From Darkness

When did we lose our way?
Consumed by the shadows
Swallowed whole by the darkness
Does this darkness have a name?
Is it your name?

-Disclaimer: This story is a sequel. Summary quote from One Tree Hill.

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6. Chapter Six

Bucky carried me up the stairs after the old woman. She led us into another empty bedroom right off of the stairs, and he sat me down on the bed as she shuffled around the room speaking to him and fluffing up pillows. I still couldn’t understand her, but Bucky followed her movements even though he stuck so close to me that I could feel the heat of his legs. His shoulders were tense as if he hadn’t decided if he trusted them yet, but also like he was trying very hard not to appear that way to her.

“We’re married,” he whispered from the corner of his mouth as she went to the other side of the small room to look for something.

“We’re what?” I replied. I felt my heart jump in panic again. I was either missing a very vital memory, or something was off.

“Russell said it’s the only way she’ll let us share a room. And I’m not leaving you.” I relaxed and pinched my lips. I was glad I hadn’t forgotten something so important. But I couldn’t argue with him since I didn’t know how much she could understand. And truth be told, I didn’t want to be alone. So I'd go along with it.

She said a few more words as she returned to us. Then she stuffed a few extra blankets in his hands and gave me a smile. He waited for her to leave before he relaxed. He stood by the door listening to make sure she was far enough away and then the tension drained from his shoulders.

“The bathroom is across the hall,” he explained as he dropped the blankets on the bed beside me. This bedroom didn’t seem to be as used as the other one. More like it was a guest room. It was bare of personal belongings. The only furniture aside from the bed was a trunk, an armchair under the window, and a small table beside the bed. “I’ll help you clean up and then I’ll find you something to eat.” He pulled his backpack off and dumped it on the floor next to the chair.

“Alright,” I said.

I wanted to pull my feet up and wrap my arms around my knees. It was how I comforted myself and kept myself warm. It felt like a reflex now. But my feet looked worse than my hands, and I didn’t want to get dirt and dried blood all over the clean bedspread. So I just stared down at my lap and tried to focus on what was important. If this was real—I needed to know a few things. If it wasn’t, then I just wanted the girl to hurry the hell up and get on with it.

“Can I ask you a question?” I asked.

“Ask as many as you need to,” he replied. He was kneeling on the floor with his back to me now. Putting himself in a vulnerable position. I figured he was doing it on purpose. He was testing me. Seeing if I would take that chance to attack him again.

“How’d you get me out?”

“I’ve been scanning the airwaves nonstop. Hydra’s information is encrypted. Not easy to get through. But I was hoping to at least get something to tell me where you were being kept. Give me an idea about how to get in and get you out. Finally picked up a signal that made sense. Russell’s code. He gave me a transfer route and time. I followed instructions.”

“It could have been a trap.”

“I was expecting it to be a trap. I’m still surprised we made it this far.”

“You said there were scouts.”

“They always have scouts in front and behind a caravan of that size. Just in case there’s an interception.”

“They tranquilized me first. Why?”

“I'm only a threat at close range, and I was unarmed. You were a bigger threat. Not because you had the gun.” My chest felt heavy again, and I had to shove the pain back down into the darkness before I could find words. I didn’t want him to see that it hurt. I’d done enough damage already.

“What happened to the people who were transferring me?” I asked then. He was still digging through his backpack. I didn’t know if he was actually looking for something, or just trying to give me space while also testing my ability to resist attacking him. Finally, he just sighed and didn’t move.

“I think you know,” he replied.

“I didn’t see.”

“But you know.”

“What they did to me—when it happens—my mind shuts down. It’s like I’m stuck somewhere in the dark. But the darkness is alive. It moves, and it thinks. And then I don’t know who I am or where I am. And it takes a while for me to get myself back.”

“I noticed.”

“Did I kill all of them?”

“Everyone except for Russell. Which means some part of you—can control it.”

“But I shot him. So it won’t matter. What if he dies?”

“We just have to hope that he doesn’t. He’s still awake. That’s a good sign. He lost a lot of blood, but I don’t think it hit anything important. He should be able to recover.” I slumped and tried to dislodge the lump in my throat. He was far more forgiving than I deserved. Especially since I initially aimed the gun at his head. The only reason I didn’t pull the trigger was because Russell distracted me.

“How long has it been since they took me?” I asked. He went back to his backpack, and I couldn’t see what he was doing.

“Two months,” he said.

“Two months? And that was when I…”

“When you were thrown off a balcony,” he confirmed.

I looked back down at my dirty legs. That couldn’t be right. It didn’t make any sense. It took me months to recover from a shattered shoulder. And it still never really healed all the way. Whatever I’d done to my body when I fell—it had to be just as bad. If not worse. Unless it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Unless it just wasn’t real.

But I couldn’t think about it for very long. He stood up again and tossed a shirt over his shoulder.

“I’ll help you get to the bathroom,” he said.

Then he scooped me back up into his arms, and I didn’t try to fight him. It didn’t make any sense, but his heartbeat was strong and even and for that brief moment that I was in his arms from the bedroom to the bathroom, I felt safe and calm.

But then he was sitting me down on the edge of a bathtub, and I was forced to deal with the present again. I moved to the other side so I could watch him while I cleaned up. I didn’t think that having my back to him would make me vulnerable. But I didn’t like not being able to see him. He set the shirt down on the edge of the tub so I could grab it when I was done.

“It’s clean,” he told me. Then he turned on the water and went to find me a towel. I watched him while I waited for the water to heat up. Once he located a towel, he went to the sink and began to clean the blood off of his face.

“Can you tell me something else?” I asked as I got to work scrubbing the dirt off of my bare legs.

“You don’t have to ask me if you can ask,” he replied, not looking at me.

“If that was really the last time—where’s Graham?” He took a long time to answer, and every second that ticked by made my heart race faster and faster. I couldn’t move until he spoke again.

“You remember Graham?”

“I think I remember almost everything now.” I wasn’t just talking about what had happened between us in the past year. But everything before then too. I remembered his face more clearly now. Standing on the other side of a courtyard seconds before shooting me in the shoulder. And that time, he hadn’t shot me to save my life.

“He was shot,” he started. “I don’t know when it happened. Sometime after you fell. He was in bad shape.”

“Where was the wound?”

“Upper chest. Right side. Under his shoulder. Through and through.”

“What happened after I left?”

“I got him into a car and drove him to a hospital. He was conscious for the first fifteen minutes. Kept telling me to leave him and go back for you.”

“You didn’t.”

“Believe me, I wanted to.”

“Why didn’t you?” I knew how he felt about Graham and I was almost positive he was going to tell me he hadn’t left him behind just because he knew I wouldn’t want that.

“He was just a kid,” he said instead. “A kid with a mouth, but just a kid.”

“And you trust him now?”

“I was wrong. It’s not easy for me to trust people. I didn’t trust you at first either. If you remember that much.” I nodded slowly and pulled the bandages off of my feet. The water was already dark with dirt and blood, but it felt warm and soothing against my skin. I couldn’t remember even bathing the entire time I was there. But there were a lot of pieces still missing. At least from that period.

“You’re speaking about him in the past tense. What happened to him?” I continued.

“I'm not speaking about him in the past tense. I got him to a hospital, ditched the car, and went back to try and pick up your trail. I didn’t stick around to see how he was, but I’ve been scanning newspapers, and I haven’t come across any obituaries,” he explained. “If the wound were fatal it would have made the news.”

I watched him dab at the wounds on his face with a washcloth. I must have hit him pretty hard if I’d made him bleed like that. It was just a stick. A branch, and a relatively large and heavy one, but still just a stick.

“He was still breathing?”

“When I saw him last, yes.”

“And you couldn’t go back and check on him?”

“I was trying to find you, Jo. The hospital wouldn’t release information over the phone, and I don’t have the names of his emergency contacts. I didn’t have time to set anything up.” He stepped away from the mirror and handed over another washcloth, but now I was busy picking at the bandages that were stuck to my palms. “I did the best I could,” he told me. I nodded.

“I know. I just can’t—sit here and do nothing. I need to be positive that he’s okay. I need for him to know I’m okay too. Jesus, two months? It feels like forever ago but also feels like it was yesterday at the same time. How is that possible?”

“I know that feeling. Believe me.” I had no doubt that he did. “But you’re recovering a lot quicker than I expected. We’ll figure it out. Right now the goal is just to keep you hidden and safe long enough to recover.”

“And then you’ll take me to Stark?” I took the washcloth, but he stayed where he was by the tub.

“We’ll talk about it.” I sighed slowly and lifted my hands.

“I can’t get these off.”

“Can I try?”

“It’s in my blood.” He stayed silent and looked me over. I hadn’t even noticed that he’d taken off his glove and rolled up his sleeves. His metal arm was shiny and exposed.

“What’s in your blood, Jo?” he asked slowly. I shook my head as I tried to pick apart the bits and pieces I did remember from the last two months.

“Russell said something about a pathogen. They wanted me because Beata made me a carrier. There were three phases. One I was born with. The second was activated when they had me the first time. I’m guessing the purpose of all this was to activate phase three. And since they were milking my blood like a fucking cow I’m going to assume it was a success. If it’s a pathogen—It can spread.”

“Do you remember what else they did?” I chewed on my lip.

“I remember enough,” I told him. I looked down at my hands again. The gauze had glued to the palms of my hands. I didn’t even remember why they were there. Russell said I tried to get out.

“I can’t get sick, Jo,” he reminded me.

“It’s not the flu,” I reminded him. “It was meant to be infallible. It does something—to the blood. The brain. You saw their bodies, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t stick around long enough to get a good look at them.”

“They were transferring me because—I was a danger to everyone there. To those twins and whatever else they were planning.”

“Russell said quarantine.” I nodded.

“They wanted me to turn it on the Avengers. Most of them aren’t ordinary humans. They’re expecting it to be effective on all of them. It’s not a flu virus. It’s something strong enough to take down a Hulk and an Asgardian. A super-soldier serum will be nothing.”

“Why didn’t Russell get hit too?” I pinched my lips shut and looked back at my hands. “He was awake long enough for us to talk. He said he didn’t get hit because you didn’t want him to.”

“There’s a possibility that Beata made him immune. I don’t know how it works. But I know I’ve tried to kill you twice since you picked me up. What makes you think I won’t turn it on you?”

“Because we’re having this conversation and you’re capable of understanding what’s happening and who I am. You didn’t before. It took you a while.”

“And if I lose control again?”

“When I found you, you were lying in a pool of your own blood. I had to carry your body over my shoulder so that I could help Russell get to the car. You think I didn’t come into contact with your blood then?”

“What if I already infected you?” I questioned. He sensed the panic in my tone and knelt down by the tub. Then he reached out to grasp my wrist with his metal hand. He pulled it toward the running water.

“It happens quickly,” he explained. “They were driving when it hit. Didn’t seem to have a lot of time to deal with what was happening to them. If I was infected—I’d be dead.”

“It could be slower for someone like you.”

“Then it wouldn’t be very useful to them against the Avengers, would it?” I didn’t answer. He was making sense, but that didn’t shake the dread I was feeling. “You just have to let the bandages soften,” he said as he pulled my fingers open.

“I know, but it stings.”

“Do you remember how it happened now?” I shook my head.

“I remember things from before more clearly. But—now it’s like everything is hidden behind a veil. Like it’s there. I just can’t see it. Except for the—things she made me see.”

“It might come back to you after a while. Might be better if it doesn’t.”

The bandages had come apart enough so that he could peel it off of my hand. Once he got it off, he ran his metal fingers over the healing gash that was slashed across my palm. It wasn’t bleeding anymore, but enough blood had dried to my skin and the bandages to stain the water again.

“He said it was broken glass,” he remarked as he examined it. “You were holding it in your hand. There was a force. Looks like you were using it as a weapon.” He dragged his finger along the jagged gash to show me the direction of the movement.

“How can you tell?” I questioned.

“Shape of the wound. Tapers off at the end. Gash is deeper here because this is where it took most of the impact.”

“I thought you said you weren’t the expert.” His eyebrows rose, and there was a hint of a smile before he masked it again.

“My job was to take lives, not save them. Doesn’t mean I can’t recognize injuries.”

“I’m sorry—for what I said when I was—trying to hurt you.” He shook his head and pulled my other hand toward the water. The bandages on that hand weren’t as bad. The cuts weren’t as deep.

“Don’t be. You weren’t yourself.”

“I still shouldn’t have said it. I know I was confused. But that doesn’t make it okay.”

“It doesn’t matter. What you said was true. Even if I don’t remember them. I wish that I did so I could say I was sorry. Not that it would make it okay.” I opened my mouth to argue, but he put his hands on the edge of the tub and pushed himself to standing. “I’ll meet you when you’re done.”

He turned to leave, but I had to stop him. I felt awful for what I said. It was true, but that didn’t mean he wanted to do what he’d done. He didn’t have to say he was sorry because I felt it. He hated himself for what he’d done. Even though he hadn’t wanted to kill anyone. The Soldier, maybe. But not him.

“I don’t want you to go,” I said. He stopped by the door but didn’t ask me to elaborate. “I’m not afraid of you. I know it wasn’t really you. They wanted me to blame you. I don’t think—they expected you to live long enough for me to think about what I was doing to you. I’m sorry that I let them get to me. I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

“I’m sorry too,” he said as he opened the door. “I’ll find you something to eat.” Then he disappeared out into the hall.

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