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They are the Winter Soldier, a whole torn into two parts but still sharing the same skin, stitched together by scars and wires. Moving sync, like it’s the only thing they’ve ever known, to move along the same current with the space between them sizzling with silent conversation conveyed by ticks and tells. They’re the deadliest force known to man, a myth, a fabricated war story, they are union.

 

Steve, for Steve is his name, looks over at Bucky to find eyes already upon him.

 

They had tried to take their names from them only to find that upon the first sight of one another, the other’s name was already falling from their tongues. They had tried to keep them separate, only to find they didn’t work properly, that they’d fight and kill to be back by the other’s side once more. Skulls crushed in, limbs mangled as the door hangs on its hinges, the thick smear of blood leading through the corridor between the labs to where Steve and Bucky stand together, crimson soaks hands linked by clutching metal fingers. Their grins are blood stained, eyes wild but united nonetheless.

 

But for now they have a job to do, a new victim to deal with.

 

“Head or tails?” Bucky says casually, gesturing with the knifepoint.

 

“Heads”

 

Footsteps in time they walk towards the victim, Bucky passing over the knife into Steve’s awaiting hand, curling his fingers around the hilt. Bucky sinks into a crouch at the same time Steve rounds the chair, bearing the throat with a harsh tilt of the jaw. Knife points poised, one along the soft tissue over the rapid pulse point, the other below the sternum where the rib cage gives way to plump stomach muscle, they exchange one last look, one asking for permission and the other granting it before driving the points home.

 

Blood gargles out the throat, running thickly down the neck, gushing over torn clothes and a metal hand that pulls the blade deeper effectively gutting the body like a pig. Steve steps back, wiping the blade clean on the clothes before sheathing it. Bucky does the same, swiftly rising to his feet to snap back to Steve’s side, nostrils heavy with the scent of copper. Steve can’t help but to pass his fingertips over the dead body’s eyelids, closing them as if to grant a sense of peace.

 

“Radio in, I’ll make sure the area is still secure.” Steve says, the commanding voice that has Bucky shivering all over.

 

They meet on roof of the building across the street clean of blood, Bucky casually tossing his knife up, practising the small twists and catches despite years of experience. The setting sunlight catches in long hair, making his skin golden.

 

“We are to report to the handlers.”

 

Steve hooks his hand in the straps of Bucky’s belt, pressing in close to grin against the back of his neck.

 

“How long?”

 

“Immediately”

 

“And after?”

 

“I didn’t question the order.”

 

The sharp bite at the back of Bucky’s neck is almost a reprimand.

 

“We’ll make time.” The hold releases, but the presence remains, pulling on coats to hide their attire and walking shoulder to shoulder as their shadows stretch across the roof.

 

*

 

They return to Russia, back to the arms of ice that hold them close throughout the years, freezes their hearts to stone. They enter the freeze in chambers, gazing out through the portal at the men in lab coats, at the unfamiliar reflection in the glass, at the last glimpse of murky light before the world goes black.

 

When they awake, years later, they no longer feel the cold.

 

*

 

Once they were left unfrozen during downtime, left to rattle around the Hydra base with other soldiers. Those soldiers are nothing compared to them, they don’t have ice running deep within their veins.

 

It was near the beginning, when they had awoken for the first time with nothing. When they first awoke and even to each other they are ghosts, formless transparent shapes with names that don’t even feel real.

 

Bucky glares at anyone who comes within a two metre radius of Steve, tensing all over in anticipation. It’s a natural reaction, as if protecting Steve is what he was born to do and has been doing since before he could remember. A big, strong guy like Steve doesn’t need protecting, but something in Bucky tells him that it’s all wrong, that he should be…smaller, weaker somehow. Steve sits and looks down at his arm, holding it across his body as if to take any impact and Bucky studies his left arm, wriggling the robotic fingers like something is missing. They don’t speak, they don’t know how to.  They don’t know each other, but they don’t know how to leave each other.

 

The other men in the compound don’t approach them, just look on with sheer hatred and stiff jaws as if they are the enemy. Their master Vasily Karpov lies his hands upon their shoulders and say they are the greatest weapons of all, a gift to all of Russia so no wonder they look on with hatred.

 

Their first mission together is in Berlin, slipping unnoticed across the borders. The windows of the building are too small, none of them giving a good enough angle to hit the target inside. Maybe the target knows they’re coming because he stays away from the windows, the ones that are not covered by thick black out curtains anyway. It calls for a change of tactics.

 

“Scout the area, find alternative means of access, make no sound.” Steve says, pointing out the route to take before splitting up, circling the building like birds of prey.

 

There’s a balcony on the third floor, curtains drawn across, tiny window panes in the frame. It would be easy to break the glass and open it from the inside, taking them into a small private office. They had memorized the floor plan of the manor house, the lack of memories making room for information to be stored. The lights inside will be limited to the occupied rooms making it easy to slink through the shadows towards the target, recon having suggested that at 12am he will be in the top floor suite.

 

Bucky waits until Steve finds him, gesturing up to the shallow balcony. Steve is inhumanly strong and although they have only trained together a few times, they move in a synchronization like they’ve been fighting together their whole lives. Steve takes up position beneath the balcony, stance strong with fingers laced and Bucky steps away a few strides. Sprinting back, Steve bends his knees as Bucky steps onto Steve’s laced fingers and launches him into the air. Bucky rockets through the air, left hand grabbing onto the railings surrounding the balcony and drags himself up, landing silently in the small space between the rails and the door.

 

Applying pressure to the edges of the window until the glass cracks, allowing the shards to be gently pulled out without shattering. Fishing through the window he jiggled the handle until it clicks, the door opening inward by an inch. Before entering, he winds a cord around the twists of metal, tossing it down so that Steve can join him. They enter together, Steve leading with a knife and his arm held across his body, Bucky one step behind ready with a handgun. The room is dark and quiet, no light coming from the hallway or the other rooms. There’s stairs at the end of the corridor and footsteps creaking through the wood from the floor above. They move slowly, each footstep calculated to slide silently, merging with the shadows so that not a single sound is made.  

 

On the stairs they pause, flat against the wall. Light is shining through the room on the right just off the stairs, the door partly open as voices flow through the corridor. They both know German, just one language in the array of dialects, they understand the hurried words of barely contained fear as the target prepares to flee across Europe. He knows they have been sent, knows that the Winter Soldier is coming even if this is the first time the Winter Soldier has been deployed. The fear has far preceded them.

 

Steve goes up the rest of the stairs, standing in the corner of the corridor just across from the stairs with knife at the ready. Bucky moves to the last step, sinking his body close to the floor and away from the light. Gauging from the voices there’s only one other person with their target, the family has already left so at least the body count has been minimized. After half an hour of being frozen in place, footsteps carry out of the lit up room, the target’s company travelling towards the top of the stairs to make a hasty exit.

 

If he sees Bucky he has no time to raise the alarm because Steve has already clasped a hand over his mouth, slitting his throat with a spray of blood and only a muffled sound. It’s over in seconds. There’s blood splattered across Bucky’s mask and goggles and all over the carpet. But there’s no time to consider it, as soon as the body is slumped Bucky is up, not bothering to be silent as he strides across the floor, through the open door, snapping off the safety switch with gun arm raised for the kill shot. The target doesn’t even register what is going on, caught stashing documents into a briefcase when Bucky storms in delivering two shots to the head in quick succession.

 

Blood and brains coat the back wall, the body falling back onto the floor with the crimson seeping into the dark wood.  Shoving the gun back into its holster, Bucky grabs the briefcase of documents and strides back through the corridor.

 

“It’s done, lets get out of here”

 

They slither back the way they came, tearing off their face masks and goggles when far enough away from the scene that they won’t be linked.

 

They start returning the same night after reaching the checkpoint, crossing the border without question before taking an armoured vehicle the rest of the way. Steve stays up all night, the chemicals coursing through his veins making the sleep not pull at his eyelids. Bucky stays awake most of the night as well, but by the time dawn is breaking he’s asleep, head drooping onto his chest, swaying with the movement of the truck as he half leans against Steve. They haven’t touched each other much, but it feels right.

 

It’s strange. They are strangers to one another yet they are not. They have known each other only a matter of weeks yet they have known each other their whole lives. They are nothing yet they are everything.

 

Upon returning back to the compound they spend a few days recharging in isolation, debriefed and tested, kept only a room apart. Isolation is intense, the silence, the men in lab coats, it drives Bucky mad. He can’t stand being alone anymore, screaming out for Steve who has never been by his side yet has always been within reach. Maybe Steve is screaming too, maybe they scream at the same time.

 

Kept alone, Bucky can see things in a summer haze, a fairground with delighted screams, the chundering wheels of the Cyclone, the grin of a blond haired boy so tiny Bucky can easily envelope him in his arms. There are waves, the smell of sea air, the shudder of gunfire as they run across the sand with weapons in hand, following after a man in red white and blue who is too big to be that little boy in Coney Island but it’s him all the same. Bucky can’t see much, the image too bright so he shuts his eyes up tight and tries to forget, recoiling against the pain in his head.

 

He’s let out after a few days, shoved into the outside compound where the air is freezing and there’s frost on the ground, high fences with barbedwire keeping them caged. Other soldier’s are there as well, but not the soldier, not the other part of the Winter Soldier. Bucky takes a seat on an upturned crate and broods, the wind stirring the stands of his short hair. He sits rigid and unmoving, until Steve comes shuffling outside as well, to which Bucky pushes off the crate and captures him by the wrist. Under his thumb he can feel the pulse, calm and steady and strong. It feels like an action he’s done so many times yet has only done once. It shouldn’t be like that, how can a weapon with no memories feel like this? Something unfamiliar is rising in him. He doesn’t know the name of it, but everyone else would know it was fear.

 

“Who are you?” He demands in English, knowing that the other soldiers speak Russian and this conversation is not for them. “Why are you in my head?”

 

“Why are you in my head?” Steve snarls, yanking his arm back. He too has that unfamiliar sense of fear coiling inside.  

 

“You can’t do this to me” Bucky is screaming now, falling into the only thing he knows how to do which is to be violent. He grabs Steve by the collar this time, aiming to hold him in a better position to threaten but Steve moves faster, back handing him round the cheek with a force that sends Bucky to the ground.

 

The other soldiers are looking at them, interested to see the men they hate tear each other apart. Bucky grits his teeth, shifting on his hands to kick Steve’s legs out from under him, sending Steve to his knees. Rearing up Bucky punches him in the face, a jab followed by a right hook to the jaw. The first one lands, but Steve drops down to avoid the hook. Steve pushes off his toes to tackle Bucky onto his back, Bucky’s head cracking on the ground.

 

They grapple, frosting biting into their skin as Bucky flips them and straddles Steve’s hips, fists caught in Steve’s hands as they struggle against each others weight. Bucky’s left arm clicks and whirs, adjusting the force needed to drive that hand into the ground. Steve won’t punch him, just uses enough force to restrain him.  

 

“Get out of my head. Get out of my head. Get out of my head!” Bucky screams until his throat is stinging and there are tears blurring his eyes. It has to stop, the flickering of images, the pain drilling through the centre of his forehead, the terrible sense that Steve is simultaneously a ghost but part of his flesh and blood.

 

With hands occupied and an urge to fight against the rules, Bucky surges his weight forward, the flexibility of his back allowing him to bend down and sink his teeth into Steve’s bared neck. Steve cries out in pain but his hips also surge up to grind against Bucky’s, the friction sending a sensation he’s never felt before shuddering through his body. It’s like being trapped between a rock and  a hard place, wanting to kill Steve for the mess inside his head but also wanting to rock their hips together until he's panting and overwhelmed.

 

It stops too soon, Bucky is thrown aside, the side of his body crashing into the ground as he rolls, stopping on his hands and knees. Steve is already back on his feet, an angry red mark on his neck, the skin around his eye already swelling and will later turn purple, knuckles gashed open.

 

“You think you’re the only one Bucky? You think I know why you’re a stranger I’ve known my entire life?” Steve isn’t shouting but his eyes are burning.

 

“I don’t know who the hell you are.”

 

“Neither do I”

 

It sounds so horribly defeated. They stand there looking at each other, blood oozing out the split in Bucky’s cheek from the backhand, pain echoing around his skull. Something, maybe it’s guilt, rips through Bucky when he looks at Steve.

 

“Steve…” It’s a weak lost sound, but it trails off when Bucky sees the soldiers have left and men in lab coats with needles and guards with batons and shields are rushing towards them. “Steve.”

 

At the desperate tone, Steve turns to look over at where Bucky stares transfixed with terror. Steve doesn’t wait a second, darting to the nearest guard and wrenching the shield from his hands and swinging it into his neck with a crack. The body falls, neck twisted at an impossible angle but Steve isn’t watching, just keeps the shield raised as he rushes back to Bucky without turning away from the threat for one second. Bucky slots in behind him, eyes scanning for any possible threat, any possible weapons that aren’t their hands.

 

Having a shield feels right, as if the weight that lies upon Steve’s arm all the time has finally been lifted. Protecting with stance strong and unmoving, an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Steve hands Bucky a baton, flicking it open so it extends to just under the length of his arm. They fight together, Steve using the shield even if the shape of it is all wrong, Bucky swinging the baton with the spray of red and the rattle of a distant tommy gun like a ghost in their ears.

 

It all stops when a sharp bark of Russian slices through the air, making Steve and Bucky still and stand to attention. Vasily Karpov stands before them, hands taken out of the pockets of his coat.

 

“My children what is this fighting?” They say nothing, just shift so they stand side by side. “What is wrong?”

 

Steve drops the shield.

 

“My head.” Bucky whispers, and they look like lost boys standing before a parent.

 

“Winter Soldier, the doctors and I are here to help you, have we not shown you the utmost kindness?” The pain was always there but it always stopped. Being loyal to Karpov was the only thing they know, to kill for him, to die for him, to do everything he said without question. Karpov would hurt them, but only to help them.

 

Bucky takes Steve’s hand, pulling him the rest of the way to where their master stands. Vasily Karpov lies his hands on both their shoulders, a distraction as a long needle sinks into their necks and the world goes black.

 

*

 

The electricity burns, sends lava flowing through their veins as they scream and arch off the chair, fighting against the bindings. It reminds them of how they were born into the world, carved out the ice, cased with metal, screaming in white hot pain and tears searing down their face.

 

Then everything is gone, no foreign images, no pain, just blackness.

 

*

 

In the modern day they’re owned by a man called Alexander Pierce. The last time they saw Vasily Karpov he had been an old man who they escorted through the hot Asian heat. The last time they saw Alexander Lukin he been in conflict with the Germans and they had spent decades frozen away, labeled as compromised and damaged and kept as relics. They wake up to a new world, and each time they awake the machines have improved, more deadly, more efficient, wiping away every speck of feeling and memory from their brains until they are nothing. Just a weapon. Just a Tabula Rasa.

 

They drown a man in a pool in the middle of spring when the sun is surprisingly hot. Bucky had held him under as Steve whispered words of encouragement in his ear, a hand looping round to rub the front of his trousers. When the body goes slack, it’s left to float face down in the chemical blue water. He’s panting into his face mask, reaching a hand back to fist in Steve’s Kalvar straps and grinding back onto him.

 

“C’mon, hurry up.” Bucky gasps, too hot in his mask and goggles and in no mood to take it slow.

 

“Not here” Steve’s voice is already rough around the edges, just like it has been ever since the assassination started. “Not here, it’s too open and we need to go.”

 

It’s unfair, but then again neither of them really know what ‘fair’ is. They don’t know what anything is apart from the emotion directed towards them by everyone around them, and the need they feel towards each other. They don’t have many feelings of their own, not without their brains exploding as a consequence. The hand withdraws but stays anchored in his belt to stop Bucky from falling.Their movements are a little stiff at first, made uncomfortable by their hard cocks, but eventually they’re practically running away from the suburban string of mansions.

 

Steve takes a sharp left, dragging Bucky after him into the nearest rest stop at the end of the highway, banging into a bathroom stall. It’s the middle of the day so the bathroom is empty and frankly neither of them would care if there had been people there. Steve shoves Bucky up against the sink, the thick grubby china digging into the small of his back. Bucky claws at Steve’s face mask, tearing it off the snaps and throwing it aside. Steve is different now, hair short with thick facial hair, dark rings beneath his bloodshot eyes. They’re both looking different now, they both look like walking corpses.  To each other they still look beautiful.

 

“Want you now” Bucky whines, spreading his legs apart and rocking against the thigh Steve slots between the V. His goggles get pushed back into his hair and his mask is also thrown aside. He pulls at Steve’s hair, pulling back until the sharp line of his throat is exposed, yanking down the collar of the Winter Soldier uniform with the unoccupied hand. Sinking his teeth around Steve’s Adam’s apple, he sucks in a viciously mark that will be gone in a matter of hours if he doesn’t draw blood.

 

“Come on Buck, tell me what you want.” Steve pants, cupping Bucky firmly as they grind together. He wants everything, all of it, none of it is ever enough.

 

“I want you on your fucking knees” He snarls, pulling back to bite Steve’s bottom lip hard enough to make blood pool in the indents, Steve’s fingers clawing as he gasps with pain. He has to settle on one thing and Steve’s mouth has always been so pretty. Half forced, half willingly, Steve crumples to his knees with a thud against the pebbled tiles.

 

Hands instantly go to the thick belt, snapping the double buckle open and placing it on the floor, concealed weapons clattering together. There’s no point dealing with the holsters strapped around the thighs and shins, not when there’s just enough room to pull the zipper down and free Bucky’s cock. Steve’s gazes at it for a moment, curious despite having seen it so many times over the decades, then again everything about each other makes them curious. His tongue flicks out over pink lips, leaving them spit slick and glistening and Bucky’s cock twitches in Steve’s hand.

 

“If I wanted you to stare at it I would tell you to draw a fucking picture.” When they’re like this, Bucky feels like someone completely different, yet somehow more like himself.

 

“Now Bucky, you’re gonna get nowhere if you start spewing filth like that.” Steve glances up all wide eyed and innocent like he’s never heard the word ‘fuck’ before let alone attempted to get someone off whilst killing someone.

 

“You talk about filth when you’re the one sucking my cock.”

 

“True” Steve smirks, eyes sliding forward as he licks one long, tentative stroke from the base to head. The tip of his tongue flicks over the slit, moving in tiny circles and barely touching. The worst thing about Steve is he drives Bucky insane, will tease until he’s writhing and peeling off his skin.

 

“Don’t be a tease” Bucky warns as hands curve over his thighs, feeling the gun snug inside its holster. Seve tilts his head as if considering the demand before deciding to ignore it, pressing feather light kisses to the veins instead.

 

But Bucky knows how to deal with it, knows Steve likes to be manhandled, to have fingers tight in his hair forcing him to take it all in his mouth.  Right now, the idiot is asking for it as Bucky twists his metal fingers into his hair and push his cock into Steve’s mouth. Steve moans half out of surprise, half out of want, taking Bucky’s cock all the way down until he’s pressed against the rough fabric of his peeled back trousers.

 

Lips parted, Bucky drops his head back momentarily to stare up at the dazzling light of the bathroom, the wet heat enveloping his cock as a tongue works against the underside. Everything is travelling a million miles an hour, a flashing flicker of memories that can’t possibly be his own, the whisper of words in his ear that he’s heard before in another life at another time. The ice is gone, melted away by the fire emitted between them. It feels like nothing he’s felt before.

 

Cheeks hollow around him and Bucky curses loudly, head falling forward again, hair draping over either side of his face. Steve looks back at him, eyes almost electric, pink mouth now cherry red and stretched around the thickness of his cock. He pulls back, sucking on the head as his tongue swirls around the edges, lapping up the precome already starting to bead the tip. Steve moans as he slides back down, the sound vibrating right through Bucky and making his toes curl.

 

“Look at you” He moans, scraping the rough material of his gloved covered fingertips down the back of Steve’s neck, hard enough to make Steve’s shiver.  Bringing his hand round to Steve’s jaw, Bucky can feel the outline of his cock pressed against the soft tissue of his cheek. “You take it all so well.”

 

Steve rises on his knees, hands curving around Bucky’s ass to pull him further into his mouth, the angle letting him take more. He chokes a little when Bucky cants his hips involuntarily, gasping and swearing with the knuckles of his human hand white as he grips the sink.  The metal hand is firm but not enough to do any damage, still circled around Steve’s jaw.

 

Steve pulls off to breathe with a wet pop , keeping the tip of Bucky’s cock against his bottom lip and letting the precome drip onto the plump swell, mouth partly open. It’s enough to have Bucky right on the edge of coming right there and then, seeing Steve look up at him through his long eyelashes, fingers still digging into his ass.

 

“Well you’re definitely filthy now.” Bucky says breathless, swiping his thumb over Steve’s lip and pressing it into the corner of his mouth. Steve shifts ever so slightly to lick the digit, the flat of his tongue rough over the material of the gloves.  

 

“Yeah, but only for you.” Steve’s mouth pulls upwards at the edges even if there’s no real feeling behind it. The expression may only be a copy of a copy but the sincerity behind the words is true and that has Bucky cursing under his breath, a possessive streak rocketing up his spine.

 

“C’mon then, open up for me” pulling so Steve’s head tilts upwards and jaw falls slack, Bucky pushes his cock back into his mouth with a snap of  the hips.

 

This is the one thing that is his. Steve and the things they do together in the slip of time between missions and cryo, it all belongs to him. HYDRA may do terrible things to them when they are freshly out of the freeze, nothing but robots with no memories, but Steve will get on his knees for Bucky without being ordered to, will take his cock enthusiastically and only for him. That knowledge is enough to drive Bucky insane.

 

“Just like that Steve, fuck you’re so good” Bucky starts to babble an illicit stream of consciousness, letting Steve know how good he is, know how Steve is his and his alone “I own your fucking mouth”

 

Steve whines, letting Bucky fuck into his mouth with no resistance, his eyelashes brushing his cheek. Bucky can see he’s achingly hard in his uniform pants and it has to hurt but Steve’s hands remains braced against his body. He’s distantly aware that someone is knocking on the bathroom door but is wisely deciding not to enter, not that he cares, Bucky would snap the neck of anyone who dared to interrupt this. There’s sweat running down his forehead, lips parted as he pants, chest heaving with Steve’s lips wrapped tightly around him.

 

He’s going to come, and then maybe collapse and he lets Steve know, driving his hips three more times before pulling Steve as close as he can get against his abdomen and coming down his throat. Steve swallows, throat working until he’s finally allowed to pull back, opening his mouth wide to show Bucky there’s nothing left.

 

“Good boy” Bucky sinks to his knees half into Steve’s lap, one hand over the back of his neck rubbing is soothing circles, the other going to the fly of his pants “Now it’s your turn”

 

It doesn’t take long for Steve to come, arching off the dirty bathroom floor with Bucky straddled over his knees. Uniform is half torn off at the neck, Steve shouts as he coats Bucky’s hand, with Bucky’s teeth sunk so deep into his shoulder that a fine trail of blood mingles with the sweat. Bucky hums in his ear, licking the release off his palm and somehow managing to deepen Steve’s blush further.

 

They stagger to their feet, straighten up with goggles and masks in hand. Bucky swings an arm around Steve’s shoulder as they saunter out the bathroom, feeling so good for the first time in the life time to really give a damn about the looks they get. It won’t matter, the memory of this will be gone in a matter of hours.

 

*

 

1975 was the last time they had been awake before being locked away for several years. They were in the United States having killed a bent politician and his family when having decided they didn’t want to be bent anymore, the body count amounts to a man, woman and three teenage children. It was made to look like an accident, a car accident to be precise, the car having veered off the road and mangled to beyond recognition.

 

The trip has been long and tomorrow they’ll travel out of DC to the last mission in New York before returning to the depths of Russia. Lukin is elsewhere on business and will not be at the compound when they get back, but they are consistent with their many checkpoints and reporting to their handlers. It’s cold and wintery and the longest time they’ve spent outside the ice since the beginning. Apparently it is unsafe for them to remain outside of their mother’s arms for too long.

 

Only when they get to New York and find it so beautiful, so much like home, that they can’t leave. It’s a painful night spent digging out the tracking chips in their forearms and sewing up the bloody holes the chunk of flesh has left. It’s their last checkpoint and tomorrow they are to make their way to the airport, only they won’t be going to the airport.

 

“I want to know more” Steve says, blood drying is rivets on his arm, tucking the long strands of Bucky’s hair behind his ear. There’s facial hair starting to grow on Steve now, dark despite his blond hair. “I want to know everything”

 

“What is there to know?” Bucky asks although he knows the answer, leaning into the gentle touch. Gentleness is something so unfamiliar.

 

“You.”

 

“We’re the same Steve. We’re the Winter Soldier.”

 

“Then why do I call you Bucky and why do you call me Steve?”

 

It’s a good point, a question neither of them know the answer to. Only Steve is here, Steve has always been here and now they have matching cuts where their tracks had been, the same number of stitches applied to the puckered ridge of skin. Crawling into Steve’s lap, Bucky pushes him down by the shoulders so they slot against each other perfectly.

 

“Come and discover me then, I dare you.”

 

*

 

They run lost for two weeks until Hydra takes them. They’re punished, separated, tortured and wiped clean, kept in cryo. They’re broken. They’ve started to discover self awareness once more, a sense of consciousness even if identity is still beyond repair. They are now a last resort.

 

Or at least they are until they fall into the hands of Alexander Pierce, who it seems is rather fond of reviving ghosts.

 

*

 

The truth is Bucky has never felt like he has an identity until Steve’s hands are upon him, big and warm and strong. He knows how to touch, how to rip Bucky apart from the inside out as a pleasure he has never known fills him to the brim. Bucky has never felt like he has a self until he’s crying out under Steve’s, begging to be touched, begging to be fucked, begging to be allowed to come.

 

His world revolves around Steve.

 

For Steve, every shred of him is buried within Bucky. Written in the dips of his muscle, etched into thicks scars webbing his left side, coded alongside the mechanisms of his arm. He needs Bucky against him, to crawl inside him and lie their skeletons beneath the same skin. Everything that is Steve lies in the taste of Bucky on his tongue and around the edges of his name when it’s torn out of Bucky’s lungs.

 

Bucky is Steve and Steve is Bucky. Together they’re the Winter Soldier. Apart they are nothing.

 

*

 

They’re in Paris; balcony doors open with thin curtains twisting in the light breeze, summer sunlight pouring into the large master suite. Lying in the bed of the politician they just killed, the body suffocated in the living room, Bucky lies sprawled over Steve’s chest, naked skin against naked skin. The taste of Steve’s release still sits at the back of his throat, cock taken all the way down as Steve had writhed, hands twisting in the sheets, twisting in Bucky’s hair, fucking up into his mouth with all the desperation of a dying man.

 

It’s not the first time they’ve fucked in the home of one of their targets, killing a person does something unexplainable to them and all of a sudden the only thing that matters is rough fucking on the carpet.

 

Steve draws lazy circles on Bucky’s back, hissing as Bucky bites a bruise into his shoulder.

 

“We’re repeating ourselves.” Steve says suddenly, staring up at the ceiling, head titled in thought. Bucky hums, nuzzling into warm flesh and wanting to crawl inside, wear it like a second skin. “We’ve done this before, exactly the same a long time ago.”

 

“No we ain’t”

 

Yes they have, Steve can remember it or rather he feels like he remembers it. It’s like he’s watching a movie, stood in a corner as the image flickers before his eyes, light shuttering and clicking and blurred around the edges.  It had been long ago, something whispers Paris 1944, on leave before departing for England in the morning. The room is smaller, darker, no windows open, no curtains twirling, just them lying in the murky grey. Bucky sprawled over his chest, pressing lazy kisses to Steve’s body as if to reintroduce himself, Steve drawing patterns as if Bucky is a canvas and the illustrations are just for them.

 

“Yes we have,  it was the first time since…since…” He can’t remember since “We have, everyone else is hitting the drink downstairs and you said we might as well make use of the room I got-”

 

“Steve”

 

“‘We’re in Paris after all, Europeans get up to all kinds of crazy shit’ you had said”

 

“Shut up”

 

There’s a sharp pain as Bucky sinks his teeth in Steve’s shoulder, gripping so hard on his wrists  the bone grinds. But the film reel is getting faster now, shuttering and their movements are jagged but it’s real, it has to be real.

 

“Gosh Buck you looked so beautiful, and I can’t believe I almost lost you.”

 

A hand smacks over Steve’s mouth, fingers crawling deep into his cheek.

 

“Shut up, stop lying and shut your goddamn mouth” Bucky is yelling, pinning Steve to the bed the grip on his wrist twisting it at an odd angle. His eyes are filled with fire and confusion, wild and lost and Steve knows his eyes are just the same. The image doesn’t belong, yet it does belong, it shouldn’t be a memory, but it is a memory and he just doesn’t know anymore.

 

It’s exhausting, leaving him pliant under the cruel hands that melt the ice.

 

“Don’t say another word.” Bucky spits, letting go with a shove. Like all their movements, he rises swiftly and is across the other side of the room in one fluid motion. He pulls on his underwear and pants and he hadn’t done that before, its all falling out of sync.

 

In the memory Bucky stays, as if scared to leave for even a second.

 

“Don’t leave me.” Steve finds himself saying, a pathetic little sound wrenched deep and raw from somewhere so deep inside, it’s origins are untraceable. Bucky freezes, the buckle of his belt sliding into place, the scarred muscle of his shoulder tense. It relaxes beneath the skin, sagging, disappearing from view as Buck turns. His expression is carefully schooled but not completely blank, just empty with the reminisce of something that had once been there.

 

“I don’t think I can” How can he, when this is all he knows, everything scrap of information that may be classed as a memory contains Steve. He can’t leave Steve, just like he can’t leave blood, and screams and how to kill in the slowest most painful way possible. He doesn’t say that he thinks he’ll die without Steve and how much that scares him.

 

Crossing back to the bed in quick strides, Bucky leans over Steve, grabbing him roughly round the jaw and forcing his head up, their faces inches from one another as the threat ooze like poison from Bucky’s lips onto Steve’s.

 

“But if you lie to me again, I’ll rip your tongue out.”

 

“I wasn’t lying”  It’s the wrong answer, another lie, another false memory. The hold tightens and if he squeezes hard enough the bone will break.

 

“Did Hydra tell you it?”

 

“No”

 

“Then it’s a lie.” He lets go and resumes getting dressed, both of them pulling on their clothes like pulling on a facade. Steve glances over at him, expression confused and lost and empty inside. They know what they’re thinking, if lies are surfacing then Hydra will wipe everything away, a clean slate of absolute truth to be filled with orders and no questions. To be wiped is the biggest fear of all.

 

Bucky presses a kiss to the top of Steve’s head, rising onto his tiptoes in order to do so. No harm will come, it will be their secret just like so many other secrets they keep.

 

No words are spoken, and house goes up in flames and it’s made to look like an accident caused by a stray cigarette.

 

*

 

No matter who they work for, be it Karpov, Lukin or Pierce, Bucky knows he would kill them all if Steve told him to.

 

*

 

There are incredible things in the world, superheroes and S.H.I.E.L.D and technology doing unbelievable things in the world.  They know all about it. They have worms crawling within S.H.I.E.L.D like a riddled injection, ruining everything Howard Stark and Peggy Carter had sort to create. It was a beautiful thing really, the way Zola had managed to sneak HYDRA in from the very start without anyone even noticing. S.H.I.E.L.D is a lie, HYDRA is the only truth in the world.

 

Steve can remember when they killed Howard Stark, an assassination made to look like a car accident like they had done so many times over the years. A small disc device secured to the road, breaks having been tampered with to snap right when they were most needed, Bucky sneaking toward the wreckage to make sure there were no survivors before calling the emergency services like some innocent bystander.

 

The son had avoided death and whenever Steve sees Tony Stark’s face he wondered when the day will come when they will be sent to deal with him like they had his father. That day will come in time.

 

But for now they’re to deal with other arrogant S.H.I.E.L.D agents. Or more importantly the agents that work for them but are starting to get grander ideas of spewing their secrets to other enemies. They had not been a part of the torture, they just stood either side of Pierce like a mirror reflection on the other side of the two way glass. The words came spewing out as fingernails were slowly pried off and Bucky marvels at just how weak these people are. They crack like eggshells, so pathetic, so weak.

 

“See that” Pierce says as if sensing Bucky’s train of thought “You are so much more than they will ever hope to be. You are pure and uncorrupted and that is what makes you strong”

 

What he means is their heads have been so badly abused they no longer know the difference.

 

“Kill them, slowly, show them how easy it is to be killed by a ghost.”

 

Steve and Bucky turn simultaneously, footsteps in time, stance exactly the same. The rogue agents cry out as Bucky breaks their bones and Steve make them bleed out slowly before gouging out their eyes, making the image of the Winter Soldier being the last thing they see. When they look at each other at the end, the only thing they see is the image of the blood soaked Winter Soldier staring back in the frames of the other’s goggles.

 

*

 

“I want to feel” Steve whispers after they’ve been cleaned up, smart enough to keep his mouth shut around the lab coats.

 

“Feel what?” Bucky asks raising one eyebrow. Steve shrugs, staring into space.

 

“Something. Anything.”

 

Bucky stops, grabbing Steve by the arm and backing them into an empty supply cupboard.

 

“Let me help you feel.”

 

“Okay”

 

*

 

At the end of an undercover mission in Mexico they lie in the sticky heat of a crack den in the middle of nowhere, stars like New York city lights above them. The place is tiny, but it’s clever enough. If anyone were to come asking questions the witnesses would be too off their heads to remember anything, or anything reliable that is. They’re also wise enough to give them a wide berth and not to say a single word, placing them in a tiny room with nothing more than a single lumpy mattress separated from the rest of the house by a bead curtain.

 

“I have a gift for you” Bucky says falling into a crouch by Steve’s side. If he knew how to smile he would be, if he knew how to be mischievous it would be lining the edges of his voice.

 

“A gift?” Gifts are a foreign thing.

 

He produces small clear baggy of off white powdered ketimine, dividing the amount into lines on a plate.

 

“You said you wanted to feel something, well so do I.”

 

“But our orders”

 

“They don’t have to know. It can be our secret, we have so many secrets after all”

 

It’s time to feel something after decades of nothing. Bowing his head, Steve snorts up three of the six lines, flopping back onto the mattress as Buck quickly follows, pulling the knitted comforter over them.  They lie there in nothing but their uniform trousers, holsters still strapped to their legs with weapons piled in the corner.  

 

It takes ten minutes until Steve’s heart is beating so fast it feels like it’s going to burst. It feels like his body is not his own, not that it ever has been, his limbs belong to their master but it feels like he splitting in two, one part rising up as the other remains anchored to the floor. There’s nothing to feel, no way to move a single muscle as he floats up to the ceiling in a state of complete dissociation.

 

And then it all comes crashing down. There’s distant laughter in his ears, childish and gleeful as two orphaned boys run through the streets of New York, one falling behind to wheeze as the other drops to pick him up and continues running. Incomprehensible images flash at a rapid speed before his eyes, the feeling of be so weak yet so strong in heart, of being punched over and over again until he’s spitting blood and Bucky is picking him off the ground, larger, stronger. Decades of forgotten memories burst before Steve’s eyes and it’s so real,  so real it feels like he’s dying as he watches Bucky walk away from him, dressed in a military uniform never to be seen again. Not for a few months anyway.

 

The images slow, narrowing down to just a dark tunnel and a cold icy wind as they zip through the Alps. Suddenly they’re on a train, shuddering through the mountains with a round shield in hand and a red white and blue uniform he’s never seen before but fits like  a second skin. Bucky is there in his own blue uniform, wings crested on his shoulder to match the one’s on Steve’s helmet. There are no muzzles or goggles here, no metal limbs and despite everything they both look so incredibly alive.

 

Or at least they are until Bucky picks up Steve’s dropped shield. The memory is so vivid and everything is so bright it’s almost blinding as they both dangle off the side of the train.

 

“Take my hand!” Steve shouts over the roar of the trains wheels against the track, his fingertips only barely brushing against Bucky’s as they reach towards one another. The bar Bucky has a hold on is creaking under his weight, groaning and bending and there won’t be much time. Their fingertips curl together, gripping tightly as Steve tries to use his upper body strength to pull Bucky up , but it’s tough without any purchase for his feet and he’s only holding onto the train with one hand. The bar Bucky was holding onto breaks away falling into the abyss but Steve has him by the wrist, using all the strength he has to keep Bucky in his hand. He won’t let go, can’t let go after so many years of grasping one another.

 

But the added weight suddenly swinging into a different angle has the part of the train Steve has a hold of crumpling in his grip, too much force trying to keep them both from falling. With no leverage, and Bucky’s wrist starting to slip slowly away, the metal gives one last deafening groan, the crack, and then there’s nothing. They’re both plummeting to certain death, no amount of super soldier serum will stop Steve breaking into a thousand pieces when he eventually hits the bottom of the mountain verge.

 

No no no this can’t be happening, he’s crashing through the floor, rocketing down into the darkness of the earth’s crust. Bucky is gone, broken away and slipping into a void, spiralling downwards into whiteness.

 

Steve hits the slope of the mountain first and that’s when everything goes black. Bucky hits the slope as well, left arm getting torn to shreds as his body crashes and rolls the rest of the way before coming to a stop only a few paces away from Steve on a lip jutting out of the mountain side. A stain of crimson streaks down the white snow, marking their death as they melt into the ice.

 

It was the end of Captain America and Bucky Barnes, but the birth of the Winter Soldier. The ice starts to cover their lifeless bodies, and it is here they are found in the womb of the mountain, thawed out and repaired and birthed into the world anew. Cold, so goddamn cold, never the feel the heat again.

 

No wonder people call them ghosts when their true selves died with nothing but each other.

 

It feels like they’ve spent days dying only to be born again, killing, dying, being revived only to repeat. On, off, reset, reboot, new programming and code wrapped up so tight in wires they cannot move. But it hasn’t been days, it’s only been a few hours. Dawn is breaking when they come to, feeling sick to the stomach and shaky. It feels strange to be able to move again, to be part of a body after what felt like so long living as a spirit. Steve opens his eyes to find Bucky staring at him, frightened and confused, fingers moving over the faint visible veins of metal that supports Steve’s ribs. It wasn’t so bad. The fall had cost Bucky an arm, a shoulder and part of his spine. It had cost Steve a few skin grafts and metal enforcements wrapped around his shattered ribs.

 

“Stevie is that you?” That is not the Winter Soldier talking, it’s someone else entirely, someone who has always been there but locked away in the deepest corner of his mind.

 

“Yeah Buck, yeah it’s me”

 

“What have we done Steve?”

 

“I…” The truth of what they’ve done is crushing, there are so many dead bodies swimming behind his eyes and this isn’t what they were born to do. “I don’t know”

 

Only he does know, he knows too well what they’ve done. Both of them do.

 

*

 

“Who are we?” They demand in unison upon returning to Peirce’s hands.

 

“You are the Winter Soldier.” The tone is calm even if there is nothing calm about the situation. Bucky snarls teeth bared as Steve rushes forward to grab Pierced by the throat. The security is moving in an instant, gun aims raising to their heads.

 

“We are not the Winter Soldier.” If Steve squeezes hard enough he’ll crush Peirce’s windpipe, he would barely need to move a muscle to lift him off his feet. “Our names are Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes and we want to know”

 

“If you knew the truth you’d wish you were dead.”

 

“We already are dead.” Bucky growls.

 

“And you will remain that way.”

 

A harsh word in Russian tears through the air and Steve and Bucky instantly collapse, eyes rolling back into their skulls as they lie unconscious on the floor. It’s a fail safe word, one of many installed into the brain of the Winter Soldier by the Russians in cases like this. They’re too valuable to kill, especially over something so trivial. Peirce straightens his tie and jacket, giving Steve’s limb body a small kick.

 

“Get them wiped clean and put them in a holding cell. If you have to remove all knowledge of how to walk then so be it, just make sure it’s all gone.”

 

*

 

“So this is the infamous Winter Soldier? Don’t look like much.”

 

“On the contrary, they’re everything.” Peirce says with an element of fondness looking into the holding cell. The Winter Soldier are sat on the floor facing one another, muzzled with hands chained to the floor wearing nothing but black pants. One body is littered with thick scars whereas the other is smooth skinned as if he’s never been in a fight before. They’re both perfect specimens.

 

“However, they’re dogs and they’ve disobeyed. Deal with them”

 

*

 

Brock Rumlow is a stranger, but he’s crawling deep within the S.H.I.E.L.D strike teams and seems to have Pierce’s confidence, more so than they do at this moment in time. Maybe it’s the first time he’s been here, maybe he’s been here all along, but none of that matters.  

 

What does matter is he’s got his hands on Steve and Bucky can’t stand that. He’s snarling like an animal against the muzzle suffocating the lower part of his face, thrashing against the bindings that only give an inch. Rumlow has come equipt with two batons, a taser and a stun gun, magnetized handcuffs dangling off the loop of his belt. There’s no bullets in sight, not anything that will kill them but enough to do serious damage.

 

Steve is writhing on the floor, an electrical current strong enough to kill an ordinary man running through his body, his teeth clamped together, the muscles of his body so tense it’s going to break in two. His muzzle has been ripped off, lying on the floor next to the loosened bindings.

 

“What is the one thing you are taught?” Is the demanding question delivered with another shock to the stomach.

 

“To obey” Steve wheezes out through gritted teeth, his voice completely wrecked as he twitches and convulses with pain. They can’t remember what they had done, there’s nothing to illuminate the darkness but they have obviously gone against the wishes of their superiors, they deserve to be punished.

 

Bucky wrenches forward again, feeling the bindings start to give around his left arm.

 

“And what did you fail to do?”

 

The reply to cut off by a scream and it’s more than Bucky can take. He cries out Steve’s name and gives an all mighty pull until the bindings around his left arm snap. With the link broken, the chain has enough give to allow Bucky to scamper across the floor on all fours and crouch over Steve like an animal protecting its young, everything about him feral.  

 

“Don’t fucking touch him.” His voice is muffled by the muzzle but conveys all the venom Bucky can feel dripping from every pore. Steve is jerking beneath him, his fist curled so tight around Bucky’s arm it’s almost enough to crush the metal and Bucky just has this overriding need to keep him safe.

 

“Well isn’t that sweet.” Rumlow sneers stepping back to observe the scene. Bucky will rip his face off is he has to, and right now he really wants to. “And here I was thinking you’d be incapable of being so sentimental.”

 

The electric baton jams straight into the sensitive cluster of wires where the left arm joins flesh, sparks flying as Bucky jolts, biting down on his tongue so hard blood bursts in his mouth. The arm short circuits, channeling currents through Bucky’s body as he collapses onto Steve, tense and straining against the pain. The chain still connected to his right hand is pulled harshly, yanking Bucky’s limb body across the floor.

 

“Don’t worry you’ll get your turn, but for now just lie there and watch.” The magnetised cuffs are secured around his wrists, stuck to the strips of metal on the floor.

 

So there’s nothing to be done but to watch Steve get beaten black and blue. The taser is replaced with the baton or taped up knuckles, blood and spit spraying in thick gooey lines that ooze from Steve’s mouth where his teeth have shredded his cheeks. The strikes hit again and again and again and Bucky is crying out against the muzzle like he’s the one being hit. Maybe it is that way. They are the Winter Soldier after all, two of the same one, maybe Steve’s pain echos so vividly in his body because that’s the way their brains work, somehow managing to convey signals of distress to each other in one weird form of symbiosis.  

 

Rumlow’s laughter is like thunder.

 

For a split second Bucky sees a tiny, blond haired boy with boney knees, sharp elbows and paper thin skin getting beaten up in an alleyway in Brooklyn. Sees the gashes allowing that all important red liquid flow onto the grubby pavement, fingers broken, nose bent at an odd angle but still the stupid punk keeps getting back up. Normally Bucky would storm over there and deck whoever dared touch the sickly kid, but this time there is no help for either of them, the boy keeps bleeding and the ghost stays still.

 

By the time it stops there’s blood in Steve’s eyes, drying tacky on his flesh, vicious marks and broken bones like a brand. When he’s electrocuted it barely registered apart from the spasming of his body. Rumlow crouches, taking Steve’s jaw in one strong bloodied hand.

 

“What have you learned?”

 

“To obey”

 

“And what do you do?”

 

“What I am instructed.”

 

“And who are you?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

Rumlow smiles and to any normal purpose it would be sinister but the action registers as an act of kindness despite the lack of it. His hand moves to pet Steve’s hair.

 

“Good boy”

 

The muzzle is placed back on without any kind of clean up, allowing the blood and sweat and spit to smear into the material and pool there. It’ll dry, caked to his skin as a reminder of the punishment.

 

*

 

The conditioning is relentless, day in day out in a systematic routine of beating and repeating orders vocally before carrying them out. Everything revolves around the holding cell which reeks of blood and sweat and a sour smell that can’t quite be placed. They both heal, one a little faster than other, but it only means they can take more and more the following session.

 

Animals learn best by routine, by the clear establishment of who the master is.

 

By the end of it, when Rumlow tells them to kneel they do so instantly. When Rumlow tells them to crawl, they crawl. When Rumlow tells them to hit each other, they do so with only a tiny bit of hesitation and not enough heart put into the action. They can kill others ruthlessly without regret or even pausing to think, but it is harder to hurt each other now after decades of being the only thing they know.

 

Pierce comes in after what feels like months, Rumlow leaning against the wall near the door looking rather pleased with his work. They kneel side by side on the ground, heads bowed, still coated in days worth of filth.

 

“Are they functioning?” Pierce asks tilting back one of the Winter Soldier’s two heads, long dark hair lank and matted with dried sweat.

 

“Barely, but they’re as good as new.” The eyes are dull and absent of all life, like black holes sucking everything in but giving not a shred of feeling in return. Good, that’s the way they’re meant to be, living weapons with no sense of autonomy, not a single individual thought inside their heads beyond basic needs and strategy.

 

“Good, get them cleaned up and prepared. They’ll be needed in a matter of hours.”

 

*

 

Stripped of what little clothing remained and shoved into a shower room where water hot enough to melt the skin off their bones flays off the blood and sweat, Bucky ducks his head beneath the pummel of water and lathers up the bar of cheap soap. Gazing over at Steve through the steam, Bucky traces over the lines of thick muscle, the silver twists of metal crawling beneath the skin to support the bones, the healing wounds that had gone particularly deep.  

 

Certain in his movement, Bucky places his metal hand on the back of Steve’s neck, drawing him close under the nosal of water. No matter how much coding and programming and conditioning went into them, nothing could stop the fundamental need to be a part of each other just like it couldn’t change the body’s need to have a beating heart. It is a simple unchangeable fact that they will always crawl into one another and become one instead of two halves.  

 

Steve’s hands rest on his hips, sweeping up and down his sides. Bucky bows his head to rest their forehead together, looking fixedly at the other without blinking, as if blinking would make it all disappear, would put them back in the chair or back in the holding cell.

 

They don’t kiss, the don’t know how to kiss but Steve willingly takes Bucky’s fingers into his mouth, licking and sucking, taking two digits down to the knuckle and biting down softly. Nails scrape over the flat of Steve’s tongue, hooking over his teeth and pulling his mouth open slowly, Bucky’s fingers slipping free. Fingers comb through the thick wet strands of Bucky’s hair, a soft slide against his scalp and down to get rid of the knots.

 

It’s so gentle, so filled to the brim with kindness and Bucky isn’t sure when he starts crying, what with the hot water streaming down his face, but he’s aware of it when Steve ducks forward to lick them away. It’s like breaking the seal of something that has been brewing for years, and there’s no stopping it, he just sobs quietly as Steve’s lips ghost feather light over his cheeks, the bridge of his nose, to corner of his eye.

 

It’s a feeling so unknown, so heartbreakingly human it shouldn’t belong to the robots.

 

“You’re mine” Steve whispers in his ear, hands strong and sure around his face, “You’re mine and I’ll kill anyone for you, just tell me and I’ll do it. Anything for you, anything you want.”  

 

“I’m yours” Bucky repeats and it’s the biggest comfort he can have “‘I’m yours”

 

Not HYDRA’s, not Rumlow’s, not Peirce’s, only Steve’s, always Steve’s. He turns his head to nip Steve’s earlobe, to mouth the shell of his ear, digging fingers hard into his shoulders. It doesn’t matter if people are watching, let them watch, let them see who the Winter Soldier really belongs to.  

 

*

 

They torture three people , driving stiletto knives through the centre of their palms or into the bed of their toenails. Peirce watches, asks questions in that calm unwavering voice of his, and the Winter Soldier only moves when instructed to. It’s S.H.I.E.L.D information, secrets pouring forth about Nicky Fury and Stark tech and superhero intel and neither of them understand, they have not be programmed to understand the information being given.

 

Someone will end up dead. Someone always ends up dead.  

 

“Choke the life out of them”

 

Strong fingers wrap around windpipes, squeezing slowly whilst knowing full well that they could just crush the bone in a matter of seconds. Strangling is oddly intimate, nothing but bodily contact, the sharp gasps and scrapes and thrashing,  the feeling of life slipping away. The bodies sag, a lifeless sack of flesh and bone and blood and the Winter Soldier feels so incredibly isolated from them. They are metal and wires and coding, nothing more.

 

Peirce pushes up from the chair he’s sat in to start walking out the door, the Winter Soldier instantly falling into step behind each shoulder, each step methodical and exact like mirror reflections.

 

“Tonight you will be deployed , report for debriefing in three hours.” Pierce turns abruptly to face them and they stop dead. “You will not fail me again, am I understood?”

 

“Yes sir”

 

*

 

Back into the room where they sleep when not placed in cryo, with its slim mattresses and a woolen blanket. Three hours is more than they usually get, but not as long as they would like. Uniform shredded all over the floor, pushed face down onto the mattress, Bucky gasps at the loss as the three fingers pushed deep inside him pull out abruptly. He can feel Steve’s cock resting in the slick crease between his buttocks, one hand curled tightly around his wrist as the other pushes his shoulders down, spine forced into an impossible curve. It’s a good thing flexibility is a strong forte.

 

Having been dismissed, they had wasted no time getting to their holding room, escorted by four guards even if the false sense of security was useless. Bucky had been rattling out of his skin, riled up by the kill and Steve is right there, walking in powerful strides with his fingers flexing restlessly at his sides. An uncontrollable sense of need was coiling at the base of Bucky’s spine, travelling down to make his knees weak with every sway of Steve’s body as they walked. It happened all too often after cryo and conditioning, having forgotten what it was like to feel whole again, missing the second body trying to merge into his own, almost like a muscle memory of something that had been there and is still there no matter what.

 

As soon as the door closed, Steve pushed Bucky against the back of it with one hand, crowding him against the reinforced metal. The metal limb made short work of the black under armour uniform, stitches pulling, ripping at the seams. They will have to find another black suit before donning the Winter Soldier outfit in a matter of hours. Steve goes to his knees to pluck open the laces of Bucky’s military boots, pulling at the hard leather with both hands and easing it off his foot as Bucky undoes his belt. There are no holsters and straps in the home base armour so it’s easy to fist a hand in the waist band and pull.

 

Steve bites a cluster of bruises into the thick muscle of Bucky’s thigh, up from the knee to the crease where it meets the groin, where the skin is silky soft and never touched, sensitive to the sharp nips of teeth. A hand works around the base of his cock, twisting and squeezing gently but not stroking. It feels like the first time anyone has touched him. It feels like the hundredth time. It’s never happened. It’s always happening and the conflict of memory is so overwhelming Bucky is shaking, hands clutching and flexing in Steve’s hair.

 

“Stop, stop” Steve leans back instantly, just like he does with every order they are given. Laying a hand over the side of Steve’s face, watching as he leans in to nuzzle his hipbone, “Take me to bed and fuck me or my actions will not be my own.”

 

They are never his own, apart from right now, full autonomy is resorted for the briefest of moments.

 

On the mattress that acts as their bed, Steve forces Bucky onto all fours, knees pushed up and apart, resting on his forearms with metal fingers curled into the spring, stuffing oozing out the corner. Plastered chest to back, Steve laps at the beads of sweat starting to gather at his neck, biting along the dip of his spine to the small of his back.

 

Everything feels tight, like his bones are going to rupture through his skin, seeping blood and sweat in thin rivers to the floor. Nails scrape dark red criss crossing marks all over Bucky’s back, making Bucky cry out and curl his toes, tearing him to shreds. Hot wetness spreads over his hole, stroking over the tight ring of muscle, two fingers just resting over the top.

 

“Just fucking do it already, two fingers straight in”

 

The pressure pulls away for a moment and Bucky knows Steve is slicking up his fingers, that he’ll do as Bucky asks but still within his own comfort. The stretch burns a delicious pain straight up his spine as two fingers push in with an agonizing slowness. It’s everything Bucky wants, the pain, the feeling, the emotion he understands and embraces. It has him moaning, eyes screwed up tight, hips pushing his ass higher into the air. Steve keeps a firm grip on his hip, stopping Bucky from shoving back instantly.

 

“Fuck, fuck c’mon”

 

“You’re so demanding”

 

“I wouldn’t have to be if you did what I wanted for once”

 

Steve leans down, two fingers now pushed in all the way and crooking downwards, grinning against Bucky’s neck.

 

“And you want to be fucked like I own you. Like this is all you’re good for.”

 

“Please” Bucky whines, grinding back on the fingers that rub against the passage, over bundles of nerves that has his cock twitching and a fire strong enough to make his arms give way. “Please, I’ll do anything, anything you want”

 

Steve shushes him, biting down on his earlobe as his fingers move in and out, twisting and spreading until it’s met with no resistance. Pulling out slowly to squeeze more lube onto his fingers, in order to fill Bucky with three fingers, moving at a more rapid pace to drive a pressure into Bucky’s skull until it feels like he’s going to implode. He vaguely remembers stashing away sachets of lube into the mattress at some point after killing a governor, it comes in handy after their initial months spent using spit until their mouths were dry .

 

A hand grips to the back of his neck, thumb jamming hard into his pulse point to feel the erratic stammer beneath.  Bucky’s muscle spasms, sweat rolling over his forehead as his hair falls over his face. Cheek dug into the mattress, mouth parted to allow broken noises to scrape out his throat, Bucky begs to be fucked open, to be filled, to be stretched further. Three fingers isn’t enough, more is needed, so much more to fill decades worth of emptiness.

 

When Steve eventually decides to get a move on, Bucky is already falling apart, limbs tied to the core by a single thread. The slow initial push of his cock followed by a sharp snap jolts Bucky forward, his joints cracking back into place as Steve bottoms out. The wires unravel, wrapping around the places where their bodies touch, tightening and braiding together with a zap of electricity to make the Winter Soldier just one body once more. The wires will not surrender, will not loosen, will melt into their sockets to keep them joined forever.

 

“Fuck me Steve, push in deep and have me like a whore.”

 

Steve pants into his ear, sucking a large oval mark into the side of his neck as his hips drive forward already at a brutal pace. Bucky gnaws on his cheek so hard blood spills into his mouth, pleasure a wine stain on his lips. The slap of skin against skin is like the churning of metal gears. It’s like being touched in a dream, a sensation that feels so real but is all in the mind, how can a ghost feel touch when the hand that reaches goes straight through?

 

“You’re mine, all mine.” Steve mumbles into his ear, “Your skin is mine. Your mouth is mine.” Steve’s tongue prods into the cut Bucky’s teeth made on his own bottom lip, whispering straight into his mouth like a passing breath “Your blood is mine”.

 

It’s the closest to kissing they ever get.

 

A word sits on Bucky’s tongue but he doesn’t know how to voice it. It’s an emotion so unknown yet intrinsically linked to Steve, a word that should be blurted in the heat of the moment and whispered into the intimate space between them. An image of thin curtains and warm sunlight swims before Bucky’s eyes, the sound of Brooklyn flowing through the open window. The neighbours record player can be heard through the paper thin walls, and it’s the middle of the day but yet he lies in bed still.

 

The tiny blond boy is back, facing him on his side and for once he’s not shivering despite the lack of clothes, looking flush and sated. His blue eyes look so alive, so familiar and he smiles at Bucky like he’s looking at the best thing in the world. The word sits on Bucky’s tongue, slipping into the morning sunlight. He says the word over and over like a declaration, the L pressing against the roof of his mouth.    

 

He can’t remember what the word is but he’d be screaming it now if he could.

 

Now a strong body smothers over him, making Bucky feel safe, the hard heavy thrusts being the only calm within the storm despite the desperation behind it all. Being fucked until his eyes roll back into his head, body so overcome by everything that is Steve.

 

Steve is groaning in his ear, a sound ripped raw from his chest and bloody around the edges. When he pulls out Bucky yells at the loss, hole clenching around the sudden emptiness. It’ soon amended as Steve comes in hot streaks all over the crimson scratch marks turning his back into a ragged mess. It stings but it’s just the kind of feeling Bucky craves, will let it dry tacky and sticky as a reminder for him alone.

 

Steve falls onto his side, rolling Bucky over so they lie back to chest, Bucky’s thigh pulled up over his hip. His cock jerks in Steve’s fist, stroking it hard and fast with tight pressure. In Steve’s hands he is nothing but putty, nothing but flesh and it’s the only time he feel like something similar to a human being. Nothing else matters but Steve. Steve. Steve.

 

When he comes, crying out with back bowing onto the solid weight behind him, Bucky feels the coding scattering to brighten in a blaze. Steve’s hands are the only grounding force, stopping him from spilling straight out of his body.  

 

Later they lie side by side facing on another, looking at the tiny boy from Brooklyn again, looking at a mirror reflection despite their differing appearances. Bucky touches Steve’s face, both hands around his chin, fingers touching his lips, sweeping beneath his eyes, over his eyelids, through his hair.

 

“The programming could never rid you, it keeps you as a part of me. We are the same, you are me and I am you and the wires will never let you go.”

 

“I’m with you” There’s another part to the sentence, a conclusion but he can’t remember what it is. Steve has a feeling that if only he could remember, it would rid the of the metal entrapment. So he repeats “I’m with you”

 

It’s not enough. The ice descends.  

 

*

 

“Do you believe in a life beyond this? The idea that life can go on to become something else once it’s finished?” Steve asks. They’re sitting on the park bench watching their target, who is reading on a separate bench 10 feet away. It’s sunny and the civilian clothes feel strange, the only reassurance being the weapons concealed upon their person and the padding over their chests.

 

They look so horribly normal it’s almost laughable.

 

Bucky considers the question. If it is possible that life can transform itself, flow from one vessel to the next then it might explain why there are so many bad things in the world. It might explain why neither of them feel particularly alive when it’s all too likely that the life had not flowed into them, that they sit there as empty carcasses.   

 

“It’s not something I think about” Why think about something you don’t have?

 

“Neither do I it’s just…” Steve shrugs one shoulder, a minute shift of muscle and bone. “It feels like I know you from another life, one far away from this one.”

 

“Maybe” There’s no need to say he feels the same, that Steve has echoed through the never ending corridor of his existence like a steady constant amongst the chaos. “Or maybe it’s just an idea of what we could have been, you know, if we were alive.”

 

The target is starting to pack away the book, about to go on the move. Give it twenty seconds and they will follow, walking close together like partners on a stroll. Ghosts in the crowd. Dead amongst the living.

 

“Shame you can’t kill something that’s already dead.” Bucky adds as they walk, eyes forward. Yet he can see the flutter at the corner of Steve’s mouth, can feel Steve’s fingers pressing against where his pulse point would be on his left wrist, but feeling nothing but the hum of machinery.

 

“We’ll find a way” It’s unclear if it’s reference to killing the undead or something else entirely, but it doesn’t matter.

 

Nothing matters but the mission.