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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16. Chapter Sixteen

It was too early for me to go to bed on a typical night, but I was usually always tired anyway. So I changed into my sweats and crawled into bed. The house was silent at first until I heard the murmur of Graham and Bucky’s voices in the kitchen below me. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I could hear their tones. Graham used his usual lighthearted sarcastic voice and did most of the talking, of course. But every once in a while I could make out the deep and flat tone of Bucky responding.

I wasn’t sure why I even wanted them to get along. Bucky would leave again. As soon as he was healed enough to move around with ease, he would disappear without a goodbye and I couldn’t guarantee that I’d ever see him again. I just wanted him to believe that Graham wasn’t out to get me. He needed to know there were still good people in the world. Sometimes a kid who needed a place to stay was just a kid who needed a place to stay. And in turn, I wanted Graham to trust Bucky. To want to help him or even just sympathize. Or at least to keep him secret.

Their conversation didn’t last long before fading out. Then I could hear one of them cleaning up the kitchen. I figured it was Graham since Bucky never made very much noise. And then I heard him bang into the table and curse, and I knew for sure it was Graham.

I fell asleep to the sound of ringing in my ears and the quiet drone of the TV from far off.

Someone was shouting from far away. I opened my eyes and stared at the brick wall in front of me. I was shaking as I fought the urge to follow the voice. I was sure it was someone I knew and cared about. I also knew I was going to kill them. My feet moved forward anyway, following the frantic cries for a medic. I wasn’t sure what led me to them. My instinct to heed that call, or if something much darker pushed me forward.

I made it back to the courtyard where Lieutenant Jimenez was shouting for me. He had a little girl propped up against a crumbled brick wall. She was bleeding from the stomach and he was doing everything he could to keep her alive. She needed medical attention. My attention. But my hands trembled as I lifted my heavy rifle. Jimenez hadn’t spotted me yet, but the girl did. I saw her eyes shift to my face as I approached him from behind, raised the gun, and stopped.

I was screaming in my own mind to stop moving. And once I was there, with the gun just inches from his head, my body finally listened. My fingers shook as I lowered the weapon, and I looked back at the little girl. She didn’t say anything and I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but he finally noticed the direction of her gaze and turned around to face me. He had no idea that just seconds ago I was telling myself not to kill him.

“Stay with her,” he instructed. Then he took off at a run and disappeared around a corner.

I felt relief wash over me when he was gone. I could fight the urge to kill him. Whatever it was. I could do it. I dropped to the girl’s side and pulled out my medical pack. I clutched a piece of cloth to the bleeding wound on her stomach and tried to think of something I could say to her that would explain why I’d almost killed my friend. But I knew she wouldn’t be able to understand. So I said the only thing that might make any sense to her.

“You’re going to be okay,” I lied. I could see that she wasn’t going to make it. Even if she did, she would never be free of this day and this moment. It would haunt her for the rest of her life. I just wished I could give her more time.

“Grenade!” someone shouted from down another alley. My heart dropped and I had no time to react before the explosion struck.

I came to halfway across the courtyard. I took a moment to recover from the blast. My ears were ringing as blood poured out of the one on the left. My face stung with tiny burns and scrapes. The little girl rested half buried under brick and ash just yards out of my reach.

I pushed myself up and stumbled to my feet. Captain Russell was the first to run out of the alley where the explosion had gone off. Our eyes met when he came to a stop. I knew that he was thinking about how I’d killed Tran. He probably already knew I’d killed Carlson too. Maybe he even knew I’d been seconds away from shooting his own lieutenant in the back of the head.

I expected my hands to move for the gun again, but I could feel that I had control over them now. My body felt drained and exhausted from fighting the urge to kill them. I didn’t want to kill Russell, and I could see that he didn’t want to kill me either. But he couldn’t trust me not to turn on them again. So he lifted his gun in my direction. There was only a moment of hesitation before he pulled the trigger.

My shoulder ached when I woke up. I bolted upright and clutched at the old wound. Right where Bucky said it looked like I’d been shredded. I hated these new dreams. I’d seen that day a thousand times at night and in all my intrusive memories that shoved their way into my brain when I was tired or scared. But it was never like this. They were changing and I didn’t believe it was my brain’s way of making sense of what happened. I didn’t think it was survivor’s guilt.

I used to ask myself why the shooter hadn’t killed me. He knew I was wearing armor. He was aware that shooting me in the shoulder wouldn’t kill me. He could have shot me in the face, but he didn't. He aimed for my shoulder so that I could live. Because he never wanted to kill me. Because I was his friend.

The house had gone silent. I could no longer make out the sound of the TV or anyone in the kitchen below me. The neighbor’s porch light had shut off and my room was dark and shaded. I climbed out of bed and tiptoed toward the door to pop it open. The door across the hall was shut, which meant Graham probably already went to bed too.

So I crept down the hallway and down the stairs. Bucky was lying on the couch on his side. He had his arm propped up under his head and the blanket resting at his hips. The streetlight shimmered through the blinds in the window behind him. Stripes of blue light lay scattered across his form. For a moment, I thought he must be sleeping. But then his eyes opened and he looked up at me. Neither of us spoke at first.

“Can’t sleep?” he finally asked. I shook my head.

“No,” I confirmed.

“I have them too.” He moved his hand. I could see the metal reflect in the stripes of light and shadows as he pushed the blanket off of his hips. Then he scooted back against the couch, apparently making room for me in the tight space.

I didn’t speak. I went to his side and laid down next to him. I had my back against his chest and he moved his arm so that I could rest my head on it. Then the blanket came down over the both of us. Only this time he made sure it covered my shoulders. I closed my eyes, feeling him breathing against the back of my neck. I just wanted him to hold me. I felt pathetic for wanting him to hold me.

“Do you ever see things that you thought couldn’t be real—but you’re starting to think otherwise?” I whispered.

“Every time,” he replied. I could feel his voice rumble through my back and I wanted desperately to roll over and listen to his heart beating.

“How do you deal with it?”

He didn’t answer. His metal hand came to rest around my body. It wasn’t heavy, which meant he was making sure he didn’t put too much weight on me. And even with the metal, his body made me so much warmer than I’d been in my own bed. I almost didn’t need the blanket, but I wasn’t going to ask him to move. I couldn’t listen to his heart, but he had his arm around me and that was enough.

“If I figure it out—I’ll let you know,” he said.

 

 

Updating again today because
1. We're going to try to leave early tomorrow and I can't guarantee that I'll be able to update before we go.
2. I didn't want to leave you guys with a Jo/Bucky semi-argument and then be gone for a full week.
3. That last chapter was kind of short.
4. Squishy squishy.

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