Steve waited for the other shoe to drop. He knew that no mission ever went successfully, no mission survived contact, and so he waited, crouched with his sights trained on the bridge. The receiver he pinned, unaware to Batroc and whomever else he had up there, let him know all he needed. Steve licked his lips. They should be in position now, and ready to strike at any moment.
“Natasha?” he asked into his wrist. Steve almost winced at the loud reply. Five seconds later they were on the move, plan still in play. At least until Natasha missed the rendezvous point, 'and there went the other shoe,' Steve thought with a grimace. Steve had to find her, feasibly before Batroc, or find Batroc before finding her.
“Well, this is awkward,” Natasha said.
Steve didn't expect to find one right after the other at the tail end of kicking Batroc down. Natasha glanced at him, gave a coy little smile, and the shoes kept dropping. One right after the other. Steve wanted to punch something, maybe that would make this day go a bit better. He glanced down to Batroc, out cold, and then sighed. No, punching things did not make this day go any better.
“What the hell are you doing?” Steve demanded.
“Backing up the harddrive,” Natasha replied with a smile. “It's a good habit to get into.”
“Rumlow needed your help, what the hell are you doing here?” He looked over the screen, his eyes widened in surprise. “You're saving SHIELD intel.”
“Whatever I can get my hands on,” Natasha said, gaze intent on the screen before her.
“Our mission is to rescue hostages,” Steve said sharply, a reprimand that he felt Natasha needed. He knew how loyal she was to SHIELD but to jeopardize the mission like this?
“No, that's your mission,” Natasha told him, her lips quirked up in that way they always did when she felt amused by something. Steve clenched his fist. “And you did it beautifully.”
For the first time in a while Steve actually wanted to punch a woman. Something about Natasha made his blood boil. He knew, he knew, she could be so much better than this. That Fury could be so much better than this. Did Steve not prove himself trustworthy to them? Sure he had a rather strong moral fiber but that moral fiber could be flexible as needed. Just not much.
Actually maybe Steve could understand their cards being held close to the chest. A part of himself wanted to just grab his head and stop thinking in circles, the other wanted to punch some sense into Natasha, and then into Fury. He didn't.
“You just jeopardized this whole operation,” Steve snapped, grabbing hold of her arm. He restrained himself from squeezing too hard, he didn't want to hurt her, just perhaps make his point. This doesn't fly when he's running things. At all.
“I think that's overstating things,” Natasha said calmly. Next second either of them knew Batroc was up and on his feet and Steve had his shield up to deflect a grenade. They dodged right, through some glass, then down, and then the world erupted into fire and smoke.
Steve's ears were ringing and he felt fairly assured that there was glass stabbed into him somewhere. He leaned back against the wall, tried to ignore the fire and the heat around them, the remains of the exploded grenade, and catch his breath. Natasha looked at him, turned her head, and gave him a sheepish sort of smile.
“Okay, that one's on me,” she said breathlessly. Steve scowled. He pushed himself up, using his Shield as a crutch, trying to ignore the bruises he'll probably have after all this.
“Damn right it is,” he snapped, and staggered his way out of the mainframe? Computer room? Steve couldn't be sure what this place was called, aside from that it now rested in broken bits and burned hardware. Behind him Natasha staggered along, quiet.
'Good,' Steve thought. 'I got through to her.' A small part of himself felt guilty. Natasha was just doing her job. However the hurt and betrayed part, the part that felt like Natasha didn't trust him after all they had been through felt vindictive and Steve decided to revel in that instead of the guilt. He had enough guilt to last a lifetime.
Both Natasha and Steve staggered out onto the deck and prepared to make their way towards the rendezvous point where the jet would pick them up. Their eyes both watered as the cool air hit and they passed through the smoke and fire out onto the deck. Steve raised a hand to clear his vision, and sucked in fresh breaths of air.
The words rang out and echoed around the abandoned deck. Natasha paled, and Steve had to squint to see what had caught her attention at first before it became apparent that they weren't alone. Natasha hadn't been the one to swear, in fact, but rather a man with a shiny metal arm? Steve blinked.
“You know,” he said offhandedly, “the twenty-first century is just ridiculously weird.”
“Steve,” Natasha hissed, “shut up.” Steve frowned, straightened up, and tightened his grip on his shield.
“You know him?” he asked, under his breath. The stranger looked familiar, but Steve couldn't place where. Perhaps he was a SHIELD agent?
“Not in a good way,” Natasha said. “We have to run.”
Her face was blank, serious, as Natasha turned to look at Steve. “Because he makes me look like a wet kitten.”
Steve frowned, his grip tightened further on his shield, but he nodded. Sometimes retreat was the best option, especially when your dangerously attractive assassin coworker happens to be terrified.
“Not SHIELD then?” Steve asked as he prepared to run.
“Not by a long shot,” Natasha shook her head. She kept her gaze turned towards the man who held a gun loosely at his side. He seemed to be stuck in some sort of internal debate for a second, before his gaze sharpened on Natasha and Steve. His eyes narrowed. Steve could barely make them out through the black paint that surrounded them. Neither could see his mouth, or anything below his eyes, as it was wrapped in a mask of some sort.
One second they were staring at each other, tense, and the next Natasha was running with a sharp command from Steve and the stranger was raising his gun to fire. Steve quickly raised his shield and then tossed it. The stranger's eyes widened for a second, and then he turned, sharply to dodge the dangerous metallic frisbee, losing sight of Natasha. The shield bounced off of the wall behind the leather decked stranger and made its way back to Steve who grasped it and raised it just in time to deflect a hail of bullets.
Steve rushed forward, keeping the shield up to save himself from becoming swiss Steve ala machine gun—Gods he must be out of his mind right now if he's cracking jokes in his own head like this. Granted Bucky used to say much worse in more dire situations. Steve grimaced.
'Focus,' he told himself.
He slapped the gun away with the shield and slammed his palm out towards the strangers head, only to have it deflected by the metallic arm, and then having to block a sudden raised knee which Steve followed with a kick which was caught. He let out a grunt of pain, and then surprise as the stranger tossed him one armed by his leg. Steve barely had time to dodge as the stranger raced at him, denting the wall with his fist, followed by a swipe with a knife. Steve blocked the arm with his forearm and braced himself against the wall before slamming his foot into the others chest.
The stranger staggered back, but his eyes remained focus. He flipped the blade and darted towards Steve again, which Steve dodged left, then ducked, and then delivered an uppercut and a sharp downward kick to the others knee. He went down with a sharp yell, and Steve ran. He couldn't be sure that whosoever that was hadn't brought friends along, and while Natasha could take care of herself, her phrasing had him worried.
Steve barely registered Batroc's body as he ducked under railing, dodging bullets as best he was able—one nicked his shoulder—while cursing how south this operation went. It was only when he was safely in the plane, with Natasha beside him healthy and whole, and flying back to the Triskelion did Steve breath a sigh of relief.
He hated when the other shoe dropped, because it always dropped hard and was never alone.
The Winter Soldier stalked through the familiar halls and gates, surrounded by at least four armed men at any given time. This was a place he was most intimately familiar with, the only place in his memories that held any clarity. The men escorted him into the deepest, most secured reaches of the building that had his chair, one of the few things he could scarcely call his at least. The Soldier sat down, rested his arms on his knees, and waited.
Two scientists stepped into the room, nervous, hesitant. There was a sharp command in Russian, an order to strip off his armor. The Soldier stood and began to undo the buckles and snaps, pealing away layer by layer the protective leather and kevlar top. He sat back down onto the chair, now bare chested.
One scientist injected him with something to keep him calm, the other went about servicing his arm, making sure it was in working condition still until whomever held the Soldier's leash came in for a report. Blue-green eyes darted around the room, taking in the familiarity as his mind hazed over slightly. Soon enough they'd go through the same procedure as always and he'd be put back on ice until they needed him again. It was the same after every mission, a routine he knew by heart.
The Soldier came back to himself at the sound of a scraping chair. He glanced to his side to find the scientist checking the mechanics of his arm gone, and then looked in front to see his master before him.
“Tell me what happened,” Pierce said with a congenial smile. The Soldier frowned momentarily, he had to remember that this was how this particular one asked for a report most days. The phrasing always threw him off at first.
“Mission failed,” he said after a minute, licking his lips in (nervous?) anticipation of what would come next.
“Explain,” Pierce demanded, leaning back into his chair.
“By the time I arrived the databanks were destroyed,” the Soldier said. “Nothing could be salvaged.”
“Who destroyed them?” Pierce demanded. “How where they destroyed?”
The Soldier licked his lips again. “Pattern of debris suggests some sort of high intensive explosive device, such as a grenade. Two enemy combatants were inside.”
Pierce narrowed his eyes, “Which combatants?”
“Subject: Black Widow,” Soldier recited, then frowned, “and...some guy in...blue.”
Pierce scowled. “You didn't recognize him?”
Pierce nodded and got to his feet. He gestured towards the chair and one of the armed men tugged it back into its original place.
“Very well then,” he said with a sigh. “You know what the price of failure is.”
Pierce nodded, then motioned towards the armed men.
“I'll leave you to it, boys,” he said, and left the room.
The Soldier grimaced. He wasn't going to like this.
Steve and Natasha by some unspoken agreement didn't mention the stranger they encountered on their way back to the rendezvous point, or through the entire flight back to the Triskelion. Once they'd touched down Rumlow gave a nod and grin to the assassin and soldier before he and the Strike team headed off to disarm and debrief. Natasha and Steve went the opposite direction, heading for the direct elevator that lead to Fury's office.
“Director's office,” Natasha said as they stepped into the glass box. The computer chimed its agreement and she settled next to Steve, arms crossed, against the railing.
“You going to tell me who that was?” Steve asked, glancing down at her. Natasha grimaced and took a deep breath.
“The Winter Soldier,” she said. “He's a ghost story to the intelligence community. Credited with over a two dozen assassinations in the past fifty years.”
“You know him,” Steve pointed out. “He's not just a ghost story.” Natasha ducked her head. She wasn't sure what to say, exactly, before eventually she sighed.
“Five years ago I was escorting an engineer out of Iran when somebody shot out my tires near Odessa,” Natasha said softly. “We lost control, went straight over a cliff, I pulled us out. He was there.” Her arms tightened around her torso with a grimace. “I was covering my engineer so he shot him straight through me.” She raised her head to stare at Steve.
“There's something your not telling me,” Steve said, his eyes narrowed and lips pursed.
“We have to inform Fury,” Natasha said eventually. “If the Soldier is active then things are about to get a lot more lively.”
“You're dodging the question,” Steve pointed out. The elevator came to a stop, the door opened. Natasha paused on her way out, Steve on her heels.
“It's personal, Steve,” she said after a moment. “I'll tell you when I'm ready.”
Steve frowned, but nodded in acknowledgment. At least it was something more than she had given him last time. They both made their way down the short hall towards Fury's office. Steve had only been in here a handful of times, mostly to show how annoyed he was at pertinent information being kept from him in regards to a mission he'd been put on. This time things were a little different.
“Romanoff, Rogers,” Fury stood up, surprised. “To what do I owe this...visit?”
Natasha wasted no time. She walked right up to Fury and dropped the drive onto his desk. Here she leaned over, planted her hands firmly down and looked at Fury seriously.
“We have as big problem, Nick,” she said. “The Winter Soldier is active.”
Fury swiped up the drive, his gaze darting between Natasha and Steve. He frowned.
“Explain,” he said, licking his lips.
“Well, after Natasha finished her data mining for you,” Steve said, hands on his belt. Fury opened his mouth but Steve shook his head, “I'll get to that later, Fury,” he interrupted. “We were headed to the rendezvous point when we were waylaid by a man with a metal arm speaking Russian.”
Fury's frown deepened. “Was he working with Batroc?”
“Considering I stumbled across Batroc's corpse on my way out, I think that's unlikely,” Steve pointed out.
Fury looked to Natasha. “You're sure it was him, Natasha.”
Natasha backed up, crossed her arms, and stared at Fury. Steve noted how similar their gazes were, deadly serious, slightly terrified.
“Yes,” Natasha said. “I am sure.”
Fury cursed. “Fuck!” He slammed his fist down onto the table, glanced between both Natasha and Steve, and cursed again. He looked to the drive. “Did you get everything?” he asked, once more at Natasha.
“Before the room exploded, yeah,” Natasha nodded.
“Exploded?” Nick snapped.
“A calculated mistake,” Natasha said with a smile, before frowning. “Nick, whatever is on that drive, I think the Soldier wanted it.”
Steve scoffed. “You think?” he asked with a faint roll of his eyes. “Can somebody tell me what exactly is going on here? What is on that drive, Nick?” Nick grimaced. “What is so important some assassin working for who knows wanted to get it out from under your nose.”
Fury sighed. He scrubbed a hand over his face and sat down.
“I think,” Natasha said softly, “you should bring him in, Nick.” Nick glanced at her, and then down at the table, and sighed.
“Very well then,” he said. “Secure office.”
The lights dimmed, the doors locked shut, and the windows to the outside grew black. Nick looked to Steve.
“This stays between us, am I clear?” Nick said coolly. Steve looked at him, and then nodded once.
Nick nodded. “Bring up files for Project Insight.”
Rogers, Steven does not have clearance for Project Insight.
“Director Override, Fury, Nicholas J,” Fury said, moving around the desk. He leaned against its edge as the files and blueprints washed across the screen. Steve looked between the files, Nick, and Natasha who was scowling.
“What the hell is this?” Steve asked. Nick sighed.
“Project Insight,” Nick said calmly. “After New York I advised the World Security Council that we needed a current insurgent threat analysis. The result was Project Insight, three next gen Hellicarriers linked to a satellite network that can read a terrorists biodata before he even steps out the door, able to eliminate a few thousand threats a minute.” Nick waved his hand and specs for the gun array made its way onto the screen.
Steve frowned. “This sounds like HYDRA.”
Nick grimaced. “I know.”
Steve turned sharply, his mouth opened to tear into Nick. Nick just raised his hand.
“I did my research, Captain, when we were thawing you out. I read what Carter had to say on HYDRA and their plans,” Nick motioned towards the screen. “Insight is right up HYDRA's ally, and the best part? It's coming from SHIELD.”
“But HYDRA's dead, destroyed,” Steve shook his head. “I utterly decimated them.”
Natasha shook her head and pursed her lips. “HYDRA had fingers in a lot more pies than just Nazi Germany,” she said, glancing to Nick. Nick sighed.
“Bring up all files flagged CA-001,” Nick said sharply, and instantly numerous files slid across the screen. Steve practically paled.
“These are all...HYDRA?” he asked, weakly.
“Suspected,” Nick groaned and scrubbed his face with his hands. “Can you see why I hadn't said a word?”
Natasha stepped up to Steve, gnawing on her lip, “Steve...these are SHIELD ops. SHIELD ops doing work that SHIELD doesn't do. They wave SHIELD's flag, use SHIELD's name, but aren't approved through the Directors office.”
Steve shook his head. “Your saying SHIELD is HYDRA?”
Nick scoffed. “The hell it is!” he snapped. “I've put too much work into this for it to become HYDRA on my watch. Look, Rogers, the corruption goes deep, I'll give you that. It's in some of the top brass, and the worst part? It's practically got a stranglehold on us, but it does not own us. We just need to clean out the rot.”
“How long have you known?” Steve asked, turning away from the files. “How long have you suspected?”
Nick sighed. “I've suspected since New York. Known? That's what Natasha's mission was about.” He raised the thumb drive. “The Lumarian Star's job was to launch Insight's satellite network, and upload the required data to make it work. The data Natasha recovered.”
Nick moved back around his desk and plugged in the drive. He turned to face the screens at the far end of his office.
“Open Lumarian Star launch file,” he said clearly.
Natasha and Steve watched as the computer scrolled to find the launch file data, only to signal bright red Access Denied. Nick frowned.
A wheel spun around, words Steve couldn't understand and Natasha could barely keep up with. Seconds later it signaled Decryption Failed.
“Director Override, Fury, Nicholas J.,” Nick said sharply. He moved around his desk now, his entire framed edged in frustration and wariness. Steve swallowed reflexively as Natasha shifted from one foot to another.
Override denied, all files sealed.
Steve's brow furrowed and he glanced to Natasha. 'Sealed?' he mouthed and she grimaced and shook her head.
“On whose authority?” Nick demanded.
Fury, Nicholas J.
“Shit,” Nick cursed, moving back around his desk and removing the drive from his computer. “Shit.”
“Nick?” Natasha asked. “What the hell does that mean?”
Steve scowled, “I think it's pretty clear what that means.” He stepped up to Nick, slapped his palms onto the desk, and stared down at the other man.
“Rogers....” Nick said slowly, a warning as his hand gripped the gun hidden underneath his desk.
“HYDRA has the ability to spoof your command, and lock you out,” Steve said coldly. “You've lost control of SHIELD.”
Nick closed his eyes.
“Agent Romanoff, recall Agent Barton, deep shadow conditions,” he said sharply. He tossed the drive at her. “Get a hold of Stark and have him decrypt those files. We have a limited window in which we can act before HYDRA gets suspicious. Captain...”
Steve stepped back, sliding into attention with a blank face. “Orders, sir?”
“You are to escort me to a secure off-base location,” Nick said, breathing out slowly. “If the Winter Soldier is active, I'm going to need all the back up I can get. Is that clear?”
“Romanoff, join us in the parking garage as soon as you've contacted Barton and Stark,” Nick added.
“On it, sir,” Natasha nodded and slipped from the room as Nick released the security on the office. Nick sighed and slumped into his chair.
“We'll make it right, Nick,” Steve said. He didn't bother to add in the 'you should have told me's or 'I could have told you's that he wanted to. The situation made itself apparent enough, and Steve could understand in some way that Nick wanted to spare him the thought that his entire mission, his entire life's work that ended with him frozen in the Arctic, was for nothing. Steve clenched his fist. “We'll get HYDRA out of SHIELD.”
“The problem is, Steve, we don't know who is HYDRA and who isn't,” Nick said wearily.
“Coulson's not HYDRA,” Steve pointed out.
“Yeah but Coulson's—how do you know about that?” Nick stood to his feet, eyes narrowed. Steve quirked his lips.
“While I don't know the details, Stark said something about how it'd ruin my faith in humanity, I am aware he's alive.” Steve paused, then added, “I do have level 8 clearance, Nick.” Nick scowled.
“Well I can't just recall Coulson, he's doing good work,” he said. “Although...perhaps leaving a message might be for the best. Get them to ground and working on negating as much of HYDRA's influence as they can.” He glanced to Steve and then added, “Covertly.”
The Soldier pulled himself upright, or as upright as he was able to get with a cracked femur which was honestly just sitting, leaning against the wall. His mouth was a bloodied mess, and there were one or two bruises alongside his face, a few burns to add to the multitude of scars on his torso, bruises, and sluggishly bleeding wounds. The only clothing he had on him, his dark black BDU styled pants, hung loosely at his hips with rips and tears from where a knife had been used to either stab or, supposedly, frighten.
None of that mattered, though, as Pierce stepped through the doorway with a manila folder in hand. The Soldier grimaced, or grinned, it was hard to tell on his face these days since emotions were tricky, human things that he wasn't at luxury of having much of anymore. The look about him gave mind to a feral animal of some sorts, and had Pierce smiling almost indulgently, like at a rabid dog or pet of some sort.
“Your mission,” he said, tossing the manila folder to the Soldier who grabbed it with his left hand. He thumbed through the papers. “Observe until your healed and report back everything of note.” The phrasing confused him. Was he meant to determine what was of 'note'? What even did 'note' mean? His brow furrowed. “Once you are in top condition, I want death confirmed in ten hours. Understood?”
“да,” the Soldier replied. Pierce scowled.
“English,” he chided. “Or do you need another lesson?”
The Soldier grimaced and said, “No. No lesson. I understand the parameters of the mission.” The words felt thick on his tongue, thicker than they had when he first reported in. Maybe that had to do with the side of his face swelling, though, so he put it out of mind.
“Good. Then go prep,” Pierce uttered, turning around and leaving the white washed tiled room. The Soldier grimaced and grasped the bar that ran the length of the room. He tugged himself up, biting back a scream into a groan when he placed more pressure than his fractured leg could support. He grunted, and began to hobble out of the room. He'd have to get a brace of some sort going in order to be able to work this mission. He glanced down at the photograph.
Nick Fury stared back at him. The Soldier grinned. This...should be interesting.
Natasha slipped into the backseat of the van. Steve glanced back at her, one hand up clutching the hold in reflex.
“Well?” Nick asked as he put the car into gear.
“Clint's gone underground,” Natasha said. “Something must have spooked him. I left a message where he could find it.” She didn't say that 'where he could find it' meant engraved for all time in sandstone after hijacking a SHIELD drone. She didn't need to, given Nick's pursed lips and disappointed scowl.
“What about Stark?” he demanded.
“Stark will meet us in the city, I'll hand off the package there,” Natasha said calmly.
“Knowing Stark that will be pretty public,” Steve pointed out. “If HYDRA has even a hint of that we have the drive and gave it over to Stark....”
“Oh I don't doubt he'll make the meeting as public as he can,” Natasha agreed, “but they won't be focused on the exchanged if they're focused on Stark. I'll slip it to Pepper when he makes an entrance.”
Steve had a bad feeling as he asked, “What type of entrance?” Natasha just smiled. “...I'm not going to like this am I.”
“You usually don't,” Nick muttered. The amount of rows Steve had gotten into with Tony since their meeting were becoming nigh legendary within SHIELD. Suffice it to say there was a reason why Steve ended up choosing to remain away from Stark Tower.
“Don't worry, Steve, it'll be fun!” Natasha said with a grin. Steve grimaced.
“That's not exactly what I wanted to hear.”
Nick rolled his eyes as the van slipped past the final checkpoint. So far, so good. While the two children, because Nick couldn't honestly call Steve Rogers an old man, not with the way he bickered like a big brother alongside Natasha, exchanged words and bars Nick routed the destination. He suddenly felt a bit like his grandfather, old and dealing with two fool kids in the backseat. Never mind that one of those fool kids was actually ninety-five and had the mannerisms to prove it. Nick shook his head with a sigh.
“Activate communications encryption protocol,” he said, loud enough to cut the chatter. Steve turned around in his seat with a raised eyebrow.
Activating communications encryption protocol.
“Open secure line zero four zero five,” Nick repeated. There was a short Confirmed and a second of silence before Maria Hill's picture took up a portion of the screen.
“This is Hill.”
“I need you here in DC,” Nick said calmly. “Deep shadow conditions.”
“I'll be there in four hours.”
“You have three,” Nick corrected, then sighed as the line disconnected. He glanced at the little timer. Good, not enough to track the call.
“Nick?” Natasha asked, leaning forward in her seat, curious.
“Maria's the only other one I trust aside from you, Barton, Phil, Stark, and ain't that just perfect, and Captain America here,” Nick reiterated. “Anyone else could be HYDRA. I'm not going to risk SHIELD any further than it is by pulling in someone who I can't trust. Besides, a small elite strike team will be more effective than a slew of agents.”
Steve nodded. “That's how we took down the Hydra bases mostly,” he agreed. “Me and my 'Howling Commandos'. Rarely did we take on more men, and only if we expected higher resistance.”
Nick nodded. “How do you think I got the idea? Now where in the hell are we meeting Stark, Natasha?”
Nick pulled the car up to the curb and looked around cautiously. The space was amply crowded, most probably because Stark was there on a date with Miss Potts. It was good cover, both for an assassin and for the target so it could work both in favor and against. At the same time Stark himself gave good coverage so if anyone attempted to kill Nick or his companions here the blowback would be extreme enough to put a dent into HYDRA's plans if they even attempted it.
“This'll do,” Nick nodded. He opened the drivers side passenger door and slipped into the crowd with Natasha and Steve. Steve, being Captain America, naturally drew eyes around him as they entered into the restaurant.
“Hi, I have a reservation with Tony Stark,” Natasha said cheerfully at the hosts stand. The hostess stuttered for a brief moment, almost dropping her folders at the name, but then Tony stepped out and waved.
Steve withheld a groan as Tony approached.
“What is wrong with you?” Tony asked. “You don't write, you don't call. Don't you love me anymore? What about the baby!”
“Stark,” Steve said slowly, but didn't get much else in edgewise as next second Tony bound up and planted a kiss onto Steve's lips leaving the other man wide eyed in surprise. Behind him Pepper Potts sighed and hugged Natasha with a smile. Natasha took the time to slip the drive into Pepper's jacket pocket, obscured by the hosts stand, before Tony dragged all three of them back into the restaurant. Steve looked pale.
“You okay there, Cap?” Nick asked with a wry grin.
Steve swallowed. “Fine,” he said, and if his voice was a bit higher than normal nobody said anything.
The Soldier pulled out a pen of localized anesthetic and stabbed himself in the leg. He cursed the pain that radiated up and out and the worse it got as he splint the thing, dressed, and then took his bike off to hunt down his target. It brought to mind a phantom pain in his left arm, of cold and falling, of wind tearing through his clothes and his skin, of hitting the ground and everything breaks and--
He shook his head, raised his right hand and pressed into his cheek until he almost screamed from the pain. Getting distracted now would mean failure, and the Soldier doesn't want another lesson on why failure is not an option.
“Радуйся Hydra,” he snarled to himself, snapping his mind back into place. The pain washed away and he settled down onto his stomach, rifle perched at the edge of the roof. He found and then followed the car that housed Nick Fury until the man came to a stop outside this restaurant. He'd gone a further three blocks, took a right, and wrapped back two before parking and limping his way up to the roof just in time to catch his target, Subject: Black Widow, and the man in blue not in blue step out towards the restaurant.
The Soldier breathed out slowly through his nose, ignoring the stinging sensation that radiated up into his skull. Pain was peripheral and had no place here. He settled his eye against the scope and watched, waited. For now information gathering was most important. He wasn't in any condition for a drawn out battle, and if his brief taste of the man in blue not in blue's abilities meant anything, a drawn out battle would definitely occur.
He made made a mental note on Fury's chosen bodyguards, shifted minutely, and kept his gaze firmly on the target. The Soldier watched as they walked up to the hosts stand, as Subject: Black Widow cheerfully greeted the host—the pang of familiarity hit him so that for a moment he had to look away, had to hiss to himself, “Радуйся Hydra,” and snap his mind back into place for the second time.
The Soldier snarled. This mission already began to take its toll, he didn't dare think what prolongued surveillance would do to his already fractured state. He needed the freeze, needed the cold to stop this deterioration so that when he awoke again he could be on top of his game, ready to do as commanded. He breathed out through his nose and returned to watching the target.
His left hand clenched into a fist as he ground his teeth together, grinding the grip of his weapon into scrap metal. He actually had to forcefully pull his hands from the rifle, roll onto his back, and stop looking at the sudden surge of (what? what is this?) red hot (rage?) that shot through him like some sort of sick disease. The Soldier breathed out heavily, snapped, “Радуйся Hydra,” to no effect. All he could see was the man in blue not in blue lip locked with someone else, and all he could think was a sharp, possessive,
and all he could feel was the urge to pull the trigger and drop a slug into the offenders face. The Soldier scrubbed his right hand over his face, slammed his head into the concrete, but nothing seemed to help. He thought, 'Malfunction?' to himself, because what else could this be? This was not something he'd been prepared for, told how to handle. This was new, and new was dangerous. New meant pain and re-education. The Soldier grit his teeth.
New meant failure. Malfunction. Error.
The Soldier laid there. It took work, but he brought himself back. He slipped his gaze to the scope, the red hot fire in his veins simmering, but maintained for the moment. He caught the target and his bodyguards leaving, and moved to pack up. He took one look at his rifle and, furious with himself, took the weapon apart and tossed all but the scope over the side of the building as he limped his way back to his bike.
The scope the Soldier could still use, the rest was ruined. The memory of how brought the fire to the surface, strong enough that he growled, lowly, to himself, “моя.” He slipped his splinted leg over the seat of his bike, settled in place, and turned the ignition. The initial burst jolted the fracture, but the Soldier bore it down until he took off, able to follow his target and the man in blue not in blue towards their next destination.
He'd keep observing, it was his mission after all, but now he had another (personal?) mission to accomplish as well. Find out more about that man in blue not in blue. Find out why his blood boiled (what did it mean?) and then, when he had unearthed what he could, put to rest this, this (what is it? fuck he knew this! remember, dammit!) whatever the hell this was.
Never mind that the Soldier had not once done something the he wanted or something that his owner didn't expressly say for him to do. He worked around that bit that said you can't do this by reminding himself that he was preemptively taking action. They would want him to find out what this was and make it stop, after all. They'd order him to do it, and so knowing this, he would. It was merely a mission they'd assign in the future, but why couldn't he do it now instead?
The first (wall?) took a chip. The Soldier (no, not--) began to wake.