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The Alchemist of the Commandos

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Neither Captain America nor FMA are mine.

" " = talking

' ' = inner thoughts

Italics: different language


 

 It had only been a few days since Bucky was taken from Azzano with the others, but it already felt like he’d been languishing in Hydra’s tender care for months. Time flowed differently when you couldn’t call yourself a free man, Bucky had found. With the windowless and eternally darkened cells, it was as though he’d been trapped in a realm of endless twilight where night and day were rendered meaningless. It was enough to drive a man to madness. He could tell who’d been there too long, how their sunken eyes glimmered with barely restrained mania. And the guys who’d been there even longer than that…Bucky tried not to look at them too closely. It was too much like staring into the face of a walking corpse, their eyes utterly blank and lifeless. He was terrified of being stuck there long enough to become one of them, a shambling husk of a man.

Raised voices broke Bucky from his morbid reverie. Looked like Dum Dum and the Frenchie were fighting again. Bucky probably should have been happy that at least one guy from his unit was locked up with him, but he and Dugan barely knew anything about each other beyond the other’s fighting capabilities. It also didn’t help that the guy was coping with imprisonment by picking fights with anything that moved, Bucky included. Granted, his little tiff with the Jap had been pretty damn hilarious. Bucky didn’t think he’d ever forget the look on Dum Dum’s face after he’d gone on a good long rant about Imperial Japanese dogs at the guy only for him to respond in perfect English that he was from Fresno. Even with the subsequent scuffle attracting the attention of the guards, Bucky considered the hilarity to be worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, Dugan’s current developing brawl offered far less promise in terms of entertainment and after a long day on the assembly lines, Bucky wasn’t feeling up to dealing with the guards. He’d been coughing and aching all over ever since Azzano, and none of it seemed to be going away anytime soon (he was actually pretty sure it was getting worse, but he wasn’t willing to think about what that could mean for him here, where his life was dependent on his health and ability to work). Bucky subtly tilted his head and made eye contact with Jones who was sitting across the cell from him. Though not quite on speaking terms beyond a terse exchange of names (which was more than he’d managed to get out of his other cellmates), they’d both ended up as the de-facto peacekeepers for their rowdier ‘roommates.’ Bucky had defused the last situation. He flicked his eyes over at the jabbering morons to indicate that it was the other guy’s turn to break up the party. Jones gave a deep, dejected sigh of acceptance before lumbering to his feet and physically inserting himself in-between the Frenchie and Dugan. With effort, both men were forced apart, though Dum Dum made sure to roughly shove Jones’ hand off of his shoulder before moving away while the Frenchie contemptuously spat on the floor of their cell before slumping into a dreary crouch.

Bucky swore these bastards were almost as mule-headed as Steve. God, but he missed that little shit. His only consolation in this whole damn war was that his pal was safe stateside even while Bucky’s own life was falling apart (he studiously ignored the fact that between his traitorous health and lack of common goddamn sense, Stevie was always in some kinda trouble no matter where he was).

The tortured squealing of the door opening at the end of the hall immediately captured everyone’s attention. They all met each other’s eyes furtively. The guards shouldn’t have been switching out for some time yet and the ones on duty now were known for discouraging the harassment of prisoners under their watch (damn Krauts didn’t wanna be held accountable for any damage preventing them from working the next day). Bucky felt his muscles stiffen involuntarily as he identified Colonel Lohmer’s smug voice drifting closer over the sound of multiple clomping boots. He saw Jones’ eyes tighten as he too recognized the sound of their unexpected guest. Bucky and the others waited in steadily mounting agitation until the Colonel and his retinue came to a stop outside of their humble abode. Considering the man’s obsession with preaching Third Reich rhetoric, it was more than surprising when he completely failed to so much as muster up a sneer for Jones or the Jap (for once). Upon stealthily glancing at the figures beyond the bars, the Colonel’s preoccupation became clear.

Lohmer was arrogantly posturing in front of a young man being held at gunpoint by a group of Hydra soldiers. The guy had choppily shorn golden hair and a glare that burned from underneath the dried streaks of blood and grime on his face. He shouldn’t have been intimidating considering Lohmer and his goons all had at least a foot and fifty pounds on the kid, but there was something feral and nearly predatory in the way the man deliberately stared Lohmer down, hell, the little shit even had the balls to interrupt the man and taunt him with – was that fucking German?

Bucky barely had the chance to process the fact that the guy was a fucking Kraut before an ugly sneer twisted Lohmer’s face at whatever Goldie had said and he viciously wrenched their cell door open. The grunts wasted no time shoving the man inside via the butt of their rifles (a task they took great pleasure in, judging by the gleeful sneers and fresh dark bruises adorning their faces – looked like Goldie’d put up a helluva fight) and proceeded to slam the door in his face. None too soon, considering how Goldie immediately recovered and lunged around inhumanly fast to strike out at anyone dumb enough to stay in his range. Bucky was thunderstruck to see several of the Hydra goons actually flinch as the pint-sized man was just barely drawn up short by the bars with a resounding clang. Judging by the darkly satisfied grin on Goldie’s face, he’d noticed too.

Finally, Lohmer deigned to address the rest of them. “Enjoy your new guest, gentlemen.” The Colonel spat the word like an insult. Bucky didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone get under the man’s skin so thoroughly before. “I’m afraid this one’s not quite civilized yet. I’m sure he’ll fit right in with you Allied dogs.” He nearly snarled at them before turning sharply on his heel to leave. His men hesitated long enough to shoot equally hateful and wary glares at Goldie before leaving to follow their superior.

The diminutive Kraut remained with his arms pressed up against the bars for about a minute after they’d all heard Lohmer and his soldiers leave. Bucky and the guys remained tense and watchful, unwilling to break the temporary peace by acting first. Goldie eventually released a darkly amused huff and twisted around so that he was facing them head-on. Upon closer inspection, Bucky mentally revised his initial assessment of the Kraut’s age from his mid-twenties to late teens (and wasn’t that a kick in the gut, to see an actual child in this hellish place). Goldie’s body may have been young and growing, but it was an old soul that peered out at them through tiredly determined eyes. No wonder he’d initially mistaken the kid for an adult.

It was Dum Dum who unhesitatingly voiced what the rest of them were thinking. “What the fuck just happened?”

Chapter Text

“ ” = talking

‘ ’ = inner thoughts

Italics: different language


 

 Chaos descended quickly in the cell after Dugan’s incensed outburst. Within seconds, almost everyone was shouting over each other angrily and gesticulating violently between themselves and the kid. Aside from Bucky, the only one who appeared to be keeping their head was Jones (as usual). Unsurprisingly, Jones was the only one who thought to personally address the kid during a lull in the cacophony.

“Hey, kid, you speak English?” The rest of the cell fell silent as their collective attention was once again drawn to the interloper. Golden eyes narrowed infinitesimally at Jones as the man continued to attempt to communicate. “What is your name?” He persisted in German when his first attempt failed to elicit a response.

“You speak that garbled nonsense?” Dum Dum interrupted in curious disgust.

“One of the many things I learned in university back home. It’s come in pretty handy since.” Jones shot back acerbically before returning his attention to the boy. “Please, what is your name? We won’t hurt you, we’re all prisoners here.” Jones held out his palms at his sides to emphasize his intention.

Goldie snorted in amusement. “Don't make promises you can't fucking keep.” He chastised haltingly in lightly accented English. “And call me Ed.” With that, the kid flopped down onto the floor in a boneless sprawl, back against the door.

“So you do speak English then!” Dum Dum exclaimed in faux relief. Jones tensed at the hostility in the man’s tone. “Good, ‘cuz I’m mighty curious what in seven hells a little Kraut like you could’ve done to get thrown in here. Had to be something bad to get sent all the way out to this hellhole, am I right?” He crossed his arms challengingly, eyes glittering unkindly from under the brim of his bowler hat. “And considering the things I’ve seen the Nazis and Hydra get away with, it must’ve been something really sick for even them to condemn you.”

“Dugan – ” Bucky rasped warningly as the ache building up behind his eyes spiked viciously. He ground his teeth together to keep from groaning in pain.

“I’m rather curious myself.” Falsworth chimed in unhelpfully.

Me too.” Frenchie added.

“What he said. Probably.” The Jap nodded in Frenchie’s direction.

“Leave him alone. He’s just a kid.” Jones defended Ed insistently, hands clenching in frustration.

Equivalent exchange.”

“What was that, Kraut?” Dugan sneered.

An ugly and bitter smirk was painted across Ed’s face as he responded. His eyes gleamed eerily from sunken sockets. “It's a saying back home.  Equivalent exchange.  It means equal trade. I'll tell you what you want, but in exchange you are going to answer my questions.” He crossed his arms in a mocking imitation of Dugan and sat back to wait.

‘That ballsy little shit.’ Bucky thought in mild horror as he saw the reddening hue of Dum Dum’s face.

“You’re not even a prisoner, are you?!” Dugan snarled as he leapt to his feet. “This is just a piss-poor attempt to spy on us, isn’t it?! Is that your job, huh? Act all buddy-buddy and pal up to us?!” In the blink of an eye, he closed the distance between himself and Ed and dragged the kid to his feet by his collar. “You’re just another damn Nazi, aren’t you!”

As Bucky was about to scramble to his feet and intervene (not that he’d be able to do much in his current state), Ed reached up and removed Dum Dum’s grip by mercilessly bending back one of his fingers until he was forced to let go with a cry of pain. Ed then forcefully pushed Dugan back and into Jones who immediately grabbed the man in a restraining hold. Seemingly unperturbed by the sudden attack, Ed brushed himself off and resumed his position on the floor.

The Amestrian’s eyes burned with cold rage as he turned his intense gaze fully onto Dugan. “Do not – ever – associate me with those fucking animals again.” He bared his teeth in absolute hatred. “I was supposed to be a scientist, a researcher. Hydra saw my published work, scouted me out for one of their joint projects. Sounded promising. It wasn't until I got to the facility that I learned about their real research.” He spat in contempt. “Human experimentation.”

Everyone listened with morbidly rapt attention as Ed spun his tale of horror.

“I tried to talk to the other researchers, to make them understand what we were doing was wrong. They only told me to wait, that I would get used to it.” A broken laugh tore from the kid’s throat as he ducked and clutched his head in his hand, ragged nails tearing at his hair and scalp. “But I didn't get fucking used to it. And I didn't want to. That place was – evil. It needed to be destroyed, and I was the only one who would do it. So I did.” Ed clasped his hands in his lap and grinned as tears began to clear tracks through the grime and blood on his face. “And now, here I am.” He finished in a disproportionately cheery voice.

Jones’ grip had long since gone slack on Dugan. Not that it mattered, the man now looked too sickened to even think of moving. “What happened to the people inside?” He asked, tone grim.

Abruptly, Ed’s face went blank and unreadable. “No more questions tonight, I think.” He murmured softly.


 

From the first night onwards, Ed refused to answer anymore of their questions regarding his personal life. Bucky didn’t blame him, he’d gotten nightmares just listening to the kid talk. Still, he’d tried to talk to the kid, explain the official and unofficial rules of the prison. Ed was stuck in the same boat as the rest of them, it was only fair to give him as much warning as the next guy.

And if it soothed some part of him to be taking care of the kid who looked the same age as his sister back home, well – that was his own damn business.

As far as things went in the work camp, it was actually a fairly unremarkable couple of days.

Then came the morning where Bucky woke up and collapsed as soon as he tried to stand. Everyone immediately crowded around his body in a panic as the first wake-up alert of the day continued to drone through the halls and the first prisoners were ushered to the factory.

“Barnes! You gotta get up!” Dum Dum hissed urgently, shaking his shoulder insistently. The thunk of multiple booted feet could be heard approaching in the distance.

“Wuh?” Bucky’s eyelids fluttered as he groggily lifted his head.

“Now is the not the time to play damsel, Barnes!” Dugan growled, unbridled alarm in his gaze.

“Grab his arms, get him up! Get him up!” Morita whispered hoarsely as he desperately began to pull at Bucky’s shoulders until Dum Dum got the idea and began to help the Jap haul the man to his feet.        

Ed immediately checked Bucky’s temperature, laying his hand against the soldier’s forehead. Blearily, the American leaned into his touch until Ed pulled back with a grimace. “He's burning up. How long have you had a fever?” Ed demanded urgently.

“How long ‘ave I known you?” Bucky slurred, throat clicking painfully as he attempted to swallow. “M’ throat’s dry.”

“Bloody fuck!” Falsworth cursed vehemently, eyes darting between Bucky and the cell door. “They’ll be here any minute!”

“Look, Barnes. Barnes!” Dum Dum lightly slapped Bucky’s face when he failed to respond.

“’m listenin’.” Bucky rasped, just barely conscious.

“Barnes, you can’t do this now, you can’t do this to me.” Dugan tightened his grip on Bucky fearfully. “Lohmer’s on floor inspection today, you have to be okay, you hear me?! You have to work!”

Bucky let out a pathetic wheeze and tried to take his own weight only to immediately begin listing to the side. “Don’ worry, ‘m fine.”

“Barnes!”

“Said ‘m fine.” Bucky insisted with a bleary though pointed look. “Keep safe.” He ordered. And then the guards were at their cell and there was nothing more they could do.


 

Somehow, Bucky was able to make it to his station on the assemble line. Even so, it was all he could do to make sure he kept standing, let alone perform complex tasks. It wasn’t ten minutes before the esteemed Colonel Lohmer noticed the holdup in production and traced it back to Bucky. The workers around Bucky went deadly quiet upon noticing his audience. Silence spread like a contagion until all that could be heard on the factory floor was the whir of automatic machinery. Then Lohmer spoke.

“What have we here, gentlemen?” He idly addressed his subordinates. His voice easily carried across the factory floor.

“Looks like a disobedient prisoner, sir.” One of the men sneered nastily.

“Indeed. One must work for sake of their betters. And if you will not work,” here he readily un-holstered a weighted baton from his belt, “you will be corrected.”

Immediately, Lohmer’s cronies grabbed Bucky and dragged him to the center of the floor. ‘They’re gonna make an example of me.’ Bucky observed idly, unable to muster the energy to fight or protest. He swayed in place when the guards let him go. Then it was just him and the Colonel.

There was no warning when the first blow landed. One minute, he was doing his damnedest just to stay standing, the next he was on his hands and knees, the air forcefully punched from his already weakened lungs. His ribs were a collage of agony.

‘Shit, that was just one hit,’ was all he had time to think before Lohmer laid into him in earnest. Then it was all just blood, bruises and pain.

But as suddenly as the beating started, it ended. Then the guards and Lohmer started screaming orders and yelling in German. And without so much as a by your leave, Bucky was passed out cold.


 

Dum Dum could only watch in horror and impotent rage as Lohmer rained blow after blow onto Barnes. At the rate the Hydra officer was going, he was going to kill Barnes. And he showed no signs of stopping.

‘Fucking coward, why won’t you do anything?!’ He reprimanded himself shamefully. But still, he did nothing. There was nothing he could do with the fancy death pistols all the guards were all carrying. He met the eyes of his cellmates scattered around the room helplessly. In each of their eyes, he only saw a reflection of what he already felt.

Except the damn Kraut.

With steadily mounting horror and hope in equal measure, Dum Dum watched as Ed began to walk towards Barnes and Lohmer. The guards were so dumbstruck by his audacity that they actually let him get within striking distance before reacting. But by then it was too late. The kid was on them.

He disarmed and disabled Lohmer’s entourage with insulting ease. Not five seconds later, he was on Lohmer himself, physically dragging the man off of Barnes. If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Dum Dum would have been laughing his ass off at the image of scrawny little Ed bodily throwing a fully-grown Nazi. As it was, he could only watch dumbfounded as the little punk systematically made a bloody ruin of the Colonel’s face before being swarmed and overwhelmed by frantic reinforcements. The last he saw of the crazy Kraut as he was dragged off by Hydra for God knows what punishment was a feral and bloody smile.

After Ed’s little show, Lieutenant Kleiber took command and ordered everyone back to work. He also ordered both Lohmer, and more importantly, Barnes, to be taken to the infirmary, thank God. He may have been a Hydra bastard, but Kleiber at least could claim to be the kindest of the lot.

But as Dum Dum glanced over at the drying blood splatters in the middle of the factory floor, he knew the problem was far from over.

Chapter Text

“ ” = talking

‘ ’ = inner thoughts

Italics: different language


 

There wasn’t a man among them in the cell that evening free of shame and harsh self-recrimination. They’d all been there. They’d seen what Lohmer was doing. And not one of them did a goddamn thing.

Except that damn kid…

Dum Dum snorted bitterly and pulled the brim of his hat further over his eyes. “What a fuckin’ joke we are. What the hell kind of men need a kid to come to the rescue?” He ground his teeth in frustration.

No one spoke up to contradict him.

“And just what did that damn Kraut think he was doin’, huh? Lohmer’s had it out for Barnes since day one. Ain’t no way he’s gonna let this little ‘incident’ go.” Dum Dum’s lip curled in the beginning of a snarl. “What the fuck can we even do?!”

Surprisingly, it was the Brit that answered Dum Dum’s question.

“We need to kill Lohmer.” Falsworth declared solemnly, unwavering determination in his eyes.

All eyes focused on the man with unerring intensity. He straightened infinitesimally under their combined gaze. “I think we can all agree Barnes won’t survive if Lohmer stays in charge. The bastard’s had it out for him since day one.” Everyone nodded in agreement. “If we take the Colonel out of the picture, command will be given to Kleiber. He’s the most lenient of all the bloody Nazis in this place. He won’t let a viable worker like Barnes be killed without reason.”

Air whistled lowly through Jones’ clenched teeth as he exhaled. “Say we agree to help you. How exactly are you planning for us to take the guy out?” He inquired skeptically. “There’s armed guards everywhere.” He gestured to the walls around them in frustration.

“Sounds like a suicide mission, you ask me.” Morita chipped in grimly.

“You will just get us killed along with Barnes and the boy.” Dernier scoffed derisively.

Falsworth gave all of them a chastising look before continuing. “That’s why they won’t know it was us who killed him.” They could all hear the implied ‘idiots’ tacked on at the end. “Honestly, what are your militaries teaching you these days?” He murmured under his breath. Looking back up as the others glared at him, Falsworth held up a hand to forestall any outbursts. “Are you in or not? A man’s life is on the line. There’s no point in coming up with a plan if we aren’t all committed.”

“Count me in.” Dum Dum responded almost immediately. “I’m not lettin’ that crazy Kraut’s sacrifice go to waste.”

Several jaws firmed in determination at Dum Dum’s declaration. The last guy they’d seen attack a guard had been executed without hesitation. It was doubtful that Ed had been an exception, even if he was German. If anything, being a traitor to his people only made it more likely that the kid had been killed.  The only reason he hadn’t been shot dead on the factory floor was because of the panic he’d caused with his attack on the Colonel.

“I’m in.” “Same here.” “As am I.”

Falsworth let out a quick breath of relief. “Excellent. Yes, I can work with this.” He clapped his hands together and rubbed them in nervous anticipation. “But before we set up a plan, I need to know what you all can do – skills, strengths, weaknesses, the works. Don’t leave anything out.”

Falsworth kept them up long into the night strategizing and plotting. Once Lohmer was finally out of the infirmary and back on the factory floor, they would be ready to act.


 

There had been three factors that eventually decided Falsworth’s plan of action. The first was the fact that Lohmer tended to linger in a specific spot on the main floor until alerted to a problem by one of his cronies. Second was the fact that said spot just so happened to place the Colonel directly beneath the crane used to lift excess scrap metal. And third, as Falsworth discovered on the night they initially hatched their scheme, was the fact that Frenchie was a gifted explosives and chemical expert.

With careful planning and a little bit of luck, Falsworth was certain they could sabotage the crane to drop its load directly on top of Lohmer’s head.

Frenchie was skeptical of their chances of success, but more than willing to participate in anything that involved sabotaging Hydra and volatile chemicals. He questioned the others extensively on what materials they each had access to on their part of the assembly line. Through his careful cross-examination, Dernier was able to determine what chemical each man needed to acquire for him to assemble a potent corrosive that could eat away the load-bearing chain on the crane. Then it was simply a matter of hiding their plan and waiting for Lohmer to re-appear.

Their determination to succeed only strengthened as the second night rolled around and Barnes was discharged early from the infirmary (on the damn Colonel’s orders) and returned to their cell. The man was dead on his feet and practically collapsed as soon as the grunts closed the cell door behind him. His condition had been bad before with the sickness, but now? There wasn’t hardly a patch of skin on Barnes that wasn’t bruised or bloodied. Based on the bandaging, it looked like he’d busted a couple of ribs too. Jones carefully swallowed his overwhelming guilt and rage as he doubled-checked the infirmary’s work.

Barnes’ condition only confirmed their fears. There was no way he was going to survive if Lohmer kept assigning him hard labor instead of the goddamn infirmary. The Colonel had to go. Soon.

They got their chance on the third day. Lohmer was on the floor, the evidence of Ed’s attack still stark on his face despite the colonel’s paltry efforts to hide them. Dum Dum felt a vicious surge of pride in his chest at the sight of the damage Ed had done. He still wasn’t sure how it had been possible for someone so small to do so much damage.

It wasn’t long before he saw Frenchie unobtrusively making his way away from the crane. Not long after, he heard the ominous groan of tortured metal followed by a scream and an almighty crash. When everyone turned to look, there was a haphazard pile of scrap metal where Lohmer had once stood. Transfixed, they watched as blood began to spread on the floor from underneath the pile. Their fellow prisoners went still with shock while the Hydra grunts began to panic. The more clear-headed officers were quick to have the prisoners escorted back to their cells for the day to clear the scene of the accident. Later on it was announced that all prisoner rations would be reduced for the next week, but it was clear they had no real suspects. Lohmer had made enough enemies among the prisoners that none were willing to mention the suspicious figure they’d seen walking away from the crane shortly before the accident. They were in the clear.


 

The guys were taking turns mother-henning Barnes later that evening in the cell. The man was still in no condition to work, but with Lohmer out of the picture Dum Dum was hoping to get him placed back in the infirmary. It would have the added bonus of preventing the damn fool from scolding them all like he was now.

“An’ jus’ what the hell were you plannin’ on doin’ if you’d all got caught? Thought I told you morons to keep safe.” Despite his ghastly pallor and questionable lucidity, Barnes still somehow managed to look fairly forbidding. The illusion was ruined the moment the man started trying to hack up a lung through his throat, but Dum Dum found himself impressed regardless. Barnes was one tough bastard.

“I’m still trying to figure out how you even figured out what we did.” Morita said as he kept Barnes’ head propped on his lap. “I mean, we weren’t exactly keepin’ it secret, but – ”

“No, you weren’t. Can’t believe you didn’t all get found out an’ killed. Th’ hell didja even do it for?”

At that, everyone stared at Barnes incredulously. Dum Dum’s mustache bristled indignantly before he let loose with a tirade. “Oh gee, I dunno Sarge. Maybe because Lohmer almost fuckin’ killed you and woulda happily finished the job if he’d gotten the chance. And maybe we didn’t wanna see you murdered right in front of us. So yeah, we made damn sure he wouldn’t get another chance. It’s bad enough he got the kid – ” Dum Dum choked up at the mention of Ed.

Barnes’ face went carefully blank, repressed grief creasing the lines around his eyes. “So I wasn’t imagining it, huh. It really was Ed that saved me.”

Dum Dum brought his arm up to rub ineffectually at his eyes, knocking his hat off in the process. He gasped a wet laugh, “Wish you coulda seen it Sarge. Ain’t never seen anything like it m’self – damn brat didn’t even look like he was trying when he took those Hydra bastards down. Couldn’t even recognize Lohmer, his face was pounded in so badly.”

Dernier let out a snort in spite of the mood. “His face when Ed threw him was priceless.”

“Yer pullin’ my leg.” Barnes said in disbelief after a fleeting pause, a small uptick at the corner of his mouth. “Ed? Threw Lohmer? ‘m not that out of it, fellas.” He exclaimed indignantly.

A few weak chuckles echoed around the cell. “Believe me, we were just as surprised watching it actually happen.” Jones murmured humorously.

Barnes allowed himself a moment to enjoy the image of a tiny Edward effortlessly tossing around the mountainous Lohmer before abruptly sobering and staring up at the ceiling hopelessly. “And yer sure he’s…y’know – ”

Everyone locked gazes before Falsworth shook his head grimly. Dum Dum sighed in bone-deep exhaustion before placing his hat back on his head. “You saw what happened to the last fellas that tried fightin’ those bastards, Barnes.” He rumbled wearily.

Barnes’ face went tight at the confirmation before he turned to look at Dum Dum. “Bucky.” He said in a tone of correction.

Completely baffled at the non sequitur, Dum Dum stared at Barnes dumbly while Morita began to gently prod at the man’s head where it was still resting in his lap, making sure they hadn’t missed any obvious head wounds. Barnes swatted at the Jap’s hands irritably and turned back to face Dum Dum. “My friends call me Bucky. An’ ‘m pretty sure killin’ someone to save me counts as friendship. So. Bucky.”

Chapter Text

“ ” = talking

‘ ’ = inner thoughts

Italics: different language


 

Ed couldn’t feel the pain of the hits landing on him past the blood boiling in his veins. There was only the thud of his fists against Lohmer’s face and the all-consuming rage that always overtook him when witnessing the worst in people.

Distantly, Ed knew he should probably be more worried about the whole uncontrollable anger thing he had going on (he was pretty sure it had actually gotten worse since he came to this shithole world). But the things so many people around him were saying – the things they were doing to each other…all of it spat directly in the face of everything he’d ever learned, everything he’d sacrificed to get to where he was. And he couldn’t let those cruelties and injustices go unchallenged. It just wasn’t in his nature.

So when Ed saw Barnes being murdered right in front of him, he responded how he always did. He charged right in and made himself the bigger target. It was reckless, dangerous and bloody, but it worked. The Hydra idiots left Barnes alone to go after Ed.

Of course, now that left the alchemist with a downed enemy officer and a lot of violent and angry idiots. Still, the impending threat of execution (or worse) wasn’t enough to keep the bloodthirsty grin off of Ed’s face as he was eventually overwhelmed and dragged off to fuck knows where. He was gratified to see several of Hydra’s personnel flinch as he flashed his (probably bloodied) teeth. Nice to know he hadn’t lost his touch.

‘Amestris would have eaten these fucking morons alive.’ Ed thought somewhat wistfully. He snickered under his breath at the thought of these incompetent Hydra goons facing down Mustang before his morning coffee or trying to explain ‘a woman’s place’ to General Armstrong.

‘Wait, fuck, no, that last one would be genuinely terrifying.’ An involuntary shudder made its way down Ed’s spine at the imagined fallout of the General’s guaranteed rampage.

His daydreams were abruptly cut off by a swift and punishing hit that made light flash behind Ed’s eyes. He barely managed to stifle a groan as his hands were roughly cuffed and hauled upward by a chain anchored to the ceiling. By the time the Amestrian had regained his bearings, his toes were barely scraping the floor and his shoulders were beginning to ache at being forced to support the majority of his weight.

A hand roughly clamped down on Ed’s jaw and forced him to turn and face one of his captors. In counterpart to his comrades, the man’s face was blank and unreadable aside from the worrying gleam in his cold, cold eyes. “Don’t know what you found so funny earlier, but I doubt you’ll have much to laugh about by the time we’re through with you, traitor.” The creep let go and idly began thumbing a freshly bleeding cut under Ed’s eye before bringing his hand back to inspect the now bloodied fingertips (Ed valiantly kept himself from flinching, though the eye twitch probably gave away his unease). He looked back up at Ed in a considering manner, a perverse anticipation bleeding into the lines of his face.

‘How do I always find the fucking psychopath?’  Ed thought indignantly before his smug captor continued with a gimlet stare.

You made us go through quite a lot of trouble when we initially brought you in, young man. Something I have not forgotten.” Here the other two goons grinned maliciously, one snickering unpleasantly. Ed narrowed his eyes at them dangerously.

A punishing slap forced Ed’s skull to snap to the side, the movement causing his entire body to swing gently in its chains (his shoulders did not appreciate the extra aggravation). The room still seemed to be spinning when the dead-eyed bastard snagged him by the neck and halted his momentum. “Pay attention now, lad. I don’t appreciate when my guests aren’t attentive. It’s very rude.” He condescendingly patted Ed’s cheek as the boy consciously focused his burning gaze on the creep. “Good boy. Now, here’s what’s going to happen to you.”

The blank-faced soldier backed up and went into parade rest before reporting in a clinical and bland manner, “The Colonel is responsible for all official executions, and as such, you do not have to fear death until the man recovers. Until such a time, you’ll have to put up with my company, I’m afraid.” Ed just barely caught a flash of the man’s teeth, the first genuine expression he’d seen the Hydra goon make. “I’ll give you some time to think about it before we get started. The anticipation is often one of the best parts.”

Ominous message delivered, the officer turned smartly on his heel to leave, one of the guards turning to follow him. And then it was just Ed, his thoughts and a decidedly unfriendly guard in left alone in what Ed was fairly certain was a torture chamber.

The dead-eyed creep had made a mistake leaving Ed to his thoughts though. He was often told they were his most dangerous attribute.

Ed eyed the single remaining guard with carefully concealed calculation. Where the officer had been all calm and collected menace, his underling was decidedly less threatening. He also had a lot less self-control, judging by the bold undertones of irritation in his twitchy body language.

‘Easy to anger and provoke.’ Was Ed’s quicksilver assessment. He couldn’t have picked a better sucker to take advantage of if he tried. Ed waited until the schmuck met his eyes and gave him his best shit-eating grin before spitting a glob of bloody saliva directly at the man’s feet. It was no surprise to Ed when the guard’s face immediately screwed up in disgusted anger and he pushed off from the wall to get up in the Amestrian’s face.

Just like Ed wanted.

The schmuck didn’t have time to utter so much as a peep before Ed’s legs had come up in a lightning-quick stranglehold around the idiot’s neck. Ed had had to perform some interesting acrobatics in order to get himself into a position for the maneuver to work, but once his automail leg clamped down on the man’s windpipe, Ed knew the fight was over. ‘If you could call it a fight.’ Ed thought in amusement as the guard feebly tried and failed to push at his limb before falling unconscious. The alchemist let out a huff of distaste before releasing his hold and dropping the man to the floor.

Finally free of observation, Ed was quick to fumble for the set of lock picks he’d hidden in the lining of his shirt cuffs. He’d ‘borrowed’ various scraps from the factory floor on the first day he’d been put to work. It’d given him something to fiddle with during sleepless nights in the cell (whose lock was only accessible from the outside, because that was just the fucking Elric luck). Ed once again quietly cursed the lack of useable alchemy in this world as his wrists contorted painfully so he could reach the locks. It would’ve been so much fucking easier if he could just clap and deconstruct the damn restraints.

Even so, it was only a matter of minutes before Ed was unrestrained with his feet firmly back on the ground. He painstakingly rolled and massaged his aching shoulders before moving over to examine the door. Unlike the general quarters of the prisoners, this door had a keyhole on the inside as well as the outside. Ed could work with that.

Inadvertently, Ed’s eyes slid back to the quietly wheezing body lying on the floor, his gaze drawn to the schmuck’s drab uniform.

‘Oh yes,’ Ed thought as an exceptionally predatory grin spread across his face, ‘I can definitely work with this.’


 

Not a single man had given Ed so much as a second glance as he passed them in the halls. As soon as they saw the Hydra patch on his newly appropriated uniform, their gazes slid right off of him. It gave him a heady sensation, being able to walk in plain sight among his enemies.

Still, Ed didn’t waste time lingering in the base. It was only a matter of time before his escape was discovered, and then he’d be up shit creek without a paddle. He quickly tracked down the storerooms to scrounge up a winter survival pack and warmer clothes before making a beeline for the exit. Between Teacher’s training and his time at Briggs, Ed was confident he could survive in the mountains long enough to escape the Nazis and keep his sorry ass in one piece (he was lucky he still had the cold-climate automail model, what with the Briggs-esque temperatures outside).

As a matter of fact, Ed made it a fair distance from the base without encountering a single obstacle before he stopped, chest suddenly tight with unnamable dread. Idly flexing his flesh limbs to maintain circulation, Ed stopped to look back the way he’d come. Guilt settled along the slope of his shoulders at the thought of the people still held prisoner.

Ed berated himself internally. ‘They’re not your responsibility, Fullmetal. This isn’t even your world, let alone your war.’ He was too exhausted both physically and mentally to note that the nagging voice sounded suspiciously like a certain Colonel Bastard.

I know that.” Ed murmured into the collar of his stolen coat, a scowl on his partially concealed face.

‘Then why aren’t you moving on?’ The sinuous accusation curled through his mind.

“Fuck off.” Ed snarled as he once again began stomping away from the Hydra base. But it wasn’t long before his footsteps once more began to slow before again coming to a full stop. His stiff gloves creaked as they curled into fists. “They’re not even my people!” Ed snapped in frustration at the empty clearing.

‘Since when has that stopped you before?’ A gentle voice chastised, amused. Ed could almost see Al smiling at him in his mind’s eye.

“But I have to get back to you.” Ed choked out in helpless desperation.

‘We’re alchemists, brother. You know what that means.’

Ed shuddered and closed his eyes, brows furrowed. When he opened them, they seemed to be glowing from within with an unquenchable determination. He resolutely turned back in the direction of the Hydra base. He might not have been much of an alchemist at the moment, but it didn’t change the creed he’d all but branded into his soul.

“Be thou for the people.”

Chapter Text

“ ” = talking

‘ ’ = inner thoughts

Italics: different language


 

To Dum Dum and his other cellmates’ relief, Bucky was admitted to the prisoners’ infirmary very shortly after Lohmer’s ‘accident.’ Despite the infrequent medication schedules maintained by the doctors, Bucky found himself finally beginning to recover from both his illness and injuries after a little less than a week into treatment.

It galled him a bit (a lot, actually) to realize he was receiving better medical treatment from the enemy than Steve did from the damn doctors back home. He tried not to think too deeply about what that said about the integrity of his home country during his convalescence. He also tried (and failed) not to think about how Steve was doin’ on his own back stateside. God, but he hoped the punk hadn’t gotten himself sick again.

Bucky’s biggest problem now (y'know, aside from the whole POW situation) was the destructive cycle of worry, guilt and unending boredom gnawing at his mind. The guilt took Bucky by surprise, often leaving him in turns baffled and angry for feeling so gods-damned ashamed about lying around doin' nothing while the guys were still slaving away in Hydra's weapon factory (where the hell did he get off gettin’ upset about not doing work for Hydra?). But the boredom was by far the worst part of his recovery. Those army recruitment pamphlets Steve loved so much never mentioned the monotony that came with capture – how it dulled the mind and weighed down your limbs with a bone-deep exhaustion. Honestly, at this point he was actually looking forward to returning to his cell - at least there he'd have some friendly faces to talk to. There were no other patients in the small room where he was kept and the doctor only checked up on him two times per day, never lingering long.

Of course, his rigidly scheduled and therefore predictable check-ups made Bucky hyperaware when anything deviated from the norm. Like, for instance, the appearance of an unknown Hydra grunt at the door who immediately made a beeline directly for Bucky’s bedside.

Bucky’s eyes swept over the man warily as he approached. Short stature, clipped but heavy footsteps, uniform cap tilted over the eyes – he didn’t have a whole lot to go off of. Whoever it was had to be young though, considering the complete lack of stubble on his bared jaw.

Then the man was close enough for Bucky to see his eyes and it was a damn good thing he was already in the infirmary, because the American swore he felt his heart stop.

Mouth suddenly dry, Bucky tried to speak and ended up choking on air instead. A hand came down and roughly thumped him on the back as he leaned forward and coughed.

“Fuck, Barnes! Warn a guy before you try to up and die on them, will you!” A familiarly accented voice hissed, alarmed.

Bucky could only stare in shock at the dead man standing at his bedside. “Ed?” He wheezed, high-pitched and wide-eyed.

Golden eyes rolled in exasperation. “In the flesh.” He swiped the cap from his head to run a hand through messily shorn hair and plopped himself down on the adjacent cot. “Nice to see you still in one piece. How’ve you been?”

Barnes could feel his shock rapidly bleeding away into indignant anger at Ed’s flippant attitude.

“How have I been?” Barnes parroted in a tellingly bland tone. “How’ve I been?!” His voice rose an octave as he stared at the kid in disbelief, hands clamped around the edges of the cot to keep himself from lunging at the blond idiot. “How the hell do you think I’ve been, thinkin’ you got your fool self killed over me?! What in gods name were you thinkin’, goin’ after the Colonel like you did?” He sucked in a breath and blinked rapidly to keep his eyes from tearing up.

Bucky turned his head down in shame and rasped in a quieter tone. “Got enough fuckin’ blood on my hands without addin’ yours to it. You’re just a damn kid. Why didja have to go and do that, huh?”

Ed stared incredulously at Barnes’ downturned head before giving a sharp bark of laughter. The American looked up, startled by the unexpected response. His eyes caught on Ed’s twisted grin.

“Don’t be fooled, Barnes.” Ed gestured to himself, smirking bitterly all the while. “I haven’t been a kid for a long time.” His smirk faded and his eyes went dark. “And don’t ever ask me to stand by and do nothing when people are suffering. It was my choice to do what I did. The consequences were mine. Don’t assume everything is about you, stupid.” Ed scoffed, a reprimanding slant to his mouth.

Once again, Bucky was reduced to awkward gawking, his anger and guilt subsumed by incredulity at Ed's sheer nerve. “Fuck, but you’re a contrary little shit, ya know that?”

Ed only gave a sharply amused grin in answer, though one of his brows ticked up in irritation as well. ‘What the hell was it with crazy blonds and stubbornness?’ Bucky thought despairingly.

Ed sighed, frustrated, and shoved the Hydra cap back on his head. “Enough with the mushy shit. I didn’t escape and come back to this shithole for no reason.”

Bucky’s daily threshold of disbelief was coming dangerously close to being overwhelmed. “Wait, you mean you already escaped? And you came back?! What the hell is wrong with you?!” They’d all called the kid nuts in jest at some point, but now Bucky was forced to consider the accusation more seriously. Who the hell would break into the place they were tryin’ ta get out of?

Ed completely ignored Bucky’s blustering, gaze going focused in a way that only promised trouble. “I’m gonna break everyone out of this base. And you’re gonna help me.”


 

Initially, Bucky had been downright skeptical of Ed's seemingly harebrained scheme. Break out hundreds of prisoners from a heavily guarded and well-armed Hydra base in the middle of winter? Yeah, as if that was even possible.

Or so Bucky had thought.

Because the more Ed talked, the more Bucky came to realize that this wasn't just some desperate escape fantasy. No, the Kraut had put some serious effort into this plan. There wasn't a single loose end unaccounted for in Ed's thorough calculations. And as the kid finished his explanation, Bucky felt his chest constrict with an emotion he hadn't felt since he first saw his draft papers. It was hope.

But Ed had still left one point unanswered. “So what the hell do ya even need my help for? Aside from when everything’s good to go, anyway.”

Here Ed rolled his eyes in frustration. “Yes, because the other prisoners will definitely trust and listen to the Kraut in a German-run prison camp.” He snarked. The kid locked his uncomfortably piercing gaze on Bucky. “I need you to spread this plan to the other prisoners. They’ll need to hear this from someone they see as trustworthy. We’ll only have one shot at this. We can’t afford doubt.”

Bucky clenched his jaw, frustrated. Ed was right. “Alright, fine. I’ll spread the word soon as I’m outta this sickroom. But you gotta come down to the cell and give the guys the same spiel you gave me. They still think you’re dead, Ed. No way they’ll believe a word outta my mouth without proof I didn’t dream up the whole thing.”

Ed swore incoherently under his breath. “Yes, because it’s so fucking easy to sneak down to the heavily guarded prison ward.” Bucky opened his mouth to snap back at the mouthy brat, but was cut off as Ed agitatedly waved his hand through the air. “I can do it. Guards or no, Hydra security is shit. But you’d better fucking appreciate the trouble I’m going to for you, Barnes. Pain in my ass…” The kid muttered off to the side distractedly.

Ed startled at the feeling of a firm hand on his shoulder. He looked up into the determined face of Barnes. “I still think you outta make a run for it, Ed. You’re a smart guy, and you’re plenty capable of lookin’ out for yourself,” Barnes roughly squeezed Ed’s shoulder to keep him from protesting, “but I bet you’d deck me before I could try to convince ya otherwise.”

“Damn right.” Ed grinned toothily.

“Thought so. Too damn noble for your own good.” Bucky sighed tiredly, lips quirked up at the corners. “And don’t call me Barnes, makes me think my pops is around somewhere. Call me Bucky.”

Ed laughed, the little shit. “It’s a dumb name. Should’ve stuck with Barnes.”

As soon as Bucky was back on his feet, he was gonna throttle that smug twerp.


 

It was only a few days later that Bucky was officially released from the infirmary, and he hadn’t seen Ed since the first day the kid had up and pulled a Lazarus on him. Bucky could only hope that the brat wasn’t lyin’ when he claimed he’d sneak by the cell for a visit later. The American would definitely need backup if he wanted any hope of convincing the others to go along with Ed’s fool plan (much less convince them that he hadn't hallucinated the whole conversation altogether in some messed up fever dream). If it hadn't been for the threat of the guards looming over them, Bucky was certain his announcement would've ended with a downright ugly shouting match. Like Bucky, the others had taken the kid's supposed 'death' hard. It made sense that they'd get prickly what with all the guilt and shame he was stirring up at the mere mention of his name. But damn if Bucky wasn't getting tired of the hostile and pitying looks being thrown his way. 'So much for friendly company.' Bucky thought with a humorless snort, arms crossed over his chest as he lounged back against the unforgiving cell wall.

With everyone so on edge and irritable from Bucky's earlier explanation, it was no surprise when they all flinched or jumped at the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps. When the sound stopped, they were confronted with the silhouette of a uniformed Hydra grunt in front of the cell. Bucky was more than gratified to see several jaws drop when the guard pushed his cap up and brought his face up to the bars to reveal indisputably golden eyes.

"Holy shit." Morita whispered in shock. Dum Dum had frozen in place, stunned, while everyone else stared with eyes as wide as saucers. "Holy shit." Morita repeated, a tinge of hysteria creeping into his voice.

Ed steadfastly ignored the reactions his appearance was causing and instead focused his unnerving gaze on Bucky. He sharply gestured for the American to come closer and aggressively shoved his arm through the bars, a tightly folded piece of paper tucked between his fingers. Slightly bewildered, Bucky took the note from the kid's grasp.

"I made a map of the base. Memorize it and destroy it. Do not let Hydra find it on you." A faint noise had Ed snapping his head to the side, eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Can’t stay long. More shitty guards here than in the hospital." Ed turned back to the cell abruptly, brows furrowed in concentration as he addressed the rest of the group. "I’ll stop by with news when I can. It’ll be a few weeks before we can make our move, but Bucky knows what to do." The kid bared his teeth in a manic grin. "We’re getting the fuck outta here." Before anyone so much as thought to sputter in protest, Ed was striding away and out of sight leaving a cell of completely flummoxed soldiers in his wake.

Several minutes passed before everyone had calmed down enough from the suddenness of Ed's return to communicate coherently. As one, the group turned to a smugly grinning Bucky for answers.

"Told ya so." He sniggered, unrepentant.

Bucky was still laughing when Dum Dum threw his bowler hat directly in his face.

Chapter Text

" " = talking

' ' = inner thoughts

Italics: different language


 

Steve glared up at the illuminated sentry towers from cover, unsuccessfully attempting to suppress the sick sense of urgency screaming in the back of his head.

They had him. Somewhere behind the sheer walls and barbed wire, Hydra was holding his best friend prisoner. It had been one thing to hear about it from Peggy – seeing the forbidding walls himself made it much more real.

The blond was smart enough to admit that even with the serum, he was probably in over his head. One guy, against a whole base? What the hell had he been thinking? What had Stark and Peggy been thinking? What the hell was he gonna do?

Steve's jaw firmed resolutely as he heard the steadily approaching roar of far-off engines. He didn't have time to second-guess himself. Bucky needed help, and Steve would die before he left his pal to rot.

Besides, he wouldn't be a Rogers if he walked away from a fight, crap odds or not.


Sneaking into the base went much smoother than Steve had expected. Miraculously, he'd avoided attracting the attention of any guards and kept from setting off any alarms. Steve didn't know whether to be offended at Hydra's shoddy security or utterly relieved at their incompetence (relief, it was definitely relief).

He then proceeded to nearly jump out of his skin as a low voice piped up from behind him, "For fuck’s sake, could you be any more obvious?"

Steve whipped around and lunged without hesitation, shield poised to strike. With shock and more than a little dismay, he watched as the speaker easily dodged around his blow and jumped out of immediate range. The skin around his eyes tightened with anxiety as he watched the enemy solider take a breath to sound the alarm. Desperately, Steve leapt to close the distance between them and silence the man, but once again, his opponent stepped out of the path of his blow as effortlessly as a matador.

"Knock it off, idiot, before you get yourself noticed!" The Hydra grunt hissed as he hastily backed away from Steve and put his hands up nonthreateningly.

"What?" Steve responded automatically, expression tight and bemused. He tensed at the sound of approaching footsteps.

"No time, come on!" A hand reached out and latched onto Steve's wrist like a vice-grip, pulling him insistently after his opponent. Seeing no better alternative, he allowed himself to be dragged along.

Sometime later, his guide deemed it safe enough to stop, allowing Steve time to regain his footing and better analyze his current situation. To say the American was mildly confused would be an understatement. 'What kinda man ran from his own allies – unless...'

"You're not Hydra, are you?" Steve murmured in budding realization.

Shadowed eyes peered up at Steve from underneath the brim of a cap, a sly smirk gracing the man's surprisingly young face. "Now he gets it."

Steve grinned in relief, but remained on guard. "I didn't hear anything about the Allies having a guy on the inside. Glad I ran into you when I did – the name's Steve."

The fake Hydra soldier shifted uncomfortably, a slight frown marring his face. "Call me Ed. And I’m not with the Allies," his eyes flashed stubbornly as Steve's own narrowed in renewed suspicion, "but I fuckin’ hate Hydra, so I helped you. You’re welcome, by the way." Ed commented snidely.

Steve briefly floundered for a response before remembering he had more important things to be doing that questioning the loyalties of a potential ally in hostile territory. "Uh, right – thanks." He replied weakly, eyes cautiously tracking Ed's movements. "But you know what – no, I don't care who you're with. Just point me to where they keep the prisoners here and I'll be outta your hair."

Ed stilled at Steve's proclamation, bringing the full weight of his scrutiny to bear on the intruder as the American shifted his hilariously tacky shield defensively. "You're here for a jailbreak." The man inferred incredulously. "Just you?" He asked incredulously, clearly hoping for a different answer.

Steve bristled uncomfortably at hearing his own doubt and dismay echoed in Ed's tone. "I wasn't gonna sit back at camp twiddling my thumbs knowing a buncha our guys were being kept prisoner just down the road." He snapped, warring urgency and anxiety fraying his already threadbare temper.

Ed leaned back at his outburst, gaze considering and face otherwise inscrutable underneath the shadow of his cap. Grimacing, Steve fidgeted in place, incensed at his brief show of temper. Peggy never would've let someone get to her like that while on a mission.

Without warning, Ed let out an explosively put-upon sigh and snagged the hat from his head, ruffling his hair in frustration. "I guess now's as good a time as any." He grumbled in irritation before he turned on his heel and strode away, uniform cap smartly replaced on his head.

After a moment of stunned inaction, Steve was scrambling to catch up with Ed's short but quick strides. "Time for what? Where the hell do you think you're going?" Steve demanded indignantly.

Ed ducked into a side corridor and huffed in amusement as Steve doggedly kept pace with him. "You're not the only one trying to get those guys outta here, you know. I was just waiting for the right opportunity to get them out." A predatory grin creased his face. "I was gonna wait a few more days, but what the hell, everything's good to go – Hydra won't know what hit them." Steve idly noted that Ed's anticipatory smile wouldn't have looked out of place on a shark.

"Is that really all you're here for?" Steve spoke up, bewildered. "No politics, no spying, no stealing – just rescue?"

"Yeah, basically. What of it?" Ed countered, a challenging glint in his eyes.

"Nothing, I guess. Just surprised, is all." Steve answered with contrite curiosity.

Ed's lips thinned as he led them deeper into the bowels of Hydra's base. Grudgingly, he responded, "I couldn't care less about this whole fucking mess. But people are still people, no matter what the propaganda bullshit says, and war is no excuse for what we've been doing to each other."

"Sounds like there's a story behind that." Steve commented carefully.

At that, Ed barked a short laugh, genuinely amused. "Says the man who snuck into an enemy base, alone, carrying an actual damned shield."

Steve ducked his head sheepishly, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards briefly. "Fair enough." He relented.


 

It was with no small amount of satisfaction that Ed took out the guards of the prison ward, Steve right behind him with his ridiculous shield at the ready. The soldiers went down with barely a scuffle as the prisoners looked on attentively. Steve immediately went about unlocking the cells using the keys he'd taken from the unconscious guards while Ed made a beeline for his fellow conspirators. Immediately, Ed knew something was wrong. The guys were all crowded against the bars, desperately trying to get Ed's attention over the din of the other prisoners as they were released.

"Where the hell 'ave you been, Kraut?! It's been two days! Two fuckin' days!" Dum Dum snarled, reaching through the bars and reeling Ed in by the collar of his uniform.

"I’ve been working on saving your sorry ass! Now calm the fuck down, we're busting out early." Ed growled back caustically from where he was held almost nose-to-nose with the American.

Before Dugan could respond, a large hand snaked between the two of them and forcefully removed the agitated man's grip with insulting ease. "Ease up fella, he's on our side." Steve intoned seriously, features stern and forbidding.

A spitting mad Dugan was pulled back by Jones who glanced at Steve's shield with morbid curiosity. "And who are you supposed to be?"

Ed watched with gleeful interest as Steve's face took on a vaguely constipated look. "I'm Captain America." He muttered with barely concealed embarrassment as he located the key to their cell and swiftly unlocked it.

"I beg your pardon?" Falsworth interjected haltingly.

No longer able to contain his mirth, Ed sniggered. "Gaudy and bold, just like your shield. It suits you." Steve shot the short blond a swift glare before turning to address the freed prisoners.

"Is there anybody else? I'm looking for a Sergeant James Barnes." Cap's eyes roved across the faces before him searchingly, desperate.

"That's what I was tryin' to tell ya earlier!" Dum Dum hollered as he pushed through the crowd to stand before Ed and Steve, the others not far behind him.

"The guards came for him yesterday. We have not seen him since." Dernier announced grimly.

"There's an isolation ward in the factory. No one's ever come back from it. Pretty sure they took him there." Falsworth confirmed, face lined with worry.

Steve was more than a little alarmed to see Ed's face go stark white at the news (he probably didn't look much better himself). His trepidation only increased as Ed put his head in his hands and began to swear incoherently under his breath.

After visibly reigning himself in, Ed looked up, mouth set in a rictus of harsh determination. "I'll get him out." Ed promised solemnly.

"We'll get him out." Steve corrected, throwing a pointed look at Ed. "In the meantime, you guys get out fast and head for the tree-line. We'll meet you there when we can."

"Do you remember where they keep their weapons and supplies?" Ed cut in urgently.

"Ed, those maps you gave us were so detailed I could walk outta here in my sleep. Yes, we know where Hydra keeps their shit." Morita replied in fond exasperation.

"Good. Try not to die." Ed gave the Jap's shoulder a friendly punch before walking off with Steve to retrieve Bucky.

"And make sure you are clear before the base blows!" Dernier called at their backs warningly.

"Wait, what?" Steve exclaimed in concern before he and Ed were out of sight.

Morita rubbed his shoulder agitatedly. "Fuck, the kid hits hard." Jones just laughed at him, the asshole.