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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31. Chapter Thirty One

We were still sitting there on the kitchen floor when Graham walked in. Neither of us had spoken since Bucky verbalized his last suspicion. Graham halted in the doorway and looked at us with apparent confusion.

“Why are you on the floor?” he asked. He still had a book in his hands. Bucky shot him a glare and stupid up in one quick motion. He reached his arm down to help me up, and I hobbled to his side.

“Just putting stuff away,” I explained as I brushed off my jeans. Then I turned back to the sink to look for something else I could clean.

“You know I have some shirts you could probably borrow. They might be kind of tight but—that’s probably better than being half naked all the time. I imagine anyway.” I spun back around.

“You don’t have any shirts in your backpack?” I asked Bucky. He shook his head.

“No,” he admitted.

“What do you carry in that thing then?” He didn’t answer, but he looked at me, and I guessed that he just didn’t want to say it in front of Graham. “I ripped apart your only shirt?” He nodded. “I still have the ones I bought for you the last time you were here.”

“You bought me shirts?”

“You had even less than you have now. You kept borrowing Steve’s stuff. I’ll go see if I can find them.” I headed toward the hallway and passed Graham.

“Is there any reason you didn’t tell me this before?” Bucky asked from behind me. I spun back around and smiled. He’d asked in a very casual, but almost suspicious tone. He was standing in my kitchen not wearing a shirt. I thought it was fairly obvious why I didn’t tell him.

“Take one guess,” I said. Then I turned back into the hall.

“Put me out of my misery,” Graham muttered.

“I can do that,” Bucky replied.

“For fuck’s sake. I was joking.”

“Damn.”

I headed up the stairs to my bedroom. When Bucky stayed with me before, I bought him a few changes of clothes so that he didn’t have to keep borrowing from Steve. Only he’d left without them. When I got back from Malibu I found them while I was moving everything out of my storage unit. I stuffed them into the back of my closet. I wasn’t even sure why I kept them. Maybe I was hoping he could use them again if he ever came back.

I had to dig my way into the closet to find the backpack, and that was the number one reason why I didn’t look for them in the first place. Or so I told myself. I managed to drag the entire thing out onto the bedroom floor. It was heavy with more than just clothes, and I couldn’t remember what else I’d stuffed in there until I unzipped it and emptied it out onto the floor. Aside from the clothes, there was a thick heavy roll of black leather.

I almost forgot about them. I knew I still had them somewhere, but I couldn’t remember where I’d put them or why I’d even shoved them into the backpack with Bucky’s clothes.

I unrolled the pack and looked down at the set of shiny black titanium throwing knives. I hadn’t taken them out since Russell gave them to me, but I could still see that they were just as sharp and deadly. I reached out to slide one of the knives out of its pocket. The edges were sharp and razor thin. I slid it out completely and then sat staring at the unusual looking tip.

There was a number etched into the metal. The black titanium made it almost unnoticeable. But when the light caught just the right way, I could see where it had been scraped into the blade with something sharp.

I had another pack of throwing knives when I worked with Russell. But they had been standard steel and military grade. He taught me how to use them, but there had been nothing fancy or extraordinary about them. I had to hand them in before I shipped home. Never even got to use them in the field. I just knew they definitely didn’t come with numbers etched into the blades.

These ones were a gift from Russell. He came to visit me in Ohio before I went to work for SHIELD and moved to DC. I was still recovering from my injury, suffering from severe depression. He found me sitting on the hood of my old car eating a hamburger in a baseball field parking lot. He didn’t know about the note I’d hastily written before stuffing it into my glove compartment. He didn’t know about my plans or the fact that I got the burger thinking it would be the last one I ever ate. But he must have suspected it. I probably looked as awful as I felt.

He sat on the hood with me, and we talked for two hours. I just remembered sitting out there until after the sun went down. The field lit up for a high school game. We watched from the hood of my car. I don’t really remember what we talked about. Just that after he left, I ripped the note into tiny shreds and disposed of it. I went back for another burger the next day and once again before I moved to DC. I stopped at that place every time I went home. There was nothing special about their burgers except for the fact that it didn’t end up being my last meal.

Before he left that night, he had me walk him back to his rental car. He rolled the knives out onto the hood to show me. I couldn’t see the numbers etched into the blades in the dark. As he rolled them back up, he made me make him a promise.

“Don’t let them get dull,” he said.

I frantically slid the rest of the knives out one by one. Each knife had a different number. None of them were the same, and they didn’t appear to be in any particular order. There were five blades in total, and each number ranged from zero to nine. So I’d either been given a partial set, or the numbers meant something. Considering the last gift he gave me was a book full of codes, I decided they probably meant something. I wondered if they were connected, but Bucky might know. So I slid them back into place, rolled them back up, and grabbed one of Bucky’s shirts.

He was back on the couch writing in his notebook. I dropped the shirt onto his lap, sat down beside him, and unrolled the set onto the coffee table.

“Holy shit,” Graham said from the armchair. “Those are wicked.” I slid one knife out and flipped it over my shoulder for Bucky to take.

“Notice anything?” I asked. He examined the blade.

“Number,” he said.

“Russell gave these to me before I went to work for SHIELD.” I turned to look at him as he began shuffling the pages of his notebook.

“Set them out.” He handed the knife back over, and I laid them all out on the table. He looked at the blades, and back to the book, then back to the knives again. He did this several times before turning his eyes on me. “Five is an unusual number for a set of throwing knives,” he said.

“I never questioned it. I guess I thought there was one for each finger.” He shook his head slowly.

“No. You could only hold two on one hand at each time. At most. Which would leave one extra.” I nodded.

“I never carried more than one in each hand at a time.”

“Five is an odd number. This number set.” He reached out and tapped his finger against one of the knives. The metal against metal made a clinking sound every time they met. “It’s a pattern. It’s the only constant I’ve been able to pick out. Out of the first set of numbers, anyway. We couldn’t figure out the code because we didn’t have the numbers. He gave them to you separately so no one could understand the system without the knives.”

“What are they?” I asked.

“Flip them.” I did as he said, turning each blade onto the other side. There was nothing on the tips of the blade. But right beneath the hilts, letters had been etched into the metal. They barely glinted off of the light from the window behind us.

“They’re vowels,” I noted.

“The other numbers change and fluctuate. Likely at the start of a new sequence. Except for the vowels. He separated them.”

“Who separated the what from the what now?” Graham asked. He was sitting on the chair, but now more interested in us than the book. He even had his mouth half open.

“Shush,” Bucky said.

“Do you think you can figure it out?” I asked as the three of us sat staring at the knives.

“I’m not sure, but it might help.” He went back to the notebook and returned to the page where he started copying the code. Then he reached out to touch a knife. “O,” he said as his finger clinked against the titanium. “A.” He tapped another knife. “A.” He tapped it again. Then he went through the others. “E.” Tap. “I.” Tap. “A. U. U.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“There’s a set of numbers not included in this set,” he muttered as he reached for a pen and began to write it down on the top of the page. “Number. O. Number. A. Number. Number. A.”

“What is that?”

“It looks like it might be spelling out—J.O.H.A.N.N.A.”

“Johanna.”

“So the next sequence is number. E. I. Number. Number. E. Number. Number.”

“What do you think that one is?”

“It’s an entirely different set of numbers, save for the vowels. No repeats from the first word, so nothing I can work with.”

“How many?”

“Eight.”

“So it’s not Hayes.”

“No.”

“Weisberg,” I whispered. He didn’t say anything, but I saw him write it down.

“It fits,” he finally told me. I nodded. “The next sequence is three numbers. A and U. If you’re right about Weisberg then it would make the last number a G. The rest after that don’t follow a pattern. It might be a date.”

“What are they?”

“One, two, one, nine, eight, five.”

“Twelve, nineteen-eighty-five.” He went silent as I sat there trying to work out what that meant. No doubt he’d already put it together. But at least he was letting me say the words. “Johanna Weisberg. August 12, 1985.”

“The day she died,” he muttered. I shook my head. He knew damn well that’s not what it meant.

“No,” I replied. “My birth certificate says I was born on August 13th. I don’t think it’s mean to mark her death. It’s my birthday. My real birthday.”

“Wait a second,” Graham said as he pinched his eyes. “I thought your name was Hayes.”

“It is,” I told him. Then we all sat there in silence for a few minutes before I stood up. “I’ll go ahead and order those sandwiches,” I said.

“Johanna,” Bucky replied. I was starting to get used to that irritated tone.

“I’m not avoiding it. I just need a minute, okay?” He probably didn’t believe me. Hell, I didn’t even believe me.

I leaned against the counter in the kitchen as I called in the order. I didn’t ask them what they wanted, but I didn’t want to go back in there to ask. Bucky usually never cared anyway. He ate what was put in front of him and never gave me a straight answer when I asked what he wanted.

Once I was done, I set the phone down on the counter and stayed where I was leaning on my elbows. I didn’t hear him this time. He just appeared in my peripherals and leaned his back against the counter beside me. He crossed his arms over his chest, which was unfortunately clothed now.

“I understand if you don’t want to talk to me,” he said.

“Why do you say that?” I questioned. He looked down at me.

“I was there the day she died. I was the reason she jumped.” I shook my head.

“You said so yourself. She made the choice. Now I’m starting to figure out why.”

“She was alone when I found her. Running toward the city. She was trying to throw me off. Russell wouldn’t have left her to defend herself without good reason.”

“Where did she die?”

“Cleveland.” I nodded slowly.

“She was leading you away from me.” Neither of us spoke as we let that sink in.

“I wanted to kill her,” he admitted.

“I know.” I took a deep breath and let it go. Then I looked back down at my hands and picked at the tile. “What did she look like? Do you remember?” He shook his head once.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember her features. Just her hair. It was more gold than brown. She was…” He stopped.

“She was what, Bucky?”

“I didn’t have to question why Russell wasn’t with her. She was soaked in blood. I assumed it was his. I assumed they got to him before I was sent in. She ran like she was in pain. I didn’t even have to chase her. I walked.”

“They took her body after she fell, didn’t they?” He nodded.

“Yes.”

“So they would have known. If she’d given birth recently.”

“Yes.”

“When you said they were looking for me and they just didn’t know it was me.”

“They must have known she had a child. She and Russell both used different aliases. He was good at falsifying information. They wouldn’t know he’d go to his sister or even if he had a sister. They wouldn’t have thought you’d have any relation at all.”

“How do you think they found out?”

“They had no reason to dig into your past. If they had you before, as we suspect, then they must have assumed you were just a soldier with a memory they wanted to keep locked away. SHIELD hired you to cover HYDRA’s trail. They only began digging when you got involved with me. They must have had the missing pieces. Put things together.”

“That still doesn’t explain why they didn’t just kill me and prevent whatever secret they had from getting out.”

“I don’t know why they kept you alive. But I bet you Russell knows.”

“So whatever they want now—it couldn’t be because I have something she had. I was just a baby. It would have to be…”

“Your blood.”

“Exactly.”

“We don’t know anything about her. She could have been enhanced. Genetics was her—specialty. She could have done something to herself and passed it on to you. She could have experimented on you willingly for all we know.” I shook my head.

“I know what you’re getting at. There’s nothing special about me.”

“You know that’s not true.”

“I have no talents. No weird skills. I’m just—an average person. Average Jo.” I attempted to laugh at my own stupid joke, but he didn’t seem to find it funny. Or maybe he just didn’t get it.

“Just Jo,” he said as he looked around my kitchen. “Jo who may have the blood of a special ops Captain and a genetic research biologist. Jo, who happens to be connected to HYDRA’s biggest threats. Jo, who they may have had the ability to control before. What could they do with someone like that?”

“You think they want to use me to take on the Avengers?” He nodded.

“Among others.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“I don’t think they would give you a choice.” I moved to his side, and he lifted his arms so that I could rest against his chest. His arm came around me, and I locked my hands around his waist. Then I melted into his warmth and shut my eyes.

“So what’s your hunch now?” I asked him.

“You’re useful to them regardless of what’s in your blood. Even if we’re wrong about your past, and you really are just average Jo. You’re close to Stark and Steve. Even Wilson. You know where they sleep, what makes them tick, what they fear, what they love, WHO they love. You know how to tear them apart. You could destroy their greatest threat from the inside. You could destroy me too.”

“You think they’d make me hurt you too?”

“No,” he said. “I think they’re going to make you kill me.” I lifted my head and looked up at him.

“I’d never be able to live with myself.”

“I’m sure they’re counting on that.” He looked down at me.

“You could stop me.”

“But I wouldn’t. Not if it hurt you.” I shut my eyes again and held him closer.

“It was my ears,” I told him. “I was free when I couldn’t hear. Block out my hearing and they won’t be able to control me. I don’t care how to you do it, just make sure I don’t hurt anyone.”

“Jo.”

“Promise me you won’t let me kill you.” He didn’t say anything at first, but then I felt him nod.

“I promise,” he said. But it didn’t sound genuine.

 

 

 

So much information happening here.

A friend of mine made me this super radical playlist for Monster (also goes well with this one just saying). AND IT GIVES ME SO MANY FEELINGS. Please listen to it (below because Idk how to link shit here). You won't regret it.

http://8tracks.com/issitohbi/m-a-n-i-p-u-l-a-t-e-d

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