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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2. Chapter Two

“What did you do with the knife, Johanna?” the voice asked me. My attention broke, and I blinked as I tried to focus on the woman before me. She stood leaning against her desk. Lean and tall and pale. I blinked a few more times. I couldn’t remember getting there. I couldn’t remember what I’d done last, but I definitely didn’t remember walking up to my therapist’s office.

I looked around the room in confusion, but she observed me. My fingers were tight around the paper cup full of water in my hand. It was easier to focus on that than the office. I was in the Triskelion. I was supposed to be working. Not having a session with my therapist.

“Um…” I started.

“You were telling me about the man with the metal arm,” she reminded me. “That he gave you a knife. What did you do with it?” I shook my head as I tried to grasp the memory. I couldn’t get a hold of it. As if something dark and clouded had surrounded it like a veil. I could remember the shimmer of metal in the darkness, the scent of rust, and the feel of that thick heavy blade in my hand right before I swung it.

“I killed them,” I admitted. “I think.”

“Who did you kill?”

“Two—guards. They called themselves my—handlers.” I looked back up, and she nodded slowly.

“Drink your water, Johanna,” she instructed.

“I think your filter is broken. Water tastes funny.”

“I’ll make a note of it.” She waited for me to take a sip and then she set down her notebook on her desk.

She had a nervous tick. One I’d only caught every so often before I forgot about it. She wore a ring on her finger that clicked when she spun the band. She did it in a repeating pattern. Click, click. Click, click. One, two. Three, four.

“There was no man with a metal arm, Johanna,” she said in her soothing voice. My attention turned from the ring to her eyes.

“What?” I asked.

“There was no man with a metal arm. No one gave you a knife tucked in a blanket. You were never with HYDRA. Because they don’t exist. False memories. That’s what we call them.”

“But I remember.”

“Do you?” she questioned. Her perfectly arched eyebrow rose, and I turned away again. My eyes went right to the ring. Click, click. Click, click. I blinked. “I asked you a question, Johanna.”

“What?”

“What do you remember?” I tried to think. But the only things my mind supplied were blips of facts. The water tasted weird. I wasn’t supposed to be in the office. I had to go back to work. I was wasting company time.

“I have a project I have to finish. I must have forgotten,” I explained. She smiled.

“Of course. I’ll let you get back to work.” She pushed herself off of the desk and moved around it. “I’ll have Agent Harman escort you to your office.” I jumped to my feet, and the cup of water slipped from my hands and splashed on the couch.

“No, not him,” I’d said. She gazed at me again in that unnerving stare that always unsettled me, but I could never figure out why.

“Why not?” she asked as she took a seat and twisted the band on her ring, filling my ears with that annoying clicking pattern.

“I uh…”

“You’ve had a rough day, Johanna,” she said. “Didn’t get much sleep last night. Nightmares, remember? You told me you saw the man who shot you. But you couldn’t recall his face.” I nodded slowly.

“Right. I’ll just—go.”

“Have a good day, Johanna.”

I stumbled toward the door, but my feet felt sloppy and uneven. Oscar got the door open before I reached it. I tried to push passed him, but he gripped my elbow and dragged me down the hall to the elevator.

“Didn’t get much sleep last night, huh?” he asked.

My eyes narrowed as I tried to remember why I was mad at him. I was pretty sure we’d had an argument about laundry. He was always leaving his dirty laundry at my house. He pulled me into the elevator and sent it down to my floor. I leaned against the rails and looked out of the glass at the second building across the way. The sun was bright and shimmered off the surface of the Potomac, blinding me and making my attention drift.

Metal in a darkened hallway. The scent of rust.

No—I could smell blood. I could feel it dried in my nose and stuck to my face. I was on the floor of the elevator. No—the floor of a truck. I could still feel the engine humming beneath the surface.

The elevator doors opened with a loud metallic crunch. The air that rushed in felt like a wall of ice, carrying in the scent of gasoline. The light was too bright, and I tried to move away from it, but I was lying flat on my stomach, and my hands were bound behind my back.

“Johanna?” a voice said, cautiously and quietly. I could feel the surface beneath me shift as they walked across the platform.

I wasn’t in an elevator. I wasn’t in DC.

“It takes a lot out of her,” another voice said from far off. “She has a hard time recovering. The higher the number of targets, the harder it is for her to bounce back.”

A shadow crossed the opposite wall, and I realized my eyes were opened. I couldn’t make out the figure. My head felt like it was split down the middle. The cold air burned on my bare arms and legs. My hands twisted behind my back and my palms stung. The shadow knelt on the other side of me. Fingers slid over my skin to move my sticky hair out of my face.

“Her eyes are open,” the voice said.

“Good. Then she might be able to walk. Just don’t expect her to be who you want her to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“There was a girl. She could do things. Put things in your head. Make you see things that weren’t real. The last time we spoke—I don’t even think she knew who I was.”

“She has bandages on her hands,” the other said from where he knelt at my side. “And her feet.”

“Broken glass,” the other explained. “She tried to get out.”

I felt pressure on my wrists as he yanked the cuffs apart. The chain between them snapped like twine, and my arms dropped to my sides. I couldn’t get them to respond correctly. My palms burned, and my arms felt like cooked noodles. I felt twitchy and weak like someone who hasn’t eaten in days. The blood had dried inside my nose and made it difficult to breathe.

“How did you know they were transferring her?” the voice beside me asked.

“The girl? She had a brother. Twins. They had their own agenda. They have it out for Stark. Wanted to make sure they got to him first. They let it slip.”

“How’d you get the signal out?”

“They kept me in a storage cell. Full of outdated equipment.” The man wrapped his hand around my forearm and tried to yank me up. He got me to my knees, but I swayed back. He held onto my shoulder so I could try to find my balance. My body was too weak, and I couldn’t keep my head up.

“You don’t think that sounds like a setup?” he was asking. He lifted me to my feet and held me steady just in case my knees gave out. They almost did.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. But I don’t think they meant for this to happen. She must have been scared.”

“Why were they transferring her?”

“Look around you, Barnes. Quarantine.”

“Is she dangerous?”

He got me turned around without falling, and I could finally make out the man at the end of the truck. He held his arms out so that I could stumble into them and he could get me onto the ground. The dirt felt cold and frozen, and my feet were bare except for the bandages wrapped around them. Broken glass, he said. I couldn’t remember any broken glass.

“The girl put things in her head,” he explained as he held me up and the other one jumped off of the truck. “They wanted her to be afraid of you. But you weren’t the target. The Avengers are the goal. You’re just a minor inconvenience.”

“So we keep her away from the Avengers. Where do we take her?”

“Right now we just need to get as far away as possible. I don’t know how it works or how far it’ll have spread. But I would be surprised if they didn’t have scouts trailing behind. They’ll take her down first, but they won't kill her.”

My feet kept slipping on the ice and snow. I wasn’t asking them to move, but the men pulled me forward, and my feet followed along without instruction. There was a dark haze in my mind like a shadowy veil. Their voices were familiar, their conversation sounded important, but I couldn’t focus and I couldn’t remember. The pain was too sharp. The haze was too thick.

“You’re sick,” said the man on the left.

“I’m just tired. We didn’t exactly get the gold-star treatment,” replied the one on my right.

“We’ll move quickly. Will you make it to the road?”

“I’ll get as far as I can. Just make sure she gets out of here. We’ll worry about me later.”

The man on the left stopped. He released me so that the one on the right had to hold me up. His arms felt thin and boney. His hands trembled from my weight.

“Warm yourself up,” the other one instructed as he held out a jacket.

“Give it to her. She’s probably freezing.”

“I’ll carry her. Just take it.”

The man on the left pulled me back. His arms and chest were more solid and stable. I fell against his chest and felt his hand move over the back of my head in an affectionate gesture. The fabric of his shirt scratched my face. It felt familiar. The heartbeat sounded calm and real in my ear. There was a holster strapped to his ribs that my fingers slid over as I tried to hold myself up on my own. My hand moved over the metal of the weapon under his arm. But he either didn’t feel it, or he was distracted. Or maybe he just didn’t view me as a threat.

Until I snapped off the safety and shoved him back. My arms were weak and shook as I tried to hold the weapon up. I swayed as I sought to catch my balance and stared at him through my messy blood caked hair. I pointed the barrel between his sharp blue eyes and he lifted both hands and took a step back. I couldn’t think straight, and the pain in my skull was blinding. I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep standing if I tried to move. But I knew enough to know that he was putting distance between us so he could grab the gun and I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough to fight him without it.

“Jo,” he said cautiously.

“I saw what you did,” I whispered. My voice wobbled, and my throat felt dry and rough. I wasn’t even sure of what I was saying. My thoughts didn’t make any sense. Whatever memory that had slipped out of the darkness and forced the words out of my mouth had slid away again. It only lasted long enough to set off alarms.

“What did I do?” he asked.

I was starting to make sense of his face now. His hair was brown, and it hung loose and free around his face. It hung over his eyes, which were shockingly vibrant against the gray sky and the dark trees. Facial hair had shadowed his chin and jaw, and he looked tired.

The memory resurfaced. Images of his face as he held a woman down and stabbed her in the stomach. The woman was important to me. I didn’t know who she was, just that I couldn’t let him hurt her again.

“I saw you kill her,” I explained before the memory could slip into the darkness again.

“Jo,” the other man said.

He placed a careful hand on my shoulder, and I suddenly remembered he was there. I jumped and turned around to face him, my feet threw off my balance, and I almost slipped. But his face felt familiar too. A full beard the color of coal with speckles of silver. Eyes just as dark. But a face that had turned hollow and weary. He didn’t set off any alarms. A few thoughts slipped out of the darkness. Friend. Leader. Father.

“Give me the gun. We’re being tracked,” the other one said as he reached across me to take it from my hands. But I resisted. It was my only weapon, and I couldn’t risk being unarmed. I swung my elbow back and used whatever strength I had left to fight him off. I felt my bone crack against his teeth.

“Give him the gun, Jo. He’s not going to hurt you,” the other said. He gripped my shoulders hard enough to make my feet slip on the icy ground.

I heard the blast, and for a moment I thought it had come from the gun in my hand. But my finger hadn’t been on the trigger. And the pain in my back struck with a hard enough force to jostle me forward. I hit the man in front of me as he tried to hold me up and this time the second blast had definitely come from my own hands. I felt the gun shake all through my arms and into my pounding skull.

The man staggered back, forcing me to have to hold myself up. My blood felt hot as it spread through my back and into my limbs. His hands moved over his stomach, and I could see the blood spread out through his fingers. Something inside the darkness in my mind was screaming. Memory or thought or fear, I wasn’t sure. But it was loud, and my head felt dizzy and confused.

The gun was ripped from my hand before I could drop it. My knees buckled and the other man grabbed me by the waist before I could fall. He lifted the gun and shot. This time the blast felt like it was being drilled right into my skull. I flinched and my eyes closed, but he held me up until my legs gave out for good.

 

This chapter is the number one reason why I took so long to write this story. I could NOT get it figured out. Jo was always meant to be very confused and not all aware of what was happening at first and let me tell you. It is HELL trying to write that from first person while still making it coherent enough to make sense.

Also, I meant to add that flashback to the one from the last chapter. But I thought it would suit better as a transition here to hopefully emphasize her confusion.

And I promise she will not be out of it through the whole story. She just has to walk it off. I'M TALKING TOO MUCH I'M SO NERVOUS.

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