled the blanket off of the back of the couch and draped it over them. Then I returned to my seat on the floor at his side. Only this time, I reached out and wrapped my palm around his metal fingers before shutting my eyes.

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