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Bite the Bullet

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Blood smells like shit.

It’s fucking gross, sticky and hot and stains everything. Like right now, as fist meets face, splitting skin and busting open veins.

“You wanna talk?”

“Fuck you.”

Guys always like playing tough in situations like these. It makes them feel like they’re in charge of their own beating, which is probably the dumbest and most toxically masculine thing anyone could do. But it’s pretty fun to watch. Almost makes you want to laugh, really, but then you’d look like some kind of psychopathic sadomasochist who gets off on watching bleeding men try to reclaim their strength.

In all honesty, while he’s genuinely focused on the task at hand, Bucky is also thinking about how nasty this guy’s blood feels on his knuckles. And, goddammit, it’s on his shirt, too. He’s going to have to pick up a stain stick on his way home.

“I don’t have all night, man,” Bucky laments to Morrison, the gangster that he’s tied to a folding chair and shot in both feet. Seriously, this warehouse is dark and disgusting and he would much rather be taking a bath right about now.

“I already told you, I don’t know shit. And even if I did, I’d take it to the grave.”

Bucky misses the end of that phrase (as if it was something important to hear) — his attention turning to the unmistakable sound of footsteps. They’re heavy, echoing slightly. Maybe two hundred feet away. Male. Top heavy, but average build… that’s funny, Bucky could have sworn he killed all the guys in here. He raises his handgun toward the rhythmic sound of a heavy gait, moving in quickly. This dude isn’t even trying to be quiet — clearly he feels comfortable in situations like these.

Could this actually be Barracuda? No fucking way.

No fucking way it’d be this easy.

“Hey, come on out here,” Bucky banters, “unless you want a piece of lead in you.”

A stutter in the steps, then a shaken grunt, some low muttering. Then a man stepping out of the shadows, giving Bucky a quizzical, almost dazed look.

Why is he the one confused?

“Castle?” Bucky lowers his gun, stepping toward him. He can hear Morrison yelling and shuffling around in the chair, but that’s not quite at the forefront of his mind. How could it be — with Frank Castle standing five feet in front of him?

Frank runs a hand over his face, lowering his gun as well and shaking his head. “James — man, what are you doing here? What are you doing?”

“What am I doing? What are you doing? You’re supposed to be dead. Twice.”

Frank doesn’t answer that, not that Bucky really expects him to. Instead, the Punisher looks around the warehouse, gesturing to the bodies on the ground. “You do that?”

Bucky takes a look at his handiwork, shrugging modestly. Execution style kills all across the board. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t proud of himself. “Got a tip that these guys know a guy who knows a guy. Looking for a Barracuda, you heard of him?”

Frank perks up at that, shifting his weight from foot to foot and cocking his head to the side. His attention shifts to Morrison and his ridiculously loud talking, clearly annoyed. Frank gestures softly, prompting Bucky to move to the side a little, then lifts his gun and swiftly shoots the gangster in the knee. Morrison passes out. Back to business. “Barracuda? C’mon — what are you looking for him for, huh?”

To bring him some homemade fucking cookies. “I’m gonna kill him.”

Frank laughs — actually, genuinely laughs and it’s the most terrifying thing Bucky’s ever heard. “No, you’re not. That’s my kill.”

Bucky huffs, turning his back to Frank to returning to his unconscious hostage. “The U.S. government wants him dead, man. It’s my job to make him dead.” He hears a snort from Castle and shuffling boots as the marine follows behind Bucky. “Besides, you and I both know that I’ve always been a better shot than you.”