His skin is on fire. He isn’t conscious of anything else — not sound or smell or sight or taste, but he’s burning alive and his first thought is that he’s grateful. Soon his nerve endings will fry and he won’t feel anything at all.
The burning continues and he wants to scream but finds he can’t draw a breath, can’t even open his mouth and the sudden fear of asphyxiation clenches in his gut even as bright white light illuminates the inside of his eyelids. His skin is on fire, his lungs are on fire, every muscle in his body is paralyzed but it can’t last, it can’t, how long can he possibly endure before his body gives up? But the sensations go on and on and he’s vaguely aware that there is liquid leaking from his eyes and then there’s the grating noise of metal on metal and his beleaguered senses are assailed by input that is too numerous and strong for him to even categorize.
He feels a shift and his proprioception tells him he is no longer floating in weightless agony but tipping forward, falling down and down and down and a scrap of a memory floats up to him, a face receding into space but before he can try to catch it, to hold it like something precious he impacts the ground face first, breathless, paralyzed, skin still burning, overstimulated, overloaded. As he loses consciousness he is grateful that this is the end.
“…times do I have to tell you to be fuckin’ careful? Christ, that’s an expensive piece of equipment you just let face plant into concrete.”
“It can take it. I’m not fucking catching it. You fucking catch it. Get fucking S.T.R.I.K.E in here to catch it. I’m not going out on medical because I broke my back trying to catch a hundred and sixty kilos of equipment. It gets beat up worse in the field. Besides, it’s not like this hasn’t fucking happened before.”
“I’m still putting you on report.”
“Fuck you, man.”
His proprioceptors inform him he is lying on his back. His skin is no longer on fire. His lungs are functioning. His eyes are still closed. 75% capacity, he thinks. There’s a pervasive ache in every muscle that’s reporting in. He’s cold. It occurs to him that he may not have been burning alive but freezing to death. He doesn’t know how he knows these things. He doesn’t know what he knows or doesn’t know. There was nothing, there was excruciating pain, and now there is less pain and a mind that is empty and yet feels full to bursting of knowledge he can’t access.
He opens his eyes.
“Asset is online,” he hears from somewhere. The voice and the words take his heart rate from a resting fifty-five to an alert seventy-four. Asset. Is that… is he an asset? The asset? Is that his name?
“See? It’s fine.” The speaker is a man with glasses and a bowtie. The asset tracks the man with his eyes as he turns to talk to a bearded man next to him. “Get it into decon. It’s been in storage a long time. We’re going to need at least a few hours with the chair.”
Heart rate ninety-four, reports something in the back of his brain. He knows this is not optimal but he is confused as to why he knows this or what is provoking these responses in his body.
He is levered into a sitting position by four people in masks and yellow plastic jumpsuits. They are dragging him towards a white tiled room overbright with fluorescent light. His legs make a weak approximation of walking but only tangle in the legs of the team moving him. He is hissed at and jabbed repeatedly with batons that hum and smell of ozone. Most of the pain is from his oversensitive skin but he remembers those batons can do much worse. He lets himself be dragged.
They prop him up against the white tiled wall. The floor slopes gently downwards from all sides to the middle of the room, which has a large metal drain set at the lowest point. He stares at the shiny metal drain cover, brain seeking traction but still not finding any.
Cold water, high pressure sprayers are primed and pointed at him and he howls like an injured animal. It stings, it burns, it is not the agony he felt when his perception began, but it is close. He keens and twists, trying to shy away but overbalances to the left and lands awkwardly on a metal arm —his arm?— with a clang. The tile underneath him cracks.
“Jesus Christ, would you hold on to it? That’s why we got you the fucking splash-proof suits, you pussies.” The sprayers are turned off and there are the sounds of many people grunting and huffing. He can smell sweat and fear, feel the warmth of their bodies through their gloves. He aches. Something gnaws low in his stomach and the sensation makes him want to bite and tear with his teeth, makes him want to double over and cradle himself protectively.
Nothing makes sense. Everything is sensation. He shrinks and cowers, tries to cover his skin, block his ears, search his mind for some kind of context for what is happening to him. Nothing comes but cold, darkness, confusion, the sense of familiarity without memory to attach it to. He is being borne down by the weight of everything even as people struggle to hoist him to his feet again. He neither helps nor fights them. He doesn’t know what is expected of him so he does nothing at all.
His thoughts continue to be mostly absent, save the calm, genderless voice in his head calmly reporting his vital signs, the status of his extremities (one of which does appear to be metal and that is both right and wrong in a way he can’t untangle) and his functional percentage.
He is supported by one person on each side of him, pinned to the wall on each thigh, hip, shoulder. The sprayers are turned on again and this time he just stands and shakes and shakes, fine fasciculations across his chest, his back, down his legs. He locks his eyes straight ahead, seeing but not registering. Nothing makes sense, why attempt to take in more of it? The people around him continually refer to him as ‘it’, as ‘equipment’ as an ‘asset’. Perhaps he has a purpose; perhaps if he is still and pliable they will tell him what it is, unlock the door in his mind that is bowing under the weight of secrets and knowledge. Perhaps…
When his skin is red from the high pressure water and his fingers and toes are blue-white from the cold, the hoses are turned off and a scratchy white towel, yellowed from over-bleaching is thrown at his chest. He catches it before he is consciously aware of the need to move. The two men flanking him step back, wary, and he is given the instruction to dry off. He scrapes methodically at as many of the water droplets as he can reach, operating by sight rather than sensation. When they deem him dry enough he’s tossed a pair of thin cotton pants, soft from repeated washings, and he steps into them, securing the ties at his waist.
The batons come out again and they cajole him with a series of shoves and vicious prods out of the tiled room and back into the main room, where they force him into a padded chair (not The Chair but what is that Chair and why does he fear it?) upholstered in vinyl with sturdy restraints on the arm rests. His nerve endings are still recovering from the cold so he doesn’t even feel the needle in his vein, but the bag of fluid they hang is only room temperature and as it floods his veins he chills from the inside.
The man with the bow tie gestures at him with a plastic tube. “Don’t move, soldier.”
Soldier? Is he a soldier? Soldiers obey, he knows.
Bow Tie applies a clear gel from a small packet to the end of the tube and inserts it deftly into the soldier’s left nostril. When the tube reaches his sinuses it scrapes against delicate mucous membranes and his eyes tear. The tube jams there for a moment so the man changes the angle and pushes harder. His eyes water. He feels the tube make the turn and slide down the back of his throat.
“Now swallow,” he’s commanded. But he hasn’t been given anything to drink and his watery eyes dart left and right, trying to make sense of this instruction. Bow Tie pushes the tube in deeper and suddenly the airway is restricted and he coughs, body desperately trying to dislodge the obstruction but the man persists until he’s wheezing, air whistling around the plastic tube. Mercifully, the man backs it out and his airway clears. “God, can’t it hear? I said swallow!” And this time he gulps what little saliva he can muster along with large amounts of air, gagging now as the tube scrapes down his esophagus and — he presumes — into his stomach. “Sixty centimeters,” Bow Tie says to the bearded man at his side who is making notes on a sheaf of papers on a clipboard. Bow Tie looks at him. “Speak.”
He’s not sure he can, but he tries anyway. His throat creaks, but no words come out. He isn’t sure what he would even say. Bow Tie frowns and looks over at the men holding the batons, one of which crackles menacingly. Then Beard speaks up. “You have to give it commands that it understands. Syntax.” Beard looks at him. “Asset, status report?”
His brain can’t even parse the words before he croaks, “75% functional. Severe dehydration, nutritional deficit, suprapubic pain, etiology unclear.”
Beard nods at Bow Tie, who rolls his eyes. The tube is secured with multiple pieces of tape and connected to extension tubing that runs through a pump on the same pole as the bag of fluid currently tapped into his vein. The tube is primed with a brown, viscous fluid and the pump turned on. The tube shifts and rubs at the back of his throat as it fills with the substance and he fights down the urge to gag. Beard and Bow Tie turn away and confer over the clipboard. The four people from the shower, now divested of their yellow plastic suits and dressed in black combat gear stand guard with guns and batons.
“New protocol is four thousand calories in, two liters of saline, a banana bag, a liter of D5 and a half and then check his electrolytes.” They move away from him, conferring over the papers on the clipboard in low tones. He’s aware of the weapons trained on him and considers the men wielding them. Frightened but weak, soft. Easy to overpower. But. 75% functional, he’s reminded. Perhaps if he waits, he’ll have a better chance. Why does he want to overpower them, though? There’s something growing in his chest, a feeling without a memory attached (he seems to have that problem a lot — perhaps he’s damaged in some way?) that they expect him to act out yet fear deeply the moment that he will try.
The tube scrapes in his throat and he gags, once, twice, swallows hard and finally stills the convulsing in his throat. Heavy brown goo fills his stomach.
There is no sense of impending urgency to the room. He can afford to wait, he thinks. He rests his head back on the chair and lets his eyes glaze over, his brain spin down, falls into stillness, leaving just enough of himself up top to observe and gather data. Something will present itself, he knows without knowing how.
Beard is hanging the third bag on the IV pole — something called a banana bag and though the bag itself is the same clear plastic the fluid inside is bright yellow — when the nondescript sensation of discomfort he’d been feeling just above his groin becomes a tight cramping sensation. He shifts restlessly in the chair, trying to find a better position but each movement causes a stabbing pain that makes him grit his teeth and growl.
“I’m pausing the pump. I think it has to take a piss.”
“I’m never getting over the fact we work with equipment that has to get taken to the bathroom to piss. LMDs never have to piss,” mutters Bowtie, hunched over a page of spreadsheets.
“You work in a secret underground bunker for a shadow organization and that’s what weirds you out?” Beard is unhooking the NG tube and capping the end. It dangles awkwardly out of his nose, still secured by the tape.
He stands and is immediately flanked on all sides by the men with electric batons. They accompany him back to the white tiled room, which has a toilet and a urinal fitted into the corner — thought not, he notes, out of the reach of the pressure hoses. He stands in front of the urinal, surrounded on all sides by men who are trying not to stare while still casually staring, each one looking some combination of uncomfortable and frightened. He counts a lot of white knuckles on stun batons and free hands hovering near sidearms. The bathroom is almost a kill box, if he could get between the men and the door— The subrapubic stabbing sensation returns with a vengeance and he grunts, pushing the cottons pants down over his hips and taking his cock out to piss.
He hunches forward a little, waits expectantly.
The stabbing sensation grows more insistent. What the fuck? he thinks. Pissing is a basic bodily function, and even if the wheres and whys of his current situation are missing, he knows how this works. He growls and bears down a little, and is rewarded with a white hot shooting pain from his groin to his chest. He doubles over at the urinal and makes an indeterminate sound of distress. The four men around him are muttering and openly staring now. The pain is so sharp through his torso that it’s hard to breathe. He bears down again and this time is rewarded — if anyone can call it that — with a thin stream of bright red blood followed by a few small clots and at the end a few weak drops of urine.
He knows — and this is the first thing he knows with certainty — that that’s not right.
One of the men surrounding him calls out to Beard and Bow Tie who come rushing into the room. When they see the blood spatters in the urinal, Bow Tie pales while Beard frowns and lets out an angry huff of breath.
“Oh, fuck the prep team. Get him on the table,” Beard directs. “The instructions are written in bullet list format at a fifth grade reading level so how those stupid fucks have managed to fuck up the prep process again is beyond me. Fuck!”
The security team hooks him under the arms and drags him backwards. His pants slip off as he lets himself be pulled, lost in the sharp, shooting pain and the confusion that he’s bleeding. He does not recall an injury but there’s so much he doesn’t recall. But if he had been injured, wouldn’t they have treated him sooner? His mind spins through potential scenarios and doesn’t catch up until he’s thrown bodily onto the sparsely padded table he woke up on earlier. The security team is pushing him down, trying to rearrange his arms and legs to fit the metal restraints when something in him snaps and he lashes out, levering himself off the table and swinging to break noses, dislocate jaws, snap necks — he will not be restrained because that’s— because that’s—
The thought tapers off and is lost as he quickly dismantles the joke of a four man security team — three of them hadn’t even drawn their guns and the fourth that did forgot to take the safety off. He’s headed for the door, Beard and Bow Tie hovering between blocking his way and fleeing — he hopes they do the latter but doesn’t really care if they try the former because he can crush them too if he needs to — when the door slides open and a ten man tactical team all in black, weapons drawn like they know how to use them comes piling through the door. Beard and Bow Tie are thrown to the sides while the tac team makes use of the stun batons both as energy weapons and simple clubs. He smiles around bared teeth; he remembers now he likes a challenge.
Then an elbow to the stomach sends white hot pain through his entire torso. He forgets to breathe, thinks he might vomit, falls to his knees. A brutal kick to the back sends him sprawling forward and he’s pinned.
“…careful!” Bow Tie is saying somewhere far away through the ringing in his ears.
“…might rupture,” Beard’s voice layers overtop.
And then someone delivers a vicious kick to his kidney, the pain lights up his entire field of vision bright white, and then everything tunnels down into darkness and silence.
When he wakes, it’s suddenly and with full awareness.
Naked supine metal restraints NG tube gone alone not alone —
His eyes roll in his skull trying to track the voice of the speaker. The white hot throbbing in his groin is a distraction, especially when his whole body is stretched and restrained flat when what it really wants to do is curl into a ball, protect itself, take some of the incredible pressure off—
“They said you wouldn’t remember me, but I bet you do.” A face floats into his field of vision, upside-down from above. He’s tanned skin, military haircut, rough features. Something behind the locked doors of his memory is pounding against them, trying to get out. They remain locked tight but shadows shift ominously in the cracks.
The man must see something in his eyes, because he smiles a little— ruthless, cold, predatory.
“You can search that empty ammo box of a brain of yours all you want but I know it won’t give you a name or a rank. Believe it or not we’ve been through this before because tech team is a bunch of fucking brainless twats who couldn’t find their own asses with two hands, a map and a friend.”
The face rights itself as the man moves to his right side — away from the arm which is restrained but still dangerous. “Brock Rumlow. I’m your field commander and for whatever fucking reason that means they bring me in to fix shit when tech fucks it up. Think you could put in a good word for me and get me a raise for all the extra hours I have to clock because of those fucks?”
The Asset grinds his teeth and seethes because the man — Rumlow is both Right and Wrong.
“Didn’t think so. Well.” Rumlow smiles again, gleaming white teeth, hungry, dangerous. “Let’s fix you and get you out on the field, soldier.”
Rumlow. The soldier runs the name through his limited store of memories and comes up with a confusing handful of sensations and flashes of images that, even if there were enough to be assembled into a picture still wouldn’t mean anything. Pain, pride, fear, arousal, a broken nose, prone sniper position on a tall roof, the enclosed back of a military vehicle, the smell of blood, sweat, taste of bitter salt.
He hears the squeak of wheels and metal rattling against metal as Rumlow pulls a tray table up next to the gurney.
“I’ve told those pre-cryo tech team idiots a million times that they can’t skimp on the cryo prep process, I don’t care if it’s fucking Superbowl Sunday or someone’s mama just died. Do they fucking listen? Of course they don’t, because they don’t get called in on their day off to fucking fix it. And the post-cryo revitalization team is so fucking scared of you all you have to do is growl at ‘em and they’re reaching for the tranq guns. Not that I blame them. They showed me pictures of the time you came out swinging and tore McBain’s head half off back in ’08. They said you hadn’t even taken a breath yet when you came outta the tank. Bad dreams?”
The asset thinks Rumlow’s smiling again by the tone of his voice. He distinctly doesn’t miss the noise of crinkling plastic or the snap of latex gloves. Somewhere behind and around the pain in his groin, he feels heat and warmth and the vague stirring of redirected blood flow. He shifts restlessly on the table, pained, confused, and… something else but the word won’t come.
“But for whatever fucking reason, they say you took a shine to me. Every time they fuck up, it’s my phone that rings. Personally, I think you just like me, kid.” Rumlow’s face appears in his field of vision, hungry, sharp-toothed, smiling. “Just relax. I’ll make it good for you. I always do.” Then Rumlow’s hand is on his dick, warm, latex, slick with lube, stroking him gently from base to tip.
The soldier moans, can’t help himself, even with the warring sensations of exquisite agony and gentle touch, right there where all the blood in his body is pooling. He feels his dick start to harden and gasps, his breath catching and holding in his chest.
Rumlow chuckles, low and gravelly in his throat. “Take it easy, killer. I need you to relax for this part. Well, relax is kinda relative, I guess,” he mutters, still stroking the soldier’s cock in long, easy strokes.
The soldier can feel his heartbeat (95 beats per minute) pounding in his dick, heart hammering against his ribs, and the rising wave of pleasure cut by the sharp stabs of pain that shoot out from his bladder, wrapping around to his kidneys and up into his chest. He pants, head thrashing back and forth metal arm whirring and clicking against the restraints, skin of his flesh wrist rubbing raw as he tries to reach, to touch anything, but he can’t and Rumlow’s hand remains the one point of solid contact on his dick, warm and strong and inescapable. Every few strokes Rumlow will circle his thumb around the head of the soldier’s cock where it’s smeared with blood and precome and that makes the soldier roll his hips until Rumlow puts a stop to that with one firm hand over his pubic bone, pressing down into his bladder, hard and distended and the soldier whines as agony slices through him again, dulled only by the growing pleasurable heat in his cock. Rumlow reaches behind the soldier’s balls, drawn up full and tight against his body and presses a thumb into his perineum, rubbing in small circles as he continues to stroke and that’s it, the asset is coming all over Rumlow’s hand and his own stomach, each pulse of pleasure accompanied by a stab of stomach-twisting pain. Rumlow strokes him through it until his cock goes soft and small. Rumlow drops it against the soldier’s thigh where it twitches, weak and harmless.
Rumlow wipes him off with some cold wet wipes, and there’s the snap of gloves being removed and the crinkle of a new pack being opened. “Now that that’s out of the way, we can get started. You don’t wanna come with one of these things in you. Hurts like a sonofabitch. At least, you cried the last time it happened. Pretty weak, but I’ve been told I have that effect on people.”
The solider has his head tipped back against the table, staring upside-down at the wall, breath coming in short pants. The heated flush in his chest is already receding as the pain takes over, steadily lighting up every nerve in his torso. His eyes flick around the room, looking everywhere but at Rumlow. What this man is promising, what he’s implying… This has happened before, and though the asset can’t remember any of it the memories banging at the locked door in his mind hint that his impression is both correct and horrifying.
There are several different rustling and clinking noises as Rumlow lays supplies out on the tray. The soldier tries to look but Rumlow glares down at him and shakes his head; says, “Trust me kid, it’s better if you don’t,” and continues shuffling things around. The soldier keeps staring, chin pressed to his chest. Rumlow sighs, annoyed and holds up a long piece of stainless steel about ten inches long with a wicked curve at one end. “Van Buren sound. 24 french, which is about what, 8 millimeters in diameter? Looks it. Anyway, gotta open you up good to get the cath in, see if we can get the blood clots out before your bladder explodes. As much fun as it is to watch you in surgery it’s messy, time consuming, you scream a lot and you always take out a few of the tech team. Not that I mind, but it’s been hell on the budget.” Rumlow’s applying a packet of surgi-lube to the curved end of the sound.
The soldier hasn’t spoken this whole time, but the thought of that thing inside him, in a place where even his spotty grasp of anatomy is certain nothing should go in, especially something that big, hard, unforgiving — it’s enough to break the conditioning that keeps him voiceless outside of the permitted parameters of speech.
“I don’t want, I can’t—“ he rasps.
“Ah, it speaks! It’s touching you think you got a choice in this. Didn’t I tell you I’d make it good for you? It’s almost like you don’t trust me, kid. That hurts. That hurts a lot, after all we been through.” Rumlow gives him an exaggerated frown. “Not that you’d remember.”
There’s the click of a plastic cap being flipped open and the smell of iodine cuts the air. Rumlow’s gloved hands are holding him and there’s cold wetness on the head of his penis, dripping into the meatus and down his wrinkled shaft. He shudders and every twitch sets off another stab of pain low in his abdomen. The muscles in his legs spasm erratically and strain against the restraints as he tries in vain to close his legs, to curl up and away from this invasion.
“I swear to fucking Christ, if you make me take off these gloves and get the baton you will not like where I’m going to fucking put it. Knock it off.”
The asset takes a deep breath, tries to swallow, chokes on his own spit, coughs, and breathes again, finally stilling.
“Glad to see you can still take a fucking order. Now.” Brock’s hand closes firmly around his shaft and the soldier feels the cold metal of the sound pressed against the head of his cock. “This is gonna hurt.” The malicious glee in Brock’s voice is undisguised. “I’d tell you to exhale when I push it in, but you’ll probably just scream and that’s almost the same.”
He bites his lip because he is the soldier, he is the asset, he is a weapon, and nightmare and he has never, he will never—
He screams as Rumlow works the curved tip just inside the edge of his slit. He feels like he’s tearing open. The rhythmic stabbing pain in his bladder fades to a distant throb as a new pain, white hot and present and so very, very real sparks and burns from the inside of his cock, working its way from the tip deeper into the shaft. It's excruciating, the sensation of being split open form the inside, invaded in a way that even the tearing and restructuring of his brain could not have been.
There’s no real stretch in there, no give — at least with the size of the sound he’s using — so Rumlow has to work slowly, adding packet after packet of lube to the length of the sound as he works it up into the soldier’s body. He fights the urge to writhe, to twist, because he knows that it will hurt more, that he will damage himself on the inside and then they will cut him open as they have done in the past, cut him open while he’s still awake and that… This is still better. He pants and whines, high and breathy, eyes squeezed shut.
“Sounds like someone’s learning to enjoy this.” Rumlow’s voice is a distant rumble beyond the hammering of his blood in his ears. He wants to cry out, to say no, to ask, How could I be enjoying this? But no words can come through the pained, stacatto gasps as he fights to keep still. Pain on top of pain as tears prick in his eyes, his cock burning with the stretch, the pain in his bladder shooting up into his diaphragm, making it hard to draw a full breath. Maybe he’ll pass out — it would be a gift, a blessing; is he even allowed those anymore? He’s inside his own head searching for the edge of darkness so he can fall into it when he registers Rumlow speaking again.
He feels the faint press of the flange at the end of the sound against the burning head of his cock. Rumlow adjusts the tool with the gentlest of movements. The curved tip pressed deep inside him taps on something and he gasps again, but this time pleasure — just as intense as the pain but smooth and honeyed where the pain is sharp and burning — lights him up from the inside, spools out over the pain and dulls it. He fights to keep his hips still even as his head thrashes back and forth, the sensations mixing and combining and separating out over and over and he’s lost. He might be crying, or screaming, or begging. He doesn’t know, can’t know. How could he know? Only knows he’s making noise because Rumlow has moved to press one gloved hand, slick with iodine and lube over his mouth.
“Easy kid, take it easy. I got you.”
The soldier whimpers. He whimpers because there is no other sound he can make. He is unmoored from his body and yet intimately tied to it with the twinning sensations of pain and pleasure which change and shift and tumble over each other as Rumlow moves the sound rhythmically inside him, caressing him more intimately than anything or anyone his shattered mind can offer up. He’s horrified and frightened as his cock begins to thicken even with an obscene amount of metal shoved into it and this time he does shift a little on the table, toes and fingers curling and uncurling, ankles and wrists flexing without rhythm or purchase.
“I’m gonna need my hand. I’m gonna use it to make you feel so fuckin’ good and I want you to remember, whatever else they take away from you, I always keep my promises. That enough to keep you quiet?”
The asset nods. Rumlow moves his hand off the asset’s mouth and down to his cock, squeezing and stroking firmly while the other one works the sound against the sweet spot deep inside him. He can feel the pressure in his balls and in his bladder and everything feels tight and full and he feels incandescent with pain and pleasure and he thinks maybe his mangled brain is crosswired because the pain makes the pleasure sweeter and pleasure makes the pain into a cleansing, some kind of blessing and maybe there shouldn’t ever be one without the other, maybe they always have been and should be twined together like this, lighting him up from the inside, hot and liquid and electric making his skin prickle and burn and his brain is drowning and the pounding from the memory-door in his brain is faint and inconsequential to all the things he’s feeling right now and after the cold and the numbness and darkness he is alive, he’s fucking alive and it’s glorious and it’s ecstatic, transcendent, and every sensation is one sensation, all one and it’s all right, Rumlow has him, has lit him up like flashover, has taken all his shattered parts and made him whole in agony and ecstasy.
Then, with no warning Rumlow is pulling the sound out of him, slow and steady, one hand still wrapped firmly around his dick and he’s coming. It feels like he's being dragged inside out. He bites his lip so hard he tastes blood; all the tendons on his neck stand out in sharp relief. His abdominal muscles jump and twitch wildly. As the tip of the sound clears his stretched hole come runs out after it, followed by a few sharp spurts as he continues to twitch and spasm. The endorphins flood his brain and he’s soaring, untethered from his broken, abused body, above it all and free. His lungs burn with a held breath but if he breathes that means coming back to his body and he’s not ready for that, he can’t yet because this is freedom and bliss and everything, everything—
Different pressure again at his slit brings him crashing back into his body, gasping for breath.
“Earth to space cadet. We’re going to fix your little problem now. Don’t worry, this is a cakewalk compared to the sound. Not as fun either, in my opinion.” Then Rumlow’s working the soft plastic catheter into him, past his prostate and into his bladder and it’s still strange, still wrong but it’s not the sound, not Rumlow’s hand steadily working his cock. The soldier feels a strange nudge inside him — even deeper than the sound and then the pressure in his lower belly is decreasing, slowly at first and then in a rush.
He breathes easy for the first time since waking, the lack of sensation almost as overwhelming as the overstimulation.
“Holy shit. They weren’t kidding about the blood.” Rumlow holds up a bag with 500ccs of bright red blood collected in the bottom and it’s still draining, though now it’s more of a fruit punch color. “I’m gonna have a serious talk with cryo-prep. This is fuckin’ bullshit.” The soldier knows that when Rumlow says “talk” in that tone of voice he means with fists and not words. He relaxes against the table, spent and lax. He doesn’t think about what comes next. Doesn’t care.
He idly clocks the sound of trash being shoved into the trash can, the rattle of metal on metal as Rumlow cleans up, moves things, the snap of latex as he takes off his gloves, footsteps, the squeak of wheels. Rumlow and the IV pole drift into his field of view, the banana bag and tubing still hanging from the pole.
“You get this and the next bag and by then you should be running clear.” He connects the tubing to the IV hub and opens the clamp. The soldier can see the fluid flowing in the drip chamber and feel the chill in his vein. The cool thrill is pleasant to his now overheated body. Rumlow reaches down with one broad thumb and swipes at the tear tracks on the soldier’s cheeks. “Told you,” is all he says. He licks his thumb and then steps out of the asset’s field of vision, footsteps carrying him out the doorway.
“Tell those cryo-prep fuckers that I appreciate them running the ragged edge for my sake but they came fuckin’ close to actually damaging him this time. If that happens all their names are going straight to Pierce. It’s only mutually beneficial if the asset is recoverable.” Brock listens for a second and then grins, shark-like and hungry. “Yeah, well, I might get the chance to fill him up from both ends next time. These fucks are so desperate for my help they’ll beg me to do it if the asset so much as looks at them funny.” He’s silent for a few seconds more, then says, “Twenty four hours until we brief him. Maybe less but let’s give ourselves a window to work with.” A pause. “Yeah, I’ll call you.” He hangs up his phone and slips it into his pocket before he opens the door to the staff lounge where the remains of the post-cryo team are licking their wounds and looking apprehensive.
“I fixed your toy, boys. 500 to go on the banana bag and the next liter of D5 and half and he should be pissing clear by then. Whatever damage cryo-prep did when they botched their processes is probably healed by now if past performance is any indication. Still, you wanna leave the cath in for 24 hours just to be safe. Won’t hurt him and if you keep him properly restrained he won’t hurt you, either. Since you shitheads dragged me out here I might as well hang out until tomorrow and make sure you don’t fuck anything else up.”
“Commander Rumlow, we’re grateful for your help. Uh.” Bow Tie looks nervous. “Secretary Pierce…?”
“Won’t hear a thing about this unless you continue to fuck up. The asset performs to specifications, no one asks questions. I’ll make sure of it as long as you continue to hold up your end of the bargain.” Bow Tie and Beard shake Rumlow’s hand gratefully and Rumlow looks them over like they’re all something he just scraped off his boot. He turns with precision and strides out of the room.
“What did Commander Rumlow mean, ‘your end of the bargain’?” asks a young guy with a bag of frozen raspberries pressed over a rapidly blackening eye.
Beard licks his lips and looks nervously at Bow Tie and gestures subtly across the hall through the open breakroom door. The kid leans forward in his chair and peers across the hall. “Yeah, that’s the security station.”
“And?” asks Bow Tie quietly.
“It’s. Why is it empty? Why are the screens dark? Is the recording equipment even running?” The kid squints his one good eye into the darkened room across the hall. “Protocol says—“
“Don’t ask questions you don’t need to know the answer to. Especially if that answer is going to get you sent home in a matchbox,” Beard says, voice pitched low and heavy.
“Kid, I’m not even fucking joking with you right now. Sit over there and enjoy your shiner and your fucking raspberries. Keep your trap shut and you might even last more than one freeze-thaw cycle.”
There’s a beat of silence.
“Hey, why does Commander Rumlow call the equipment a ‘he’? I thought—“
Beard cuts him off viciously. “A matchbox. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
Bow Tie lets out a belabored sigh and mentally adds a line item to his budget for another Cryogenics II Specialist.
The asset drifts lazily on the sensation of feeling nothing that comes after feeling too much. Commander Rumlow is a good man. The asset will strive to please him in the field as Commander Rumlow pleased him here. He owes Rumlow his loyalty and perhaps his life. He will perform optimally to be worthy of such kindness and mercy. He can’t wait to begin.