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This hadn't been one of STRIKE's better missions. Normally they were clean and precise, razor sharp and accurate. Everything went wrong. Evac wasn't in the correct location, radio was on the fritz, enemy combatants had reinforcements that hadn't been counted. This was nasty, messy and raw. People on the team got hurt and they didn't complete their mission.

Not the mission officially sanctioned by SHIELD and certainly not the covert HYDRA op that Pierce had ordered. Pierce was going to backhand slap him until his teeth rattled in his skull. Then he'd have to get on his knees and beg for forgiveness. Bloody spit never phased Pierce as long as Rumlow didn't get it on Pierce's expensive suit slacks. If his suit got stained, he'd just kick Rumlow in the ribs. Pierce couldn't abide sloppiness.

One day, one day he'd prove that he was worthy of Pierce's respect. Worthy of leading the new world order, fixing all those problems with an iron fist of HYDRA domination. But because of this colossal clusterfuck, today would not be that day.

Rumlow slumped against the bulkhead of the transport. The adrenaline kick was starting to ratchet down and he ached all over. He couldn't begin to tell one pain distinctly from another and his vision was starting to blur. Fuck if he'd pass out though. He was STRIKE leader and had an image to uphold. So he huddled in the very back, as far away from the people he had failed as possible.

Too many mistakes and Pierce would give him to Von Strucker for experimentation. A chill ran up Rumlow's spine in spite of the pain.

"You're bleeding Brock." Steve Rogers commented mildly, dirt smeared across his chisled face. A nasty graze above his eyebrow was already sealed shut and not for the first time, Rumlow envied Rogers' healing prowess. "Looks like you're missing a chunk of your ear." The dim lights of the cabin glinted in Steve's blue eyes, much like the way they had glowed in the reflected firelight at Rumlow's cabin.

Rumlow touched the side of his wet, sticky head and cursed, "Fuck! Did I get shot or was that just shrapnel?" He wiped his blood on his filthy camo pants.

"Does it matter?"

"I guess not. Good thing we've all got our tetanus shots." Rumlow squeezed his eyes shut.

"And you got your daily recommended dosage of iron." Steve reached over with a gauze pad and some tape. "Hold still old man. Can't have you bleeding out on me. You still owe me fifty bucks."

"Shut it!" Rumlow winced. "And if I recall, you owe me fifty from that last poker game, so I think we're even." He grumbled, "Old man..." He let Captain America field dress his wound and rubbed his face with his hand. He felt bone weary and didn't even protest when Steve rubbed the angle of his stubbled jaw with a thumb affectionately.

"Look on the bright side. We didn't lose anyone. Damage was minimal and sometimes those are the only victories we get."

"Yeah, but we fucking failed the mission too. I am not looking forward to my debriefing. Gonna rip off my skin and nail my ass to the wall." Rumlow didn't miss Steve's slight smile even through his intensifying pain. "That's not funny."

"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about nailing your ass." He blinked innocently and Rumlow weakly punched him in the shoulder. Steve looked concerned about Rumlow's new pallor underneath his tan. "You doing okay, Brock?"

"Christ! I'm fiiiiine. How can you crack jokes right now?"

"Well, I'm not dead for one thing. And neither are you." Steve smiled at him, genuinely happy to see Rumlow breathing.

Rumlow bit his lower lip and hissed out his breath slowly. "I just feel like it."

"Looking pretty spritely for a dead guy. You didn't even have to be defrosted."

Rumlow looked stunned for a moment and then he covered with a gruff, "You're freezer burnt, you jackass."

"If you want, I can do the debriefing with you."

"That's so sweet, do you wanna to hold my fucking hand too? No, I made the shitty call, I've got to deal with the reaming." The transport hit turbulence and Rumlow's injured head banged against the wall, he yelped painfully. New blood trickled down the side of his face. "FUCK!" He blinked slowly and looked through Steve, his gaze focused far away from anything in the transport. "Weird. I can't feel my side?"

Steve lunged forward and ripped off Rumlow's flack jacket, exposing a single gunshot wound in his flank, through and through. "Just below the edge of your armor. Damn it Rumlow! Stay with me!"

"Suuuure Big Guy. But I get to be on top..." Rumlow grinned and then his face relaxed into slackness as he slumped into unconsciousness. Steve frantically contained the bleeding with pressure and shouted for the medic at the front of the transport. He wasn't going to lose another... friend.

Rumlow was a friend. Just a friend. Steve's guts twisted up inside at the thought. No. Rumlow as a tough bastard. He'd pull through. He just had to.


Steve Rogers didn't mind hospitals. The marvels of modern medicine were something that this era took for granted. How many friends had he lost to diseases that could be cured by antibiotics or eliminated by vaccines?

He hadn't been called off on any missions, so every day he visited the wounded STRIKE team members at the SHIELD facility. Rollins had been released the same night he'd checked in with minor lacerations that bled more than you'd expect. Williams had a concussion and was out for two weeks. Of course, the most seriously wounded member was the man who liked hospitals the least.

"Good morning, Karen." Steve smiled at the Thai nurse who was outside Rumlow's room door squinting at a tablet. "I brought those comics that you wanted signed for your nephew." He handed her a small stack of comics starring the Howling Commandos.

"I hope he doesn't mind, I might have tucked a note or two in there." It was in fact a very long handwritten letter in which Steve told the story of how Jim and Dugan had booby-trapped a weapons depot with leftover trash from a HYDRA facility, but people didn't write letters anymore and Steve missed it. Maybe her nephew would write back.

Karen dimpled and gratefully took them. "Oh this is going to make his whole year! Thank you Captain Rogers."

"Well, you're taking care of a very dear friend of mine here. And he's a little grumpy. But I think butterscotch pudding is his favorite and that might make him a little sweeter."

"Grumpy? I suppose you could call it that. Don't worry, I'm a professional. Get the IV placed the first time, every time! And yes, his butterscotch pudding." Karen left with a wave to answer the buzz of a call button.

Steve knocked on the door frame and stuck his head in with a sunny smile."Hey Brock. How's the food?"

"Better than MRE's. But what isn't, right? Still, I've gotten butterscotch pudding everyday and I have no idea how, but maybe someone got the memo that that is the only true pudding flavor." Rumlow flopped his head back against the pillow. "God I hate hospitals."

"There are more pleasant places to be, true. You're the last one to get released. Fury wants you on light duty for a few weeks." Rumlow looked much better, color flushed his cheeks and the mischievous sparkle in his eyes was back.

"So you got to do the debriefing anyway?"

"Yep. And it was about as much fun as you'd described. But nobody offered to do anything to my ass." Rogers shrugged, "Sadly."

"Ha ha. I dunno Steve. Sitting here, looking at that stain on the ceiling tiles for hours on end because fucking daytime television needs to be a part of our torture resistance training... I think it looks like a bat or maybe a pterodactyl?" Rumlow squinted. "Anyway, do you ever wonder why the fuck we're even doing this? Like what's the point?" Brock closed his eyes, hoping for both more information that he could relay to Pierce and a little tea and sympathy from Rogers. Rumlow wasn't above fishing for that. There were worse things in life than a living Adonis looking at you in brow-knitted concern. Good for the ego.

"You're not going to wallow in self-pity. You've been shot before Rumlow, do you have a crisis of conscience every time you end up in the hospital? Because Karen says you've got a chart the size of a phone book." Steve leaned in and whispered in Rumlow's ear. "Or are you angling for a little suck and blow time, because I'm not going to pop your stitches again."

Rumlow smirked and waggled his eyebrows. "It was worth a try. Later?"

"Sure, when you're up for it. I'll put you through your paces, Old Man. How come you managed to get shot in the same place as your other injury?"

"Bullets bounce off my amazing abs, of course. Or that's a place not covered totally in Kevlar. I prefer the abs explanation." He ran his hand up his stomach and laughed, a short bitter bark.

"So, there's someplace I'd like to take you when you get released."

"If it was the word vegan in it, then I'm not interested. I've taken a bullet for my country, I'm not eating tofu."

"Duly noted. No, the Smithsonian just added a new area to... my exhibit," Steve shook his head as if he couldn't quite understand how he rated a museum exhibit of his own, "So I've got one of those special after hours, all access passes. I'd like to show you... more about those people I talk about." Those long dead people that Steve chattered about in the middle of the night, sticky with the aftermath of pleasure, snippets of information confided in the dark that Rumlow relayed to Pierce...

"Sure. Don't have anything else to do for a few weeks. Even though I look dead fucking sexy in this gown. I think all clothing should be assless, so breezy and convenient. Thanks for the help in the shower, by the way." Rumlow had overestimated his strength and collapsed in a soapy slippery pile in the shower stall soon after surgery. Steve held him upright, then let Rumlow lean against him while he rinsed clean. Steve was soaked, but he didn't care. Clothes dried, he thought, then snuck a kiss on the top of Rumlow's head. Rumlow had noticed and smiled to himself.

"Pass up a chance to prop you up under tepid water? Never. I brought your music player and the charger by the way. Natasha helped me update the playlists. She said that your tastes were more retro and stagnant than mine were, so she added a few of her favorites."

"God damn it. The whole thing is in Russian, Steve. Russian. How am I supposed to change the settings or even know what I'm listening to?" Rumlow bit his lip in frustration, but then a slow glimmering of an idea passed over his face as he looked at the foreign words and he chuckled to himself.

"Well, you don't have anything else to do for a while, right? And she also said, Don't steal my stuff."

"You told her about the debugger? Aren't you just the best fucking Boy Scout ever."

"Well, she's very persuasive. Somehow I end up telling her stuff that I never intended to, it just slips out..."

"So she knows about... us then?"

"Yeah. She said she was happy that I was getting out more, but that I could do better." Steve stifled a laugh.

"That little bitch. Of course, you could do better, I'm not your boyfriend for fuck's sake. And you really need to learn when to stop talking Steve, that's going to get you in trouble one of these days." Rumlow tossed his player onto the bed.

"Well, I'm very lucky that I have such a good listener to confide in. You're so discreet Brock."

Rumlow smirked and put his hands behind his head, "Flattery will get you everywhere."

Steve stood up and leaned over the bed, twirling his fingers around an errant fastener tie, "You do look quite sexy in your gown. Green brings out your eyes. You should bring that little number back to my place and do a little fashion show. Let me slap that ass..."

Rumlow's cock stirred at the thought of bending Captain America over his knee and beating him until his perfect ass cheeks glowed red. "Hell yeah, as long as I can return the favor." Rumlow wound his fist in Steve's t-shirt and pulled him down close. Steve was in the midst of deeply kissing Rumlow with all the pent up emotion from nearly losing him, a messy kiss with teeth and tongues dueling for supremacy, when Karen walked back in the room. Steve tried to pull away, but Rumlow captured his lower lip with sharp teeth and dragged them until Steve's lip escaped with a wet pop. Rumlow looked at Karen with a predatory possessive stare, he's mine.

"I brought your pudding, but it looks like you already had dessert." Karen set the plastic cup down on the side table and winked at Steve who was blushing red to his hairline. She pointed at Rumlow and spoke severely, "If you pop your stitches again, this time we won't use anesthesia. You hear me?"

Rumlow grunted in assent and Steve ran his fingers through his hair, grinning wryly. "I'll be good."

"Not if I have anything to say about it..." Rumlow scoffed.


They walked down the Mall towards the Smithsonian, Rumlow matching Steve stride for stride. Downtime was rough on Rumlow, he needed order and purpose to stay focused. So he'd taken up Steve's offer to help him out around the place. Steve did not like feeding the piranha and had insisted on making eggs and bacon every morning. It was quite a domestic scene and Rumlow even snuck in a few footrub requests before pushing a protesting Steve out. They weren't married for god's sake and Rumlow had to check in eventually with Pierce. 

"Did you ever fix your player?" Steve asked, his blonde hair tucked under a SHIELD baseball cap, a pathetic attempt at going incognito. "Or are you going to ask Natasha for help?"

"Ha! I have my own Russian expert. I just ordered him to translate for me and I'm back to listening to my retro and stagnant tunes." Brock licked his lips. There had been a few other orders given to his personal Russian expert. Pliant lips and long dark hair, it was so delicious to know that he was fucking someone else's heart's desire. Little touches, tiny gestures, Rumlow mimicked and incorporated them into his interactions with Steve. Like the way he slid his fingers down the inside of Steve's wrist, just like the cold metal fingers did to Rumlow. Muscle memory, even brainwashing couldn't erase that.  

Steve moved unconsciously closer. "Have I met him? I haven't met many of your friends Brock."

Rumlow shrugged, "I think you might have met him at one time, but he probably doesn't remember. He's really focused on his missions and doesn't have a lot to say anyway. And all my friends are on STRIKE, don't have a lot of time for a social life outside of SHIELD. Unless you're looking to meet my parents."

"Your parents? That's a big step Rumlow."

"Well, they're fucking dead so they won't have a lot to say about their son's questionable choices in life." Rumlow huffed out a breath and sighed. "Only child too, so I get to pick my family as well as my friends. Obviously, I have awesome taste."

Steve nodded his head in assent and they ambled along to the side entrance designated on the pass. It was dark and the crowds of visitors had dispersed. Steve rang the buzzer and was warmly greeted by an employee, Robert, who led them to the Captain America exhibit, even though Steve could had found his way there blindfolded. He'd been their special consultant.

"This is our newest acquisition, sponsored by Alexander Pierce, the Red Skull's super-charged personal coupe." Robert presented the massive vehicle with a sweeping gesture.

"Now this is really something," Rumlow admired the workmanship. "Look at the details... mother of pearl inlay, fabulous veneer work on the dash... Over 25 feet long! Six wheels! A work of goddamn art! Did you really ride in this baby?"

"Well, I rode on it to get to the Valkyrie that was going to incinerate New York... I think those are my foot dents in the hood."

Steve pointed at some subtle impressions in the metal and Rumlow winced. "How could you stand on such a beautiful piece of machinery! What a desecration!" Rumlow's gaze slide over the car, lingering on the HYDRA emblems, so beautiful.

Steve laughed, "I did mention saving New York, again, right? I didn't know you were so passionate about old relics or I'd have brought you here sooner."

"I think you know how I feel about old things." Rumlow gave the yawning employee a sideways glance. "I'm very passionate about cars. Can I touch it? Just a little touch? To know what history feels like?"

"No." Robert shook his head. "No touching. I'm going to go sit down if you don't mind, Captain, I'll let you out when you're done. My gout is flaring up something horrible."

"Of course, Bob. I'll keep him in line." Steve warmly smiled. "How's your wife doing? The surgery went okay?"

Rumlow tuned out the banal small talk and stared at the car. The founder of HYDRA had commissioned that fabulous beast and Pierce had pulled it out of the archives, not just as a publicity stunt, but to subtly show the power and the strength that HYDRA had once wielded. Rumlow crouched down and peered under the armored underbelly examining the suspension and carriage. Sixteen cylinders, a damned jet engine. Eventually Steve touched his shoulder and startled Rumlow out of his reverie. "Come on Brock, I want to show you something." Steve's voice was soft and reverent.

Steve led him into the Hall of Heroes and pointed at the exhibit. "That's Bucky. He'd never believe that he'd have his mug plastered up in the Smithsonian." Steve stared up at the animated display, "All of this is a lie though."

"What?" Rumlow sputtered. "What are you talking about?"

"They say I stormed the HYDRA prison camp to liberate all the soldiers, but I didn't. I did it all for him." Steve rubbed his face. "I stole a showgirl's helmet and a motorcycle to rescue my best friend. The rest was... unplanned." 

Rumlow slid his fingers down Steve's wrist again and interlaced their fingers. "You do crazy things for your friends, dude." He cocked his head and smiled, he needed to get inside of Steve's head as deeply as the former Mr. Barnes was. Rumlow decided to muddy the waters, worm his way into Steve's heart. "He looks like a good kisser, if you don't mind me sayin'."  

"The best. Not that we'd really flaunt that back then. I just, I just wanted to show you this. I wanted you to know the truth about me. I'm not a hero, I just want to protect my friends. Sometimes, I can't remember his face clearly. And I don't want to forget. Which is why I helped make this... this... shrine." Steve's voice caught in his throat and Rumlow licked his lips. He wanted to sully the memory of the sainted Barnes, make this terribly earnest memorial as filthy as the Winter Soldier's face after he'd smeared his semen all over it. 

"Oh, I know the truth about you. Captain." Rumlow pushed Steve roughly up against the display, pressed his body against Rogers' and pulled their laced hands above Steve's head. His scars twanged painfully, but Rumlow could deal with that kind of pain.  He could see Bucky Barnes' face laughing right beside Steve's, the symmetry pleased him almost as much as the way Steve sagged against him. "You're the only man I want beside me in a fire fight. And that's all that matters. Screw the legend, fuck the old history. Mmm. I really, really like that idea..." He ground against Steve, showing off his arousal.   

Steve panted roughly, "We can't. Not here." There was no way that Rumlow could overpower or force this man to do anything that he didn't want to and Steve's feeble protest sounded weak and false.

"Why not?" Rumlow slowly dropped to one knee and palpated Steve's cock through his khakis. He'd never been harder, the voice of Barnes echoed in the silent hall, laughter at some joke. A quick unzip with nimble fingers. Rumlow sucked and licked upon Rogers' cock as if his life was at stake, all the while the voice from the past repeated, triggered by a motion sensor. Rumlow cupped Steve's balls and lavished them with his tongue, tugging on his sack gently. Steve wound his fingers in Rumlow's hair and spasmed through an intense orgasm. Rumlow didn't let a drop spill, he was very well-trained and tidy. 

"We, we shouldn't have done that." Steve moaned, overcome with pleasure and guilt. 

"Steve, what are friends for? Now help me up, I'm still stiff from surgery. God damn it sucks to get old. If you ever get tired of being all super-soldiery pass that shit off to me." That was the plan. Reverse engineer the serum, eventually. 

Steve easily assisted and drew Rumlow close, he kissed him with a sweet, gentle gratitude. "I could learn to really care about you, Rumlow." Steve ran his fingers through Rumlow's dark hair and Rumlow leaned in for another messy kiss. 

"Now don't you go fallin' in love with me Rogers. I'm not any good for you." The best lies, the most convincing ones were also the truth, but Steve Rogers wouldn't understand that, until it was too late.  

 Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too...

 Landslide copyright Fleetwood Mac