Don’t forget. Don’t give in. Don’t let them take you.
The words were a mantra, steady as a drum in her head, pounding along as the restraints dug into her wrists. The metal piece was shifted slightly on her face and the bite was placed back between her teeth before the switch was flipped. Even with the gag, she still screamed as that electricity flowed through her like fire. Her body shook and black spots formed in front of her eyes.
Flesh burned, peeling off her face where pieces of the equipment pressed against her face. That strong mantra in her head began to fade, dissolving and slipping away like water between her fingertips. The more the words faded and the darker her vision became, the less she fought. When she opened her eyes again, the metal piece had been moved away from her and she frowned at her surroundings.
She didn’t know where she was.
A slight panic filled her, and she sat up straighter, glancing around frantically as a man came over and injected her arm with something while a woman approached and questioned, “Do you know where you are? Do you know who you are?”
The words died in her mouth and she glanced up frantically at the sensation of the word being on the tip of her tongue. She knew this. She had to know this. Tugging at her restraints, she grit her teeth and gave a strangled scream as she struggled to hold on to the fragments.
“I know this. I know this. I’m…I’m…”
Whimpering and squeezing her eyes shut, her fingers dug into the chair as the woman crouched close and taunted, “Say it. Say your Say my name.”
“You’re—you’re—” Another whimper escaped her and the woman in front of her threw her head back and laughed.
“You’ve outdone yourself, Zola.”
Eyes wild, she glanced between the two as her vision went glassy. Her mouth moved wordlessly and her fingers twitched. Her name. What was her name? Everyone had one, so she had to have one. The woman said she had one, so what was it? What was it?
Zola stepped forward and undid her straps. As soon as they were free, her hands reached up as if they had a mind of their own. They wrapped around his throat and squeezed. She shoved him against the wall, and she wasn’t sure why, but she wanted him dead. She wanted him more than dead. She wanted him destroyed. The rage rose up in her, hotter and faster than the fire that had burned through her and she screamed as his eyes rolled and his skin started to tinge.
The woman pulled her away from Zola and she fought only to gasp as she felt the skin in her arm pinch and then the world swam momentarily. She could hear Zola hacking, coughing and gasping for breath, and part of her got a sick pleasure from it. Most of her was just disappointed.
The rat should have died.
Shaking her head, she reached up and tugged at her hair, unsure of where the thought came from. Was it hers? Was that who she was? She didn’t know. Couldn’t know. Everything was muddled and gray.
“Interesting. You’ve made quite an impression, Doctor. Even when she doesn’t know herself, she knows she hates you.”
The woman was laughing, cackling really, and she hated the sound. Hated that woman. She wanted the noise to stop. She wanted that woman to stop.
Kill her. Save him.
Save who? She was pretty sure that the evil woman was right and that she did, in fact, hate Zola, but who was there to save? No one in the room felt like someone who had to be saved, but still that urge to protect, that urge to find, and that urge to save was still there. She found herself looking for exits, looking for a the right way, but to where? Where was she wanting to go? Where did she need to go?
The woman’s laughter stopped at Zola’s demand and Vivian winced at the sharp, almost acidic tone the woman’s voice took as she snapped, “You presume to command me?”
Zola shrank back, backing up against the wall as the woman approached, his voice timid as he spoke, “Madame Hydra, please, I meant no disrespect. You must know I worship you.”
The thought was sudden, sharp, and she clapped her hands over her ears as the thought repeated itself. It got louder and louder until it was a scream. The scream itself tore from her, ripping through her throat and filling the room much like the pressure inside her. One hand shot out as she screamed and she heard a crash. The noise in her head subsided and she glanced around, a sense of calm (and amusement?) filling her as she saw Madame Hydra slammed against the wall, men in suits with tentacles on the shoulders helping her up.
Other men surrounded her and Madame Hydra stormed over, her face red. Before she could move away from Madame Hydra, her face snapped to the side, her ears ringing and her body stumbling back from the sheer force of the slap. The sound echoed in the room and she could taste blood.
“Do it again.”
Zola hesitated, looking almost reluctant before he stood up straight and replied, “I apologize, but I cannot.”
“I must consult my colleagues further on the matter before we attempt again. If she were to go through the procedure again this soon, I fear her…abilities could diminish as well. I will call Dr. Fennhoff. He will know what to do.”
“In the meantime though, it would be…prudent to see how much she remembers.”
The smile that spread across Madame Hydra’s face was like ice and she took a step back from the woman, but then was stopped by the agents.
Don’t tell them about him. Protect him. Save him. Keep him safe.
She frowned at the thoughts. Don’t tell Madame Hydra about who? Protect who? Who was she supposed to save? None of it made any sense. The buzzing sound increased in her head and she whimpered, reaching up and gripping at her hair as she was led down the hallway. Madame Hydra practically had a bounce in her step and she didn’t understand why as they reached a door.
The door had an electronic lock on it and she wanted to watch, wanted to see what Madame Hydra put in, but then she was swiftly turned around.
“You think I’d let you see the code again after what you tried to pull last time?”
She frowned at those words. Last time? What last time? She tried to search for a memory or even a fragment of a memory of what Madame Hydra was talking about, but all she found was a shifting, unstable ache inside her and a sense of urgency. A sharp beep filled the air and her heart beat more rapidly as the door opened and a warm, low voice snapped, “Where is she?”
Her body moved forward, almost as if of its own accord, and she swallowed hard as she was gripped and forced back. Madame Hydra filled the doorway, blocking the man from her view as the woman taunted, “You really are like a dog, aren’t you? Endlessly loyal to the first bitch who gave you scraps.”
“Don’t call her that.”
“It’s what she is though. A weak, worthless bitch. Hardly worth my effort. Maybe I should just get rid of her.”
“No. No, please.”
Struggling against the agents, she shuddered as her skin was pinched again, and for a moment she almost fell over. Her sight blurred and everything felt warmer. The sounds were muffled and she found herself being led forward. She stumbled, barely staying on her feet until she was finally shoved.
The ground rushed up toward her, but before she made impact, arms wrapped around her and caught her. One of the arms flashed silver in the light and she struggled to focus as the door slammed shut. Shuddering, her body shook and she could feel the man’s body shaking as he choked out, “God, baby doll, what’d they do to you?”
Panting for breath, she let herself get carefully carried over to the bed and sat down. She finally glanced up at the man and she felt like her heart was going to explode as she stared into those beautiful blue eyes. His face was angular, like carved marble, but still somehow soft. His dark brown hair was messy, like he’d been running his fingers through it repeatedly, and some of it lay in tendrils on his face. He was heartbreakingly beautiful, but he felt like home.
Keep him safe.
Smiling softly, almost giddily, she reached up and gently ran her fingertips along his jaw and his lips while whispering, “It’s you. You’re the one the voice mentioned.”
The man frowned, a pained look on his face as he whispered, “What voice? Viv, what happened? You’ve been gone for months. Fuck, are those burns on your face?”
She frowned, staring at the man in confusion as he grabbed her wrists and looked at the bruises there. Staring into his eyes, she whispered, “Viv? Is that my name? Am I Viv?”
Shock and horror slid into his expression and she shook her head, her pulse racing as the man choked back a sob.
Shaking her head frantically, she shushed him and cupped his face in her hands while pleading, “I’m sorry. Please don’t be upset with me. I don’t…I don’t know. The voice isn’t helping me. It won’t tell me anything else. Just that I have to keep you safe. I know you, but I don’t know you. I don’t understand what’s happening. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
Viv gasped for air, her body shaking as he held her close again and whispered, “Shhh, it’s okay. I’ve got you. I’ve got you, baby girl.”
Slowly and shakily, Viv wrapped her arms around him and held tightly to him. Tears slipped down her face and guilt filled her as his body shook. He took a few shuddering breaths, but then she watched as he pulled back from her. His metal hand clenched by his side as his right hand gently pushed her hair out of her face.
“All right, let’s get you cleaned up. Just stay right here. I’ll go get the kit.”
Nodding, Viv sat still, conflicted about what she should do. Should she follow him? Should she stay? Her chest clenched at the thought and she slid off the sparse bed, following the path the man had taken. She moved silently, but then paused by the bathroom door, her eyes widening as she saw him gripping the sink in his metal hand. His right hand was brought up to his mouth and he was biting down onto it, his shoulders shaking with barely contained sobs.
Viv took a step forward, unsure of what to do. Her hands itched to do something, anything to help him out, but then he forced himself to take a deep breath. His right hand shakily went back to the sink and he leaned over the sink, taking in heaving breaths. He sounded like he was close to becoming sick, but then he shook his head and stood up straight. The mirror showed off his red rimmed eyes and Viv’s own eyes widened. Stumbling back, she could see flashes of something.
Whose funeral? When? Clapping her hands over her ears, Viv squeezed her eyes shut as slivers of memories seemed to slip through her fingers. A warm hand gently gripped her arm and for a moment she struggled, but then sank into his grip. Her eyes remained closed, but she allowed her hands to be gently pulled from her ears as the man whispered, “I’ve got you, Doll. C’mon. You’re safe with me. Just let me take care of those burns. They’re not healing right.”
She nodded and let herself get led back over to the bed and climbed up onto it, laying down before finally she opened her eyes. He sighed and left her side again, but she relaxed when he came back with a small kit and opened it up. His right hand was firm, but still gentle as he took her wrist into hand, examining it before sighing as he grabbed some wrap. He wrapped her wrist expertly.
Kids in a back alley brawl.
The images bled through and she could picture it. A tiny blond boy, skin stretched over angular bones and a soul like an inferno was there, barely on his feet despite the blood dripping down his face and the odd angle his wrist was at. There was rage in his eyes was still going, even as the taller, healthier brunet boy rolled his own eyes and chided him for barging into a fight that wasn’t his own.
Viv’s brows furrowed as she tested the name from the fragment on her lips and tongue, “Bucky.”
The man froze at that, his breathing getting heavier and Viv whispered, “There were two boys in an alley. There’d been a fight. One was named Bucky. The other was…”
“Steve,” Viv sighed, staring up at the ceiling while she whispered, “Steve was so mad. Bucky was annoyed. Steve’s wrist was broken, but I think I was the one who wrapped it until he got home.”
“You were,” the man whispered, his voice choked as his thumb gently rubbed along the inside of her wrist.
Frowning, Viv whispered, “Steve and Bucky are important. Or were important. I don’t remember. Hurts to remember.” She then paused and questioned carefully, “Are you mad at me for not remembering?”
He shook his head and then glanced at her, his eyes watery but a soft smile on his face as he replied, “Of course not, Kitten. Just want to take care of you. It’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Viv winced as he gently cleaned the burns on her face. His fingertips brushed along her forehead though and he paused. Glancing up at him as he then pressed his palm to her forehead, she frowned as he whispered, “Fuck, you’ve got a low fever. They probably injected you with a poison of some kind.”
“I’m not normal, am I?” Viv whispered.
The man paused before he sighed and shrugged, “No, but it doesn’t matter.”
“I make you sad. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to.”
He shook his head, going back to her burns while he replied tightly, “You don’t make me sad, Vivian. You could never make me sad.”
'You’re the light of my life, Doll. Gonna make an honest woman out of you before you know it.’
Blinking back tears, Vivian took deep breaths and closed her eyes, chasing after fragments. Slivers broke through and she desperately tried to hold on. Her fingertips gripped onto the thin sheet placed over the bed and she went back and tried to follow Bucky from that first memory.
“Shit. Viv, open your eyes for me. Okay? Whatever you’re doing, you’ve got to stop. You hear me? You’re hurting yourself.”
Opening her eyes, Vivian frowned, but then winced as he gently pressed a handkerchief under her nose, collecting blood that had been dripping out. His entire expression was tense and he wouldn’t look her in the eyes. Taking the handkerchief from him, she finished mopping up the blood while Bucky went back into the bathroom.
We both used to do this for Steve.
The man came back over with a glass of water and she traded the handkerchief for a clean one and for the beverage. Sipping at the water slowly, she forced her breathing to slow down as the man observed with quiet concern. She finished the whole glass of water before he moved forward and took the glass from he only for him to refill it and then bring it back out while speaking quietly, “I don’t know when the next they’ll feed us, but you’ve gotta stay hydrated. Okay? Water will help flush out whatever it is they gave you as well.”
Vivian drank the water, staying quiet as bits and pieces flowed through about him. Most of it was just emotions and sensations. Worry. Jealousy. Concern. Protectiveness. Warmth. Happiness. Love. Devotion. The memories were loose tendrils in her mind, refusing to come together until finally, like a slow embrace or a dance, the lines started to come together.
Raising her gaze at Bucky, she could see him flinch slightly, and she held out her empty glass. He leaned close to take it, and when he did, she grasped his wrist in her hand and spoke again, the shakiness in her voice still there as she tried to make the connection between thoughts and words.
“Bucky. Your name is…Bucky.”
Bucky choked back a sob and Vivian’s breathing was labored as he nodded and whispered in a broken voice, “Yeah, Viv. I’m Bucky. You’ve known me for years.”
Vivian nodded, accepting that was true since her memories made it clear that it was, but then she paused, tilting her head to the side as she questioned, “If you’re Bucky and I’m Viv, then where’s Steve? It was the three of us. We always had Steve. Where is he? Why does thinking about him hurt so much?”
Bucky leaned forward, the air heaving into his lungs in a sharp, desperate inhale, and Vivian felt panic build in her as he placed the glass aside and pressed his lips to her hands. His lips trembled and she frowned as he turned her hands over in his, pressing soft kisses to her palms. He then gripped both of her hands in each of his, rubbing his thumbs over her knuckles while he struggled for words. After several aborted attempts at speech, Vivian became restless.
“Why won’t you say anything? Oh god, did I do something? Bucky, please, tell me—”
Bucky shook his head and gently pulled her closer, tears still in his eyes as he licked his bottom lip before reassuring her, “No, doll. It wasn’t anything you did. It wasn’t you. I just…how much do you remember?”
Vivian blinked and swallowed hard, feeling sadness well up in her as she admitted, “I am Vivian Peshkova. I got the name as a child. I think I chose it. I was molded into a weapon. They wanted me to be able to blend in, so they sent me to New York. Sent me to Brooklyn. They didn’t mean to, but they sent me to you and to Steve.”
Vivian smiled and whispered, “I fell in love with you both so quickly. It was like breathing.” The smile faded off her face as she continued, “Wasn’t fair. We got older. Ophelia hurt me more and more. I wasn’t good enough. I was never good enough. It was only a matter of time before she found you, so I left. I fled. There was a war. Not a new war. An old war, long since forgotten, but back. Same players, different places on a chess board. I was…”
Bucky waited patiently, watching her with a guarded expression, but then he hissed in a breath through his teeth as she confessed, “I was seeking redemption, but I think I also hoped I’d die out there. Dead in a field in Europe, my body sinking into the dirt, never to be reclaimed. Would have been best for you and Steve. You would have been safe.”
“You weren’t in Europe, but then you were. You were in your uniform and you were brighter than the sun. I missed Steve. Where was Steve?”
Bucky’s warm fingers ran through her hair as he gently whispered, “It’s okay if you don’t remember just yet, doll. Don’t push yourself.”
Vivian frowned, leaning into his touch as she whispered, “I love Steve. Do you think Steve still loves me?”
Bucky kissed her temple and she sighed as he whispered, “Steve loved you so much. He loved you his whole damn life, doll.”
“Do you love me?”
Vivian bit and sucked nervously on her thumbnail, averting her gaze as Bucky sat in front of her and whispered, “Oh, Doll. I’ve loved you for as long as I can remember. Gonna love you ‘till the day I die. C’mere.”
Curling up into Bucky’s arms, Vivian wrapped her arms around him, relaxing as he held her close and kept whispering to her softly. Her breathing evened out and she let Bucky’s voice lull her almost into a trance. The strands of memory became more tangible, more solid to the touch as she stayed in the safety of his arms. She gripped onto them and followed the strands, riding them out. It felt like floating.
Most of the memories of Steve and Bucky were warm, like a paradise and she let herself sink all the way down into those waters. They soothed her, healed her, and part of her wanted to stay in those memories forever. Memories of laughter, smiles, and sweet kisses.
Inevitably her mind would pull her out of those memories though, never letting her linger as long as she wanted to. Sometimes the memories were angry or brutal, like rip tides in her mind. There were moments she thought she’d drown in them, but Bucky’s voice and gentle touch reminded her that she was safe. This was all the past. She hadn’t gone anywhere.
“There’s not gonna be a safe landing, but I can try and force it down.”
Eyes snapping open, Vivian gasped at the sound, her body shaking her and bottom lip trembling. It took Bucky cursing behind her to realize the noise wasn’t in her head. It was real. The audio kept playing and her breath rattled in her chest. Mouthing wordlessly, she gripped at her own arms, her nails digging into the skin.
“Viv, doll. Focus on me, okay? Just focus on my voice.”
Bucky forced her to look at him and she choked on air as he continued, “Look at me. It’s going to be okay.”
Vivian shook her head, her nails ripping into her skin as she breathing came in shaky, heaving gasps. Bucky pulled her closed, pressing her to his chest and her entire body shook. The ringing in her ears got louder and louder.
“Please don’t leave me.”
Bucky’s desperate plea was the last thing she heard as she succumbed to the pain.