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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26. Chapter Twenty Six

I forgot that Bucky had trouble with the stairs until I was in the kitchen getting the waffles ready. He didn’t seem to have any problem with pain after I made him lie on his back, so it didn’t dawn on me until I got the waffle maker going and he still hadn’t come down the stairs.

“Aw, crap,” I said once I figured it out. Then I hurried out of the kitchen and found him halfway down the stairs, clutching the banister with his metal hand. His right hand was pressed tightly to his side. “They didn’t rip, did they?” I asked as I rushed up and pulled his hand away.

“Just pulled,” he said between clenched teeth.

“I’m so sorry. I forgot. Come sit down.” I wrapped my arm around him and helped him hobble back down the stairs to the couch. He sat down with a sigh, and I moved onto my knees to examine the stitches more carefully in the sunlight.

I was still sitting between his knees, prodding at the sutures when the front door opened. I noticed Bucky’s hand slide into the couch cushions for the gun, but it was only Graham.

“Jesus,” he said when he stepped inside. “Sock on the doorknob.”

“Oh, shut up. I was checking his stitches,” I snapped. He still had his head turned away dramatically, and Bucky still had his hand between the couch cushions. Graham waved some papers in our direction.

“Right, well. Gonna go fill these out.” He hurried off down the hall to the kitchen, and I looked up at Bucky. He watched Graham go and then moved his hand back into his lap. His eyes moved to meet mine.

“I told you he would think that,” he said. I smiled.

“Well, he wasn’t wrong,” I reminded him. He gave me the half smile and reached out to smooth my hair out of my face. I had to bite my lip to stop myself from smiling like an idiot. I could see what Graham meant by "starry eyed" and I was pretty sure I had the same look on my face.

“Um—are you cooking waffles?” Graham asked from the kitchen.

“Shit,” I said as I bolted away from the couch. I rushed into the kitchen to try and save the waffle.

“You should really get a timer for that thing,” Graham remarked. He was sitting at the table filling out more applications.

“Good idea. You can buy me one when you get hired.” He groaned.

“If that ever happens.”

“What makes you think it won’t?”

“Because I chucked a burrito at someone, remember?”

“Right. You might want to cut back on that.”

“Well, Arby’s seems promising. The guy seemed really enthusiastic when we talked. I gave him your number. I hope that’s okay.”

“Yeah, of course.” I went to get a plate from the cupboard when he yelped from behind me again.

“Christ Almighty,” he whispered. “You really gotta stop doing that.” I turned around, and Bucky was standing in the kitchen.

“I just wanted something to drink,” he said.

“Oh jeez. Sorry. I’ll get you some water,” I told him.

“It’s alright. I can do it.” I knew he hated being helpless so I stepped back as he moved for the cupboard. I glanced at Graham who was staring down at his applications. His neck and cheeks were bright red. So I looked back at Bucky and finally noticed the red marks on his arm—and his chest—and his neck.

“Ah, no. It’s alright. I got it,” I said, putting my hands on his shoulders and spinning him back around. “You need to rest.”

“I can get my own water,” he insisted.

“No, I got it.” He grumbled in Russian and then disappeared into the hallway. I turned back around to find Graham quietly snickering into his hand. “Oh shut up,” I said as I returned to the counter to get Bucky’s water.

“I didn’t say anything. But you should maybe consider giving him a shirt.”

“Oh, bite me.”

“I’m guessing Bucky already did that. Or was it just you?” I swung around and chucked a potholder at him. It didn’t faze him. He laughed until he was almost falling out of the chair and I wanted to strangle him.

We had the whole day to do whatever we wanted. Only there wasn’t anything for us to do. Graham was perfectly happy filling out applications and reading all day. But Bucky was eager to talk about whatever it was he found in the book. So after we ate breakfast in the living room, he helped me carry the plates back to the kitchen to wash them.

“There’s a code in the book,” he whispered once the water was running loudly enough to drown out our voices.

“What kind of code?” He shook his head.

“Certain letters are bolded. It’s almost unnoticeable. Some of them spell out words and numbers.”

“Like what exactly?”

“The first set is undoubtedly Beata Weisberg. IGH might be the next. It’s hard to tell. The numbers could be coordinates.”

“To where?”

“I don’t know.”

“We can check my computer.” He glanced behind me at the hallway.

“I don’t want him to know what we’re doing.”

“He saw you writing stuff down in your notebook. I’m pretty sure he knows you’re up to something.”

“I haven’t just been working on the codes. I’m always writing in my notebook, but I don’t want him to know the coordinates. If that’s what they are.”

“You didn’t write them down?” He shook his head. “Where are they?”

“In my head.”

“You can memorize large groups of numbers?”

“Coordinates are easy.” I shook my head.

“It took me half a year to memorize my own phone number. And it’s the only number I even know by heart.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Your commanding officer would have had you memorize numbers and codes. Coordinates, serial numbers, and Morse at the very least. If Russell didn’t develop his own sequences.”

“I honestly can’t remember learning anything like that.” He opened his mouth to speak but hesitated.

“If you really did—what you think you did—why didn’t Russell have you arrested?”

“I don’t know. That’s the only part I don’t understand. There would have to be a record of it somewhere, wouldn’t there? But you did say he was trying to protect me.”

“And you said it felt like you had no control. He would want to know why.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with HYDRA before working for SHIELD. How could they have gotten control over me? There are others.” He shook his head.

“What did it feel like?”

“I kept telling my body to stop and it wouldn’t. I felt like there was something in my head. Burrowing.” His jaw went tight, and he turned toward the sink again. The dish he was washing was probably very clean, but he kept scrubbing anyway. I was afraid it might break in his hand. “Does that sound familiar to you?” I asked. He shook his head once.

“They were always trying things—experimenting on people. I wasn’t allowed access. I had my job, and they had theirs. I was asleep when I wasn’t useful. But I still could have seen or heard something. I don’t know. It just feels—like I’ve heard it before.” I nodded and took the plate out of his hand before he broke it. “Where was the mission?” I ran the dish under the water, but I couldn’t come up with an answer.

“I don’t know,” I said. I looked up at him again. “I can’t remember.”

“Who were you fighting? Do you remember anything?” I put the plate down on the counter and leaned against it.

“I remember being briefed. They said it would be short. There was a threat against a school. We were just supposed to guard the kids. Small school. Only one or two classes. They never said who made the threat or why, that I can remember. Just that we had to be there in case it was real or something went wrong.” I shook my head. “I don’t remember even seeing the school. I know there were kids. I saw them die. I heard gunfire. The team separated. Russell told me to stay with him. I said that something felt off. I was shaking. He thought I was just scared. And then—I pulled my gun on him. One of my teammates came looking for him, and I shot him in the face.”

“And Russell didn’t subdue you?”

“I ran away. There was an explosion somewhere. It must have knocked enough sense in me so that I could get away. I shot another teammate. Almost shot another but—I managed to fight it. For a while. There was a grenade. Russell shot me. Talbot went down, and I went to help him. That’s when it came back. It was telling me to kill him. I didn’t. I shot Lieutenant Jimenez instead. That’s it. That’s all I can…” He waited for me to finish. My fingers were dripping water onto the counter, and I was gripping it tight as I stared at the stream of it running out of the faucet. He put his hand on my back.

“What else?” he prodded. I shook my head again.

“I remember seeing lights above me. I remember feeling like I was drowning. Trees and cold. That’s it. I don’t know what any of that means. The next thing I can remember clearly is waking up from surgery. Russell was there.”

“What did it look like? The city.”

“I don’t know. Older architecture. There was an old church. It was falling apart. Some streets were paved. Some were stone. Eastern Europe maybe.”

“Sokovia,” he said. I looked up at him, but he was staring out the back window and into the yard.

“What?”

“That was one of the words in the book. Sokovia. That must have been where you were. You don’t remember. You didn’t remember what happened until recently. If you can’t remember—it means they were hiding something. If Russell put that in your book, he must have expected you to read it and put the pieces together. He wanted you to remember. So he isn’t the one who made you forget.”

“I stopped reading after I got home. I used to read all the time. He must have thought I still read.”

“Why did you stop?”

“It makes me disassociate.” He nodded slowly. “I don’t know what any of this means, Bucky.” I dried the plate and quickly stuck it back in the cupboard. Bucky went silent as he waited for me to finish. But once I was done, I put a smile back on my face. “Let’s go find a movie to watch.”

“Don’t do this again,” he said.

“I’m not. I just need to think, okay?”

I turned toward the living room, and he followed after me. I sat down on the couch, but he picked up the book before taking his seat. He opened it on the coffee table and turned to the back page. Then he pulled a knife out from under the pillows and stabbed it into the cover so hard it stuck straight through into the coffee table.

“Jesus,” Graham said from the armchair as the sound broke him out of his reading trance.

“What are you doing?” I asked Bucky. He shot me an irritated glance and ripped the knife down the length of the cover, revealing a hollowed out center.

“You can’t ignore it forever,” he said. Then he pulled a key out of the space and held it up to me. I had absolutely no idea why there was a key in my book or what it belonged to, but I took it anyway. It was small enough so that I never noticed it hidden in the back cover. But Bucky did.

“What’s this for?” I questioned. He tapped the side of his head to remind me of the numbers he was too afraid to write down.

 

 

I'm almost completely done with editing now. And when I'm done with editing, and updating, and I'm really completely totally done, I'm just not going to know what to do with myself. Until Civil War comes out. Then it will probably start all over again.

Random things.

1. I totally have a Captain America waffle maker and it is possibly one of the greatest things I own. I can't finish a full shield to myself because I'm a wuss when it comes to portion sizes (I eat like a rabbit, I can't help it). But I like to eat everything around the star, leaving just the star intact, and then I give it to my son. He likes to eat my stars for some reason.

2. Jessica Jones reference. Mmmm.... hmmmm..... (I feel like I should clarify. Jo has not been Killgraved. That's not the JJ reference.)

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