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Quid Pro Quo

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Rumlow declined to acknowledge Rollins’ little smirk; he took note of it and there would be payback later, but right now, he was a little too busy listening to the med-tech to give any of his energy to petty disputes.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do, sir,” the tech was stammering. “Normal containment techniques aren’t working. It’s gone completely feral.”

“Why bring it to me?” Rumlow snapped. He knew why, he just didn’t want to say it. If they didn’t talk about it, then no one knew and if no one knew, he wasn’t going to tell them.

“It trusts you,” the tech said. “We can’t -- the Asset is damaged. Badly. The sort of trauma we’d need to apply to knock it out at this point? We’d kill it. Or disable it, and Pierce needs it ready in ten days. We don’t have ten days.”

“All right, all right,” Rumlow said. “I can do field medic work and get it stabilized. But I need a full med kit, a tranq gun with Carfentanil loaded in it, and disable all the cameras in the room. And don’t forget the burn cream this time, or I will make you regret it.”

“Burn cream?”

“Don’t tell me you didn’t let the orderlies try to shock-stick him into compliance,” Rumlow said, raising an eyebrow. They always did that, and it never worked.

The tech winced. “What about the cameras? Pierce is--”

“If Pierce finds out you fucked up badly enough to want video footage of what I’m about to do, we’re all horribly fucked and not in the good way,” Rumlow said. “When he’s feral like this, he doesn’t trust anyone, we can’t get near him. He’s not going to let me past his guard unless he thinks I’m trying to help him.”

“You are trying to help it,” the med tech said, confused.

“No, I’m trying to fix a broken tool so it can go back into the field and create mayhem. That’s nothing like helping him.”

The med tech continued to look puzzled, but shrugged. “You’re the boss.”

“Good of you to remember that, kid,” Rumlow said, and he squeezed the tech’s shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise.

Rumlow double-checked Observation; the cameras were disabled. He yanked out several cables, just to make sure. He hadn’t been Hydra as long as he had without knowing that he couldn’t trust anyone. That was the nature of the business.

Grabbed the kit.

Headed to Asset Containment.

One look around the room and Rumlow wondered what the fuck they’d done to the Asset this time. He also wondered how the hell they got it into containment and how many men it’d killed before they managed it.

The Asset was half naked, and while anyone else might have thought it was cowering under the medical chair, Rumlow knew that, while defensive, the Asset’s position there was pretty damn impenetrable from a hand to hand attack, and probably it’d be able to shoot at least three people before being taken out.

“Jesus, baby, what the hell did they do to you?” Rumlow put the medical kit down by the door, made sure the exit was bolted behind him. He let himself slide down to the floor, back to the door.

Took off his gun and put it on the floor next to him. “Hey, hey, there zaichonok. Come on, you know I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not the enemy.”

Rumlow checked; the Asset had moved, a little. Enough to look over the edge of its makeshift cover. Its eyes were wild, wide and terrified and dangerous. Feral was the word the med techs used to describe the state. They’d found out the hard way a few times that if they pushed the Asset too hard, it reverted to this animal state and the words didn’t do any damn bit of good.

Stupid as they were, they thought violence was the only answer. They’d almost killed the Asset a few times, until someone accidentally discovered that Rumlow had a backdoor into Asset programming (he mentally sniggered at that, because no one actually knew what his backdoor was, and it amused him to think about it.) and started giving the Asset into Rumlow’s care.

“Come on. You know me, baby,” Rumlow said, soft and soothing. He’d been told he didn’t really have the voice to be seductive, but it didn’t seem to bother the Asset any.

The Asset made a noise, a wounded, animal sound.

Rumlow didn’t move, just waited. He had to get in touching distance, and in this state, that meant letting the Asset come to him. “I’m gonna take care of you, bunny, it’s all right. You know how it is. You’re hurt. Come on over here and let me see.”

The Asset scuttled across the room, almost faster than Rumlow’s gaze could track, and he found himself pinned to the floor by a metal hand around his throat. The Asset kicked the gun away, out of reach.

Rumlow fought his own instincts, the ones that wanted to shove the Asset away, get it off him, the fear instinct. He went limp, instead, relaxing under the Asset’s hold. Raised a hand, slowly, and touched the Asset’s mouth with one finger. “I’m gonna take care of you, bunny. And then you’re gonna take care of me.”

The Asset met Rumlow’s gaze.

Quid pro quo.”

“That’s it, bunny,” Rumlow said. “Just like we promised each other, right? Quid pro quo.”

They weren’t the Asset’s conditioning words. Those set the Asset to receptive mode, able to take orders. These were different. They depended more on trust and the mindset of the Asset than they did on just the words. The big words, the conditioning words, they rendered the Asset into a tool.

What Rumlow did--

The mask of terror dropped away; replaced by confusion, then pain, then relief. “Brock!”

“Hey James,” Rumlow said. “What the hell happened? You look like shit, sweetheart.”

James ran his tongue around inside his mouth, licking his teeth. “Mission went to shit,” he said. James wasn’t the Asset, compliant, obedient, as troubled by the murder he committed as a bullet was. He also wasn’t… not quite… the man Barnes had been before the War, when Hydra had gained the Asset. He was something in between. The man who understood what he was -- the Fist of Hydra -- and had regrets, but who knew that nothing was going to change. A man who knew these few moments were all he was going to get.

“I can see that,” Rumlow said. “You gonna let me take care of you?”

James gave Brock a quick, angry glare. “Wish you’d just kill me.”

“Not today,” Rumlow said. “Let me help you.”

James nodded. He got up. Stripped. There was a lot of blood, some of it from long-healed cuts. Some of it probably wasn’t his own.

Some--

“Who did this, baby?” Rumlow couldn’t help the low, angry growl. The Asset wasn’t a sex toy; even though Hydra’s mid-tier assholes kept seeming to think it was. Probably what led to the snap and disconnect. Pain alone was never enough, but being used… well, it was no wonder there were dead troops.

James shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. They’re dead now.”

Rumlow nodded. “All right. Let’s get you cleaned up, first.” He helped James over to the shower and let him sit on the bench while Rumlow used the detachable shower head to get him wet and warm. By the time it was over, they were both soaked, and James was clinging, his arms around Rumlow’s waist, shivering.

“I got you, bunny,” Rumlow said, soothing. “It’s all right. No one’s gonna hurt you, not while I’m here.”

He’d learned the trust routine from one of the Asset’s oldest trainers. And he’d never meant to get attached. Rumlow had thought it would be useful, working with the Asset as often as he did, to have some sort of extra security, a layer of protection between him and Hydra. Rumlow wouldn’t have been the first Hydra agent to find himself inconvenient.

But it was hard not to respond to James; sweet and needy, and yet still an Asset. James was just the right mix of servile and badass to appeal to someone like Rumlow. Sometimes; just sometimes, Rumlow wanted… something. To take the Asset and flee. To find someplace where they could have… something.

But it wasn’t going to happen. Just these stolen moments, usually when James was in piss-poor shape, and before he’d go into cryo.

Although, as Rumlow soaped him up and rinsed him off, James wasn’t that badly hurt. A few shockstick burns -- and Rumlow would dab those with cream, later -- and some torn muscles that would heal in a matter of hours. A sprained wrist. A few broken fingers. What the hell, had-- “Did someone slam your hand in a door, bunny?”

James nodded. “Sokolov slammed the trunk lid down on it,” he said. Rumlow scowled, then checked the mechanical arm; less dented because there wasn’t a lot that could damage that alloy, but he could picture it, pretty clear.

They’d done it, slammed his hands in the trunk of a vehicle like that, to keep him pinned down. Rumlow’s mouth twitched. Bastards. “Is Sokolov dead?” The man was dead, if he’d stopped breathing yet or not. Rumlow was going to see to it.

“They’re all dead,” James said. He licked his lip. “Did I… did I do wrong?”

“No, baby,” Rumlow said. He gently dried James off and helped him over to the medical table. “No, baby, you did fine.” He smoothed burn cream over the red patches where James had been tortured with a shock stick. “This isn’t your fault. Did you get the target?” Because that was, in the end, the really important part. If the Winter Soldier had missed the target, that would be more than Rumlow could protect him from. Unless there was time.

James cleared his throat. “He’s shot. Didn’t get to check. Might be dead. Might be dying. Probably not getting away. Car’s disabled, no phone service.”

“Okay, well, I might be able to finish that job off,” Rumlow said. “Let me see, come on, let me look and see how bad it is.”

“It’s healing,” James reported, but he spread his legs anyway, put his heels up in the stirrups to let Rumlow take a look at his abused ass. Rumlow gloved up, smeared KY on his fingers, and opened James up, gently. As gently as he could, but that stopped neither the hiss of pain James made, nor the other reaction that it got out of him.

James didn’t duck his head, or blush, or refuse to meet Rumlow’s gaze. His mouth twitched a little. “I’ve had worse.”

“You shouldn’t have to have it at all,” Rumlow said. He twisted his fingers, checking for lesions, fissures.

James didn’t look away, and there was always that something more when Rumlow was doing this, when he was checking over the Asset’s health, but… he couldn’t help but remember, couldn’t help but notice.

“It’s not all bad,” James said. “It… ain’t like it happened to me. I wasn’t… there. And I get to see you.”

“Oh, baby, don’t say that,” Rumlow said, and he stepped closer, not pulling his fingers out, letting his eyes drop to that lush mouth. He knew, damnit, he knew, and if anyone else knew that the Asset was throwing missions, was letting himself go feral, so he could spend a few stolen minutes with Hydra Strike Team agent Rumlow. They’d wipe the Asset and stuff him back in the freezer for years, until Rumlow was gone or dead or unpersoned himself. “You can’t say shit like that, and you can’t do shit like that. You think I want you hurt bad enough that you’re here?” It didn’t stop him doing what he was doing, though.

Rumlow’s hand moved and James rocked into it, leaning forward and until his hands were on Rumlow’s shoulders. “I think you want me,” James said. “An’ I think I want you. An’ I think we’ll both do whatever’s necessary t’ get what we want.”

Whatever Rumlow might have said to that was lost, because James was kissing him, and James might not remember his yesterdays, he might forget all of his tomorrows, but the man kissed like it was the only thing he’d ever known.

James kissed with an intensity that was unlike anything; the sort of ferocity he brought to the battlefield, he took it with him into sex. He kissed like he was on fire, burning with all the passion and desire that could keep a man warm for the rest of his life. His lips and hands left no spot untouched, kissing and stroking down Rumlow’s body, squeezing and caressing and stripping off Rumlow’s clothes until they were both naked and writhing together on the medical bed.  

Every time it happened -- every damn time -- it rendered Rumlow senseless. The fierce craving drove every thought from his brain, until he was nothing but sensation and need. He was swimming in desire and he wouldn’t drown, not so long as James held him up. Every nerve was brought, expertly, to a fever pitch.

James’s eyes, so blue and clear, glowed. The intensity of it was such that Rumlow couldn’t help but wonder if it was just the physical nature of their trysts, comfort and compassion when the Asset knew little but pain and death, or if there was something more, emotions that neither of them knew how to name, and dared not try. When James gasped and pulled Rumlow into his body, when Rumlow was crying out with the delicious, delirious ecstasy, Rumlow wondered why pleasure looked so much like pain.

Rumlow captured James’s mouth, holding his chin just so, and drove up into the willing, pliant body. One hand moved between them, and James was jerking himself off, rubbing against Rumlow’s belly. James knew exactly how to touch, to move, to moan, as if he’d never done or wanted anything else.

He felt himself sliding toward that familiar oblivion. “Come on, baby, come on,” he urged, rolling his hips harder. “I need you to--”

And James did, eyes squeezing shut with the force of it, clenching down on Rumlow’s dick. He saw spots of brilliant light, thought maybe he even heard music, and that was just stupid, but in that one instant, James’s mouth on him, the wet heat that blossomed against his skin, the urgent squeeze around his cock, Rumlow could believe in anything.

Even love.

Rumlow let them rest there, in the glow, for a few minutes, then he groaned and rolled off. “Come on, bunny. Gotta get the mission done, before--”

“Yeah,” James said.

By the time they left Asset Containment, James was almost back in full Asset mode. No one would ever know, unless they made a close study of the Asset’s eyes; the alert, bright way they shone was a dead giveaway.

But no one ever looked.

Because the Asset wasn’t a man.

And Rumlow was the only one who knew that wasn’t true.