Steve opened his eyes and Bucky was there, too thin and ragged and cold to be a dream. Steve's heart sped up, relief running through him like the first deep breath after an asthma attack that had lasted months by now. Steve smiled as he said, "Bucky, thank--"
Bucky hit him, hard. It was an open-handed slap that made his opposite cheek crash into the hard surface he was lying on. Steve tried automatically to move--to get away or fight back or both, to make Bucky listen--and came up hard against the restraints holding him down. He looked down his body, bound thoroughly to a metal table.
Steve kept still with his head twisted to the side, catching his breath and letting the shock of the blow wear off along with the oddly symmetrical pain. Bucky had hit him with his left hand, but only a slap, not a bone-crushing punch. Steve felt Bucky step in closer to him, and after another couple of breaths had passed without violence Steve turned his head to look up at Bucky again.
It wasn't hard not to smile this time, even though it was Bucky, and he was alive, and here. Steve didn't know where here was; it definitely wasn't the safehouse where Steve had stretched out to take a quick nap while Sam and Natasha went to get food.
Without looking away from Bucky, Steve took in as much information about his surroundings as he could. There was light shining on him from multiple directions, angled low enough to blind him if he tried to look around. The space felt open and cool but the air was still, and there was no sound of the city that had to be nearby unless he'd been unconscious for longer than his body clock suggested. He was still only naggingly hungry, not desperate, he didn't need to pee, and he couldn't feel the nasty aftereffects of anything heavy duty enough to knock him out for more than a few minutes. They were probably underground; this could be an old Hydra facility or just a basement or bomb shelter. They could be anywhere.
Steve was held to the table with heavy mag-clamp restraints that were close cousins to the ones used during his brief arrest--and like them, these had probably been designed to be used on Bucky. Maybe they even had been used on Bucky, in this very place. They were supplemented with leather straps that crossed Steve's body from his shoulders down to his ankles.
Bucky, at the center of Steve's attention and rendering all strategic considerations distantly secondary, was looking down at him with a grim attention that Steve couldn't interpret. It wasn't anything good, judging by the blow and the restraints. Bucky looked as worn down and miserable as their long-range glimpses of him had suggested he would be, but Steve could swear he remembered more than he had the last time Steve was face to face with him. There was someone behind his eyes now.
Granted, whoever was in there didn't seem to trust or like Steve very much, but if he'd gotten Steve here he could just as easily--much more easily--have killed him. He'd left Steve alive, just like he'd pulled Steve out of the Potomac, so he had to be Bucky on some level. Maybe he was just tired of being chased. Maybe he wanted to talk.
Steve wanted, with every adrenaline-rushed thump of his heart, to talk to Bucky. Still, he had a little bit of sense. He'd tried speaking first, and now he would wait until Bucky made up his mind to say something to him. He could just look, in the meantime; he couldn't do anything else. Even if he hadn't been bound here he wouldn't have been able to stop feasting his eyes on the sight of Bucky up close.
Steve realized he was smiling again--just a little--when Bucky's grim expression darkened into a scowl.
Bucky leaned over him, looking directly down into his eyes, and said, "I remember you."
The words didn't sound angry, exactly, but they weren't pleased. Bucky sounded like he expected Steve to argue. Steve schooled his expression to neutral attention, waiting for the rest of what Bucky wanted to say.
"Over me," Bucky elaborated, glancing down Steve's body and then meeting his eyes again. "Like this. I was on a table and you were over me."
"Oh," Steve said, and the words burbled up out of him like water from a fountain, clear and eager. The leather straps complementing the heavy restraints suddenly made a kind of sense. "Yeah, I came to get you. The first time Hydra got you--Zola--I found you. I got you out."
Bucky's grim, steady gaze didn't lighten or waver.
"No," Bucky said decisively. "Not just that time. Other times. You were over me, doing things to me. Touching me."
Steve felt himself start to flush, unable to help picturing other times he'd been over Bucky when Bucky was flat on his back. It was disturbingly obvious, though, that Bucky wasn't any happier about those memories.
"I was always underneath," Bucky went on. He spoke almost without inflection, only his insistent gaze emphasizing his words. "People were always over me, doing things to me."
"That wasn't..." Steve felt sick at the realization that Bucky was mixing all those things together in his head, because it couldn't all be the same. Knowing what Steve knew about Hydra and how they'd used Bucky, he knew Bucky had to be remembering torture. Probably rape, too, if he was confusing the way they'd been together with what had happened to him since.
"Buck, that wasn't me. You and me, we were--"
Bucky slapped him again, and in the sharp blank instant where there was nothing but the impact and the pain, Steve thought, That's something someone did to him. Someone who was over him.
"I don't care," Bucky said. "I don't care which one was you and which one was someone else. You're underneath me now. It's my turn. I do things now, and you lie there and take it."
This is going to hurt.
It was a familiar thought, but it had never once stopped Steve from doing what he had to. It wouldn't now. Bucky was confused. Bucky had been hurt--tortured, violated--by so many people in the decades since Hydra took him. He needed to make sense of that, maybe needed to take it out on someone to make himself feel whole again, or just to understand what he was remembering.
Steve could be that someone for him. Better if he did this to Steve than to anyone else, after all. Steve would heal, and he understood more than anyone else possibly could about why Bucky needed this.
Bucky was still staring down at him, waiting for a reaction.
"Okay," Steve said, his voice cracking a little. Nothing about this was okay, and it was going to hurt a lot. "Okay, Bucky, whatever you need, it's okay."
Bucky stared at him for another few seconds, like he hadn't spoken at all, and then he said, with no question in his voice, "What the fuck do you think you're saying."
"Yes," Steve said, and he barely had the word out before Bucky's fist smashed into his cheek--Shut up, you're my mission, shut up--
"No," Bucky said, and instead of hitting Steve again he closed his hand on Steve's throat and began to squeeze. "You don't get to say that. You don't get to say yes. You don't say anything. You're a fucking body on a table. You're an asset, and you will be chewed up and spit out and no one fucking cares what you think of it, do you fucking get that?"
Steve's vision was going sparkly-black with oxygen deprivation. He tried to nod.
The hang gripping his throat moved up and down in a short, sharp motion, smashing the back of his head into the table.
"You don't get it. Things don't understand what they're told. You don't have to. It doesn't matter. It's my turn now."
Steve wanted to look up at Bucky one more time--he could look at Bucky forever--but the hand on his throat tightened harder, and he couldn't see anything but black.
Steve was twisted awkwardly on his side and Bucky's hand was clasped around his ankle, guiding his foot into a more logical position. Steve shifted his weight obligingly, following Bucky's grip, but Bucky's hand went punishingly tight on his ankle as soon as he moved. Steve snapped to full awareness--Bucky, yes, but not like that--just before something slammed into the sole of his foot, lighting up his whole body with a burst of agony that stole the breath from his lungs.
He couldn't hear anything but his own rapid breathing after that. When Bucky resumed moving his broken foot where he wanted it Steve could feel the snapped ends of the bones grating together and the pain made his stomach heave. He didn't quite throw up, but when Bucky pushed his ankle into the cold metal restraint, flattening the top of his foot against the table, Steve let out a sound through gritted teeth that was something like a sob.
"Quiet," Bucky said, perfectly dispassionate, and shoved Steve by the hip and shoulder, shifting his weight in the way Steve had been trying to assist. Both of Steve's wrists were fastened at one side of the table and now he was lying face down, his right leg folded under him, his right foot a mess of red-hot agony. Everything else was cold; he was naked. Bucky must have undressed him.
Bucky grabbed his left ankle and Steve couldn't help trying to jerk away from the touch. He let out another helpless sound and made himself still, but when Bucky's hand came down on the sole of his foot this time it was hardly more than a swat, stinging just enough to distract him for a microsecond from the pain of his right.
Steve flinched with his entire body anyway, letting out a startled yelp. A nasty laugh that didn't sound anything like Bucky ground out of Bucky's throat.
"You learn quick," Bucky said, and that didn't sound like him either.
Steve pressed his forehead to the table and tried not to twitch while Bucky arranged Steve's left leg to his satisfaction; by the time the sole of his left foot had stopped stinging and his right foot had become a point of fiery pain that pounded in time to his racing heart, Steve had his ass in the air, both knees down and spread the width of the table. He could feel cold air against every exposed inch of his ass, and his dangling cock and balls felt like they were trying to shrink into his body.
It was obvious where this was going. Bucky tugged a few scraps of cloth out from under him. He must have cut Steve's clothes off. There wouldn't be anything whole enough to put back on even if he could get loose.
Bucky moved Steve's left hand last, stretching it out above his head like the right. Steve managed to only shudder at his touch that time. His right foot was swelling. He could feel the skin going tight, but he didn't think the swelling would rise as high as the cuff around his ankle.
The pain was starting to feel distant, endorphins or adrenaline catching up enough to let him hold his body at a distance, as he had in all kinds of combat; he'd gotten to the edge of this even in back alley fights before the serum. This was good. The pain would happen, he couldn't prevent that, but the adrenaline would let him keep going around it. Not that he had anywhere to go, or anything to--
Something cold pressed against his asshole, and Steve's breath caught. He swallowed back the sound rising up out of his throat; he didn't want to know what it would have been.
"Nah, it's worth taking a second," Bucky said, his voice falling into the cadence and accent of someone else's words--quick and clipped and American, not Russian. It hit Steve all over again that whatever Bucky was doing to him had already been done to Bucky. And if whoever did it had an American accent then he was probably a SHIELD operative. It was probably someone Steve knew who had done this, and maybe Steve had joked with him afterward, out on a mission.
"Doesn't matter if you loosen him up a little," Bucky said, forcing a cold, rigid finger inside Steve--slicked with something, Steve registered, or it would hurt a lot worse. As it was the pain was minuscule compared to the almost bored tone of Bucky's words as the finger pushed into him, making him feel a little dizzy and sick from the invasion, "he's tight as a fucking shy virgin every time, but if you stick your fingers in first you can actually fit your dick in without getting it crushed."
Steve pressed his forehead against the table and wished he couldn't hear, wished that whoever Bucky was parroting wasn't right at the edge of his recognition, taunting him with the fact that he'd fought alongside someone who had done this to Bucky. Wished that he didn't know that Bucky had probably been even more hurt and scared than Steve was now when they did this to him. More than one, or the one Bucky was imitating wouldn't have been explaining this. How many? Had Steve been surrounded all the time by men who had done this to Bucky? Had they known who their victim was, and what Steve would have given to save him?
The finger pulled out and two pressed back in, sawing mechanically into and out of his ass, stretching him open. Steve wished that he and Bucky had done this kind of fucking more than a handful of times. Maybe Bucky would remember what it was supposed to be like if they had. Maybe it would have helped, maybe Steve would be able to call to mind a time when Bucky's fingers had been inside him like this and it had been good and not this jabbing, impersonal pain.
"That's about enough," Bucky said behind him.
Steve dug his fingertips in against the table's surface as Bucky's fingers pulled out of him. Steve had just a second to anticipate Bucky's cock inside him--warm, at least, and with the slight give of flesh, and familiar even if maybe not like this--before something else cold and hard pushed into him in a long, punishing thrust, forcing his breath out on a startled sound. Steve tried to figure out what it was and then opened his eyes and stared desperately at the inside of his own elbow while he focused only on the fact that it hurt startlingly more than he'd expected it to. His abs and ass and thighs and back had all gone rigid at the invasion of--whatever it was. He didn't need to know what it was.
It fucked him with the same mechanical cadence as Bucky's metal fingers, and after a while Steve acclimated to the cold, or the thing warmed up. Something wet was dripping down his balls, too much to be blood when it didn't hurt that badly. His body began to relax into it, allowing the invasion, remembering to just let this happen. It didn't hurt beyond bearing.
This was--this was rape, this was the thing that people held back as the worst threat, and it was happening to him now. Something was in him; he was being fucked. It hurt, and he hated it, but he could--he could endure this. He could get through this. It would have to end sometime. For now it was almost hypnotic, the steady motion, the ebb and flow of the pain in its own rhythm, separate from the distant throbbing of his broken foot.
He found himself thinking, with a very remote kind of clarity, that he wished Bucky were actually fucking him right now--not because that would mean it ended when Bucky came, or because it might hurt less, but because at least he would know Bucky was getting some pleasure from doing this. Someone ought to, he thought. He wouldn't mind if Bucky did; there couldn't have been much pleasure in his life since Hydra took him.
"And if you start getting bored with his scientifically perfect ass," Bucky said in the midst of it, jerking Steve back to alertness, "you just gotta hurt him a little more and he tenses up like--"
The agony of his foot went white-hot again, blinding, and Steve couldn't hold back a scream. He was vaguely aware of the way his insides clamped down around the thing shoved inside him. There was a strange rote laugh from behind him.
"Yeah," said a voice Steve didn't want to recognize. "Just like that."
Steve stayed motionless when Bucky turned him face up on the table. It was almost easy, except for the fine shivering that passed through his whole body in waves. That apparently wasn't cause for punishment; Bucky took no notice of it.
Steve had to close his eyes against the lights when he was settled on his back again. He took inventory of his body. The pain of his broken foot had become a kind of background noise, swollen and hot and throbbing with his heartbeat but routine now. He remembered hurting this way, back before the serum, when the ache of his lungs and back and joints were just the constant accompaniment to every day. Pain was like the static hiss behind a radio broadcast. The steel table felt colder against his skin now that he was lying full length on it; that probably meant he was running hot, but he began to shiver in earnest when Bucky locked the last restraint in place.
He waited for the straps to come back down over him, but instead Bucky's hand--his right one, the warm one--settled in the middle of his chest. Steve's next breath came as a sob, and when Bucky left his hand resting there Steve had to open his eyes and look.
Bucky was looking down at his own hand, frowning slightly. He made a slow sweeping motion, stroking his hand down to Steve's belly, then raised it and did the same again. His frown deepened, and he changed hands, again sweeping his hand--chilly and hard, this time, though dry now--from the center of Steve's chest down nearly to his navel.
Steve saw something click in Bucky's mind, the moment when he engaged with a memory. His expression changed to something different, coolly appraising, and his gaze swept over Steve from head to toe before he turned away.
When he returned, he was holding a pistol--a nickel-plated semi-automatic, also clean and dry, though there was no reason it shouldn't be--tilted at a negligent-looking angle in his right hand.
"Now you're going to stay very still," Bucky said, bringing the gun around to nestle the end of the muzzle into the angle of Steve's jaw.
"You're not going to make a sound," Bucky said calmly, with a particular tone of unquestioned authority in his voice. Steve didn't swallow against the slight pressure of the gun at his throat. "And you're not going to move a muscle, and there's not going to be one thought in your head that isn't lying still and keeping quiet."
Steve closed his eyes when Bucky's cool left hand returned to the center of his chest. He repeated that first sweep and then his hand kept moving. He didn't hit, and though his fingers passed close enough to Steve's cock to make him flinch, he didn't touch there, either. Bucky did touch everywhere else: low on Steve's belly, the insides of his thighs, fingers tucking under to stroke the backs of his knees. He stroked the insides of Steve's arms, even traced the contours of Steve's hand, calm and proprietary.
Steve remembered Bucky's hands passing over the pieces of his sniper rifle in exactly that way.
"Please note," Bucky went on, and something about those two words made it impossible for Steve not to recognize Alexander Pierce speaking. "It's not that you're holding still so that I won't pull the trigger. You're holding still because you are a weapon and I have not yet decided where to aim you."
The muzzle of the pistol at Steve's throat dug in a little, waggling back and forth, and Steve could picture the exact curl of Pierce's hand on the grip; he'd spent an entire briefing memorizing the shape of Pierce's fingers once, for lack of anything more interesting to occupy him. Pierce had to have known who the Winter Soldier was, even if Bucky's random STRIKE team abusers hadn't. Pierce had sat across from Steve in that briefing and then he had done this.
"If I decide to pull the trigger," Bucky continued, with his cool left hand resting on Steve's thigh, "then it's for no other reason than that I decided to. It would be a mercy, wouldn't it? If there's anything in there that even understands what I'm saying, it can't want to live like this. You were a hero once. Now look at you. It would be a mercy to end you."
Steve made a determined effort not to let his fingers close into fists. Pierce was dead; they'd recovered enough pieces of that body to be sure that he hadn't somehow contrived to live past the bullets Nick had put into him and the helicarrier taking the building down.
Steve wished, passionately, that he'd been able to kill Pierce himself, or at least that it had taken longer. He should have died in the wreckage, trapped and alone and terrified. Unable to move. He should have suffered.
"On the other hand," Bucky was saying, the press of the gun's muzzle lightening to trace over the surface of Steve's throat, "you're surprisingly ornamental. And we wouldn't want to throw away a weapon that might come in handy someday, would we?"
Steve opened his eyes and looked up, just to remind himself that it was Bucky, that Bucky had survived Pierce. It was Pierce who was dead, Bucky who was alive and here with him.
Bucky's gaze held no recognition, no hatred or disgust or anger, no triumph or pleasure.
"Mercy," Bucky said, raising the gun and pressing the muzzle directly between Steve's eyes, "is a luxury we can ill afford these days."
Steve closed his eyes and focused on his memory of the charred and mangled pieces of what had once been a human being.
Bucky went away for a little while--maybe somewhere beyond the lights, maybe not even that far. Steve went away for a little while, too, not exactly unconscious but mostly unaware. He was waiting, but for as long as Bucky didn't touch him or make a sound, Steve didn't have to do anything but wait.
He was aware first of his restraints being rearranged, each one shifted slightly higher on the limb. The restraint on his right ankle moved away from his swollen foot, easing the pressure slightly, which paradoxically seemed to wake the pain. Then there were hands under his arms, yanking him toward the end of the table. His hands and feet slammed back up against the restraints, and Steve woke fully into his body with that new wash of pain. He forced himself to be limp, unresisting, while Bucky's metal hand curled around his jaw, tipping his chin up to bare his throat. His chin and cheek rested at the edge of the table. He pictured Bucky cutting his throat, and the blood spilling over that edge to the floor.
The touch of metal came not against his jugular but on his lips, chilly fingers tapping insistently.
"Look," Bucky said, in another voice that wasn't his own. "My dick is still attached, okay? If he were going to bite it off he'd've done it by now. He's tame as a little lamb when he's like this."
When Bucky's fingers prodded at the seam of his lips, Steve opened his mouth. He let his mouth hang open, unresisting, as Bucky's metal fingers probed inward, pressing against his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Steve breathed through his nose and resisted gagging as the fingers poked further back, thinking about his breathing and not letting himself register the words Bucky was saying. Steve had heard this already, though in a slightly different accent and vocal pattern. He'd been fucked in the ass already; his mouth wouldn't be any worse, and would probably hurt less.
He would keep his eyes closed. He would not look at whatever Bucky put into his mouth. It was better not to see it.
Bucky's fingers scissored open between Steve's teeth, forcing his jaw wide open so far the joints burned dully. It hurt, but unless Bucky pushed far enough to break Steve's teeth or jaw he wouldn't really get injured this way; Steve wondered if Bucky would keep holding him open this way while he put something in Steve's mouth. Steve didn't have to pay attention to whatever was about to happen. He didn't have to be really here at all. He could stay in the dark place he'd been since Bucky stopped parroting Pierce; his broken foot was a distant throb, and the burn in his jaw blended into the same steady background of pain.
Steve couldn't help relaxing his jaw slightly when the pressure against his teeth relented. It was enough to feel like a relief. He held his mouth open wide, still breathing carefully through his nose, waiting for the taste of metal against his tongue, hard edges and the flavor of gun oil filling his mouth.
The next inhalation brought him the smell of Bucky, and his eyes flew open before he could think of trying to keep them closed.
Bucky's pants were open just far enough for him to get his cock out. He was hard, and he was guiding his cock to Steve's mouth with his right hand, which was why he'd been using his left to hold Steve's mouth open.
Steve inhaled through his nose again, forcing himself to keep his mouth open; his heart was racing with a fresh surge of adrenaline that felt traitorously like desire. Bucky smelled exactly like himself, and Steve had had his nose buried in Bucky's crotch enough times that his whole body knew that scent.
He made himself close his eyes again as the head of Bucky's cock passed between his wide-open lips. Even if it was Bucky in his mouth, this wasn't what it would have been, what it should have been, what he'd happily do if Bucky didn't have him strapped down to a table. If Bucky were at all interested in asking him to instead of forcing him.
Steve's mouth watered and his eyes prickled. He could taste Bucky now, could feel the heat of him, the familiar thickness of him pressing into Steve's mouth. Steve tried to focus on the feel of the restraints, on the pain in his foot, on anything but Bucky's cock easing slowly into his open, unresisting mouth.
Bucky was hard, when Steve would have sworn Bucky had gotten no actual pleasure from anything he'd done so far. Had he gone away to get himself ready for this? Had even that been part of enacting some memory, or did Bucky honestly want him in some way? Want this? Just want to get off?
Bucky's finger, still wrapped around the base of his cock, bumped against Steve's lips. Steve tried not to breathe at all, tried not to move any part of his mouth. The head of Bucky's cock was brushing ticklishly against the back of his mouth, and Steve thought that if he tried to inhale he would gag, or burst into tears, or start sucking Bucky's cock for all he was worth.
Bucky moved, giving a couple of shallow, tentative-feeling thrusts. Steve squeezed his eyes shut tight and took a careful breath, not letting himself sob. That felt honest, that uncertainty--that was Bucky, underneath whatever he was acting out. Not the Bucky to whom this would have been familiar, but the man he was now who didn't know what he remembered and hadn't done this in a very long time.
Steve felt the brush of Bucky's hand against his chin as Bucky took it away, and that was all the warning he had before Bucky shoved his cock in further, a sudden brutal thrust. Steve managed not to choke, opening his mouth slightly wider.
"Don't just lie there, now," Bucky said. The cadence of his voice was shockingly unfamiliar when the cock in his mouth was ninety percent of Steve's sexual history. "Show me what you can do, pussycat. You're not going to like it if I get bored."
They'd made him do this, Steve understood. There had been those who used him as a mute, barely animate object, but there had been others who forced Bucky to play some more active role in his own degradation. There had been some who demanded that he please them, and Bucky had had no choice, perhaps not even any awareness that he had a right to resist--tame, that man had said; Bucky had never been tame in his life. Whoever Bucky was remembering must have done this to him when he was drugged, or just after some brutal treatment left Bucky barely conscious. Done it more than once, and brought a friend along to enjoy the show.
Steve felt closer to gagging and closer to crying than any mere physical stimulus could have left him, but he was going to go for the third option. At least he'd gotten his wish from when Bucky had raped him the other way; at least Bucky might get some pleasure from it, this time. If he was there at all, if he could feel any of this as anything other than a reenactment of those abuses.
Steve closed his mouth around Bucky's cock and sucked softly. He couldn't remember ever doing this at quite this angle, but he knew how to take Bucky's cock. It tasted familiar, felt familiar, and after the first couple of seconds he couldn't resist looking up, unable to quite believe that he wouldn't see his own Bucky looking down at him with love, with desire, with some bare hint of recognition.
Bucky was starkly pale, wide-eyed with something that looked like horror. Before Steve could stop what he was doing Bucky was jerking away from him. Steve couldn't look away from his stricken face, and didn't see the metal fist swinging toward him until it was about to impact his cheek, making his head snap against the edge of the table. He heard himself give a ragged, wordless cry, and Bucky made an animal noise and hit him again--with his flesh hand this time, but the blow smashed down on Steve's throat, and after that he couldn't make a sound and could barely breathe. Bucky's fists kept swinging wildly, indiscriminately, in a panic that reminded Steve of the helicarriers, so that even as he felt his brain rattling and the darkness coming in again, even as his mouth filled with the taste of blood and his lungs strained for breath, he was hoping that Bucky had finally heard him.
Bucky didn't stop hitting him before he lost consciousness, and darkness closed over him like the waters of the Potomac.
Steve wasn't all the way awake yet and everything hurt already, which meant he'd done something dumber than usual last night. Or something exactly as dumb as usual but it had gone worse for him. He had no doubt Bucky would remind him of all the particulars once he gave in to being awake--except Bucky couldn't be too mad at him, because he was halfway down the bed, nuzzling the crease of Steve's groin, one hand curled casually around Steve's cock.
That was kind of weird, actually. Bucky never woke him up that way. Bucky woke him up with tussling and kisses now and then, but a leisurely early-morning suck was usually Steve's move.
Steve cracked his eyes open and looked down his own body, and everything fell horrifically into place.
Bucky had pulled his hair back into a short, bristly ponytail, so Steve could see the top half of his face as he rubbed his nose into Steve's groin a couple of inches below the leather strap that held Steve down at the hips. The view was framed between the heavy metal restraints on his wrists.
Steve wasn't sure he actually could open either of his eyes further than the crack he was peering through; his whole face throbbed and his head hurt in a concussed way that he knew meant he shouldn't move more than he had to for the next few hours. The copper taste of blood in his mouth seemed to come equally from a gash on the inside of his cheek and blood leaking out around his right side molars, which all wiggled a little when Steve poked them with his tongue. He could breathe again, at least, but his throat still felt painfully constricted; Steve found himself taking careful, shallow breaths like he'd rarely had to in this body.
And Bucky had decided to suck his cock, because apparently this was one of the ways Bucky remembered somebody--remembered Steve--being over him. Steve thought he knew the exact occasion Bucky was remembering, and he thought he knew how Bucky had stitched these memories together. Steve had started a lot of fights that Bucky had to finish, back then, but there had been one occasion when he'd thought the fight was going to finish both of them; Bucky had come out of it spitting blood, with two black eyes and a couple of cracked ribs. Steve wasn't in such rough shape--for once his opponent had preferred to pick on someone approximately his own size, so he hadn't bothered with Steve once Bucky weighed in. Steve had felt apologetic in the morning when he opened his eyes on the sight of Bucky's battered face. He'd woken Bucky up like this.
Steve stayed absolutely still. He tried not to flinch from Bucky's touches or push into them either. Bucky hadn't woken up right away, Steve thought, or at least he hadn't given any sign of being awake.
Bucky's right hand closed more firmly around Steve's cock, stroking him, and Steve felt the touch reverberate through his whole body, confusing the welter of pain. Steve knew, right then, that he was going to get off on this. It wasn't even a matter of tactics, of going along to get this over with: that was Bucky's hand on him, and at some point, for however long Bucky stayed with the script of this memory, it would be Bucky's mouth, and Steve couldn't not respond. He couldn't not want this, on the animal level of his body, which had known Bucky's body first and best of all others.
Steve looked up into the darkness where there was probably a ceiling of some sort. Somewhere far beyond it there was daylight, and a world full of other people.
"I know you're awake," Bucky said softly, his accent all Brooklyn. Steve's breath caught excruciatingly in his throat, tasting of blood. That was Steve Bucky was imitating now, but they'd grown up together. Imitating Steve mostly meant that Bucky sounded like himself, the way Steve remembered him.
"You can play possum all you want," Bucky went on, and Steve closed his eyes tight, tears leaking from the corners, as his cock stiffened in Bucky's grip. The breath of Bucky's words was warm and caressing against Steve's skin. "But I know you're awake, so I know this counts as telling you I'm sorry."
Steve didn't breathe, because if he didn't breathe he couldn't sob. His chest ached with the effort, but he kept still and silent until Bucky's tongue touched the head of his cock. That little lick was warm and wet and so familiar--so good--that Steve gasped. Bucky made a clockwork noise that Steve recognized was supposed to be a laugh, but wasn't.
This wasn't a sweetly teasing morning blowjob to Bucky. This wasn't an apology or a demand for an apology. Steve didn't know what this meant to Bucky now, if it was some kind of revenge or just an attempt to understand what he remembered; Steve did know that it was the cruelest thing Bucky had done to him yet.
Bucky's mouth closed around the head of his cock, and Steve forced himself to start breathing again, counting off his inhales and exhales. He kept them slow and shallow while his cock was hardening in Bucky's mouth, while Bucky was flicking his tongue along the underside of Steve's cock and then pressing the flat of his tongue against the head. Steve was half hard when Bucky went down further, taking in most of his cock to the wet heat of his mouth. Steve couldn't help cataloguing the similarities and differences, the things Bucky was doing because Steve did them--because they were what Bucky liked.
He breathed in, counted two, breathed out, and tried not to work out whether he could reconstruct a blowjob Bucky had given him with this kind of precision. He did not want to contemplate how often Bucky must have replayed this memory for it to survive with such clarity. That morning hadn't been more than a week before Bucky got his orders. He must have remembered this in the months before his capture, maybe remembered it while he was lying on that table in Zola's lab, maybe tried to comfort himself with this memory. Bucky had held onto it for seventy years, carried it with him to this moment now just to turn it into this.
Tears were blurring his vision and slipping into his ears, but there was absolutely nothing Steve wanted to look at or listen to, so that hardly mattered. Bucky was sucking him and Bucky's hands were on his thighs--one colder than the other, but even those touches felt familiar, backward and upside down. Steve had loved touching Bucky just to touch, hands spread wide on his skin.
Steve breathed in and out while his cock got hard, while Bucky's mouth moved up and down on him, slick and sweet. He thought that they were past the point now when Bucky had definitely admitted he was awake. On that morning he'd moaned and slid his hands into Steve's hair. He'd said, How could I be mad, and Stevie, yeah, yeah, that's perfect, and Oh God, baby doll, you look so good like that.
Steve wondered if it would help to say those things, or if it would derail Bucky into rage again. He ought to prefer another beating to this; a beating might at least break Bucky out of the tide of memory, make him see Steve himself, here and now. A beating would be a cleaner kind of torture than this, and a beating wouldn't crawl into a cherished memory and pervert it.
Steve's hips jerked reflexively, pushing his cock into Bucky's mouth, and Bucky made a little sound that could almost be a moan. Steve squeezed his eyes shut and hated himself as he kept breathing evenly and didn't make a sound. He didn't want Bucky to hurt him again, and he didn't want to push Bucky into that wild, broken rage. He wasn't even sure he wanted Bucky to stop.
Steve's hands jerked against the restraints, wanting to touch, and his next breath faltered into a sob. The pleasure was building up, and Steve had never had any practice resisting it the way he had learned to ignore pain. His throat tightened as he lost control of his breathing, but all the pain was fading out in the tide of pleasure. He couldn't think. He couldn't feel anything but Bucky's mouth, Bucky's hands, Bucky, after all this time.
He felt dizzy and light-headed, maybe from concussion and maybe from oxygen deprivation and maybe from how close he was getting. The sobs tearing out of his throat came with ragged high-pitched whines that he should have been ashamed of, if he could think at all, but it didn't matter. The pleasure of it broke over him like a summer storm, and he was coming into Bucky's mouth.
Steve was dimly aware that Bucky didn't pull away, but he didn't register it until Bucky did move. The icy awareness that this interlude was over and they were going to go on to the next thing made Steve catch his breath and look down his body toward Bucky.
Bucky's mouth was hanging slightly open and there was a weird look on his face, halfway between irritation and disgust. Steve remembered that Bucky hadn't warned him before he came, that morning. He'd nearly choked, and then--
Bucky screwed up his mouth and spat the contents of his mouth at Steve. It landed squarely in the center of his chest, and Steve's hands jerked against the restraints again. He should wipe it away--Bucky had laughed and flicked spit and jizz at Steve. Bucky had tumbled him over in the bed to jerk him off between not-quite-careful-enough split lip kisses that tasted like blood, something like the way Steve's mouth tasted now.
Bucky wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, leaped down lightly from the table with the Winter Soldier's grace. He paused just long enough to spit again. He hit Steve's cheek this time, and Steve flinched from it as if it had been a punch.
Bucky vanished from his field of view. Steve went back to counting his breaths, letting tears leak from his eyes as Bucky's spit cooled on his skin.
Bucky stayed gone for what seemed like a longer time, but maybe it was just that Steve was staying more awake now. He prodded at his loosened teeth and did his best to gauge where he was in the process of healing from a concussion. He thought he was awake and oriented, but for all he knew he was losing time between every blink. There was nothing to anchor himself on here, with the unchanging lights around him and the uninformative silence.
He let himself close his eyes for a little while and imagined that he might be rescued, that this could end. Sam and Natasha had to have noticed he was gone by now. They would be looking for him. Steve had faith in both of them; sooner or later they would find him, and when they did....
When they did, Bucky would still be here, and the only question was whether he would kill them both immediately, or kill Steve first to distract them. It was just possible that Sam and Natasha would manage to kill Bucky, but Steve doubted that they would both come away unscathed, and he didn't think Bucky would fail to kill his captive. Out of all of them, maybe Natasha would escape alive.
Or maybe Bucky would focus on killing Sam and Natasha, knowing Steve was secured, and Sam and Natasha would do what they had to. Maybe Steve would be left strapped to this table while all the people he cared about most killed each other just out of his field of vision; maybe he would lie here until some slow death claimed him, smelling their blood and hearing nothing but the silence they left behind.
Maybe Sam and Natasha would catch Bucky unawares, and his dead body would fall, neatly executed, on top of Steve as he lay here. It would slide away onto the floor, and Steve would fail to catch him one last time.
Maybe Bucky would shoot Sam and Natasha both without missing a beat, and go back to his tortures while they lay dying of their wounds just out of sight. They would have to see what Bucky was doing to Steve before they died, and Steve would be helpless to save them, helpless to get through to Bucky.
He kept running permutations through his head, all of them gruesome. He told himself despair was a sin, but the only prayer that would come to him was the prayer of Christ on the cross, and he couldn't give voice even to that. God had not abandoned him. God had sent Bucky back to him. God worked in fucking mysterious ways sometimes.
Steve's thoughts kept circling around all the ways this could end. It was almost a relief when Bucky came back.
Bucky had a knife in his hand. He tapped the flat of it against Steve's throat and said something admonishing in Russian. Steve closed his eyes and waited for whatever was going to happen next. The tapping knife shifted to his right arm, little regular slaps all down the length of it from the top of his shoulder to the top of the heavy restraint.
The restraint opened. Steve's right arm was free. He jerked it back reflexively, balling his fist even as he realized this was stupid and hopeless and probably exactly what he'd just been warned not to do.
Bucky's metal hand caught Steve's right wrist and slammed it down hard into the table. Bucky's right hand swung the knife in a sickeningly fast downward arc toward Steve's groin, stopping just short. Bucky barked a short, sharp command at him in Russian, and Steve made himself go limp, the fingers of his right hand falling open.
Bucky backed that up with an admonition that required no translation, slapping down the flat of the knife's blade on the head of Steve's cock. The pure, sharp pain of that made his whole body try to fold in--his head and his right foot both set up a howl of renewed pain at the sudden movement. Only Steve's right arm, still clamped down by Bucky's grip, didn't budge.
As soon as he could Steve made himself go limp again, submitting to whatever Bucky was going to do. It was going to be his arm and not his cock, at least. Bucky moved to face Steve, perching on a stool drawn up beside the table. He pulled Steve's arm out straight, tilting it down slightly and pressing Steve's wrist against his thigh with his metal hand.
Steve closed his eyes and counted his breaths, bracing himself for pain. When the first cut came, at the top of his shoulder, Steve exhaled. He could handle this. It stung more than it really hurt, burning a little after the knife passed. Bucky was working in quick straight lines, crisscrossing shallow slices on Steve's shoulder.
It was only when the knife stopped cutting and began to peel that Steve opened his eyes and looked. He couldn't look away, sickened and fascinated beyond the burning pain, as Bucky pulled up triangles of skin between the intersecting lines. He did the center last and then sat back to look at the perfect red star of raw flesh he'd made on Steve's shoulder.
Bucky gestured from the star to Steve's opposite arm and said something approving, again in Russian, but this time Steve began to understand.
Someone had done this to Bucky. Someone had done it with a knife, to his right arm. Someone had decided to make him symmetrical, and there was a decent chance that Bucky had understood as much Russian then as Steve understood now, and had been just as bewildered.
It wasn't exactly a surprise when the knife dug in again, a little deeper, so that blood welled up along the curve Bucky cut, outlining Steve's shoulder. Steve closed his eyes again as Bucky muttered to himself in amiable-sounding Russian.
Someone had done this to Bucky--people had done all of these things to Bucky--not to mold him into the Winter Soldier, not even to punish failures or infractions, but for their own amusement. This was the most senseless of the violence and violation Bucky had suffered, and in his mind that put it next to sex with no real motive but pleasure. All of it was equally impossible for him to understand.
Bucky cut one line after another across Steve's shoulder--though not across the star--and Steve didn't have to look to know that the neat, square-edged lacerations would exactly match the plates of Bucky's metal arm. Symmetrical.
Steve opened his eyes briefly to look, not at the knife or the welling blood or the damage represented by the widening net of pain over his shoulder, but at Bucky's right arm. Bucky was wearing an a-shirt, so both his arms were bared. The silver one was stationary, holding Steve's wrist against the involuntary twitches the knife's point set off. The right arm was doing the cutting.
Bucky's right arm, as Steve had expected, was smooth and unscarred. Steve's would be, too, within a few days. Steve had read that in one of the files they'd found on Bucky--not the first one, he thought, but information they uncovered later, a study of Bucky's capabilities. Lacerations to the full thickness of the skin heal without scars in the absence of reinjury or infection.
Steve hadn't paid much attention to that note. It was one of the many things he'd noted, same as me, and not dwelled on further.
Had this aimless torment also served as a diagnostic test? If it hadn't, had there been others, equally cruel? Had Bucky remembered this and wondered whether it really happened, once the cuts healed without a trace?
Steve didn't realize tears were running from his closed eyes until the knife tapped against the top of his cheek, the point right beside the corner of his eye. Steve opened his eyes, trying to see the knife, and his vision was blurred with water.
Bucky made an oddly maternal Russian-accented clucking noise, and wiped some wetness away with his thumb--blood from the knife, probably, but also tears. He set the knife down next to Steve's head with a decisive click before he secured Steve's wrist in the restraint again and walked away.
Steve waited. He discovered that the hilt of the knife held the blade slightly above the table's surface when he heard his own blood drip from the blade beside his ear. Two more drips followed before Bucky returned, muttering unconcernedly in Russian.
By the standards of Bucky's torturers, Steve was beginning to like this one a little even before Bucky stepped into his field of view holding a gallon bottle of water and a plastic cup. There was a towel thrown over Bucky's shoulder.
"Voda," Bucky said, waggling the bottle. He drew out the word when he repeated it. "Voooo-daaa."
Steve let his lips move around the word--water, it had to be, in Russian--but didn't make a sound.
Bucky nodded, seeming satisfied, and Steve wondered if this were all still Bucky acting out his memory. Had this particular torturer stopped to give Bucky a drink of water? Had he stopped because he noticed Bucky crying? Or was Bucky was actually starting to see Steve?
That curiosity couldn't hold much ground in his mind against his sudden all-consuming thirst. He'd been losing fluids from blood and sweat and tears, and his quick metabolism went through water as fast as it went through food. He watched, unable to tear his gaze away, as Bucky poured water from the bottle into the cup.
Steve forced himself to lie absolutely still as Bucky lowered the cup toward his face--bracing himself to have the water poured out, fighting the impulse to raise his head to drink. Bucky's metal hand went to the back of Steve's head, tilting it up slightly as Bucky's other hand brought the water to his lips. Steve couldn't help making a tiny grateful noise as the water touched his tongue, and he drank thirstily, messily, as quickly as Bucky's hand tilting the cup would allow.
Bucky's laugh sounded slightly less mechanical this time. When he took the cup away he set it down by the knife, in Steve's peripheral vision. His metal hand lowered Steve's head back to the table, and Steve didn't let himself beg for more water, though he was still desperately thirsty, so much that it momentarily obscured the pain from every quarter of his body.
Bucky took the towel from his shoulder and wiped the trickle of water that had escaped the corner of Steve's mouth. With another little clucking noise, he wiped at Steve's cheek and the corner of his eye. Steve kept his eye on the bottle of water the whole time, wondering if he dared to ask. He opened his mouth, silently pleading, and Bucky's right hand went toward the bottle.
The towel dropped over Steve's face, blocking his view, and Steve froze, not even daring to close his mouth. He heard water pouring into the cup beside his head, and he shivered. Steve couldn't help longing for that hand under his head again, for the touch of water on his tongue. Please, Buck, please.
The water hit his open mouth, not in a careful trickle, but in a heavy splash. Steve tried to gulp it down, but there was more water and a faint pressure on the towel over his face. Water hit his nose.
He couldn't breathe--breathed water--he was trapped, drowning, pinned in the debris and sinking. He struggled against the ship crumpling in around him, fought--he wouldn't go down again, wouldn't drown, he couldn't, he couldn't go down there, not again, not again--
He hauled in a dry breath and was aware, distantly, that Bucky was yelling at him. "Stop! Stop fighting, fucking stop!"
He couldn't stop, he had to get out, had to get free--the weight across his arms increased, his feet were pinned, one felt crushed but it didn't matter. He had to get out, he would die fighting this time--
Half the weight went away and there were hands on his face, jerking his head to the side. Bucky was there, looking into his eyes. Bucky.
"Stop," Bucky repeated in the stillness.
Steve stayed motionless except for his heaving breaths, staring at Bucky.
Bucky stared back. Bucky saw him. Bucky was here.
The moment seemed to stretch forever, but Steve's lungs were still burning, his heart still racing frantically, when Bucky said, "You still need to hydrate."
He disappeared from Steve's view and came back with the cup, but the sight and sound of water splashing into it made Steve jerk against the restraints. He turned his head away, tucking his chin down against his shoulder.
There was a silence from Bucky, and then the sound of water splashing against the floor as it was poured out, and the hollow rattle of the cup being thrown away. Steve winced and turned his face back toward Bucky, but Bucky was gone, and so was the water.
Steve closed his eyes and tried to get his breathing under control, taking inventory of the damages. He'd cracked something in his left wrist, maybe more than one something; he could feel his wrist swelling feverishly inside the restraint. His right foot was worse again, too, and he could feel his pulse slamming against the inside of his skull, so he'd probably aggravated his concussion.
Bucky had made him stop. Bucky had known he was hurting himself and made him stop. Playing back that moment of blind panic in his mind, he realized that before Bucky grabbed his face he must have thrown himself flat over Steve, using his weight to try to hold Steve down--but when the weight only made Steve panic more, he'd tried something else. When Steve flinched from the cup, Bucky hadn't forced him.
Bucky had seen him. Bucky had looked him in the eye.
"Look," Bucky said, and Steve opened his eyes.
Bucky was holding what looked like a length of IV tubing. He put one end in the now half-empty bottle of water and held the other end in front of Steve's face.
"You suck on this or I put it down your nose," Bucky said impassively, stating a fact.
Steve made himself open his mouth. Bucky took the end of the tubing away for a moment, sucking on it. Steve watched water rise through the tube until it reached Bucky's lips; Bucky bit down on the tube, then pinched it between thumb and finger as he transferred it to Steve's mouth.
Sharing a straw, Steve thought hysterically. His eyes were watering again, and his breath refused to steady. But he was still thirsty, and his body overrode everything else when water dripped from the tube against his tongue. He sucked greedily on it, swallowing the slow trickle of water as fast as he could.
His stomach was starting to ache when Bucky tugged the tube from between his lips and went away again, and this time he was gone long enough for Steve to make his breathing even and quiet. His sinuses burned a little from the water he'd inhaled; he wanted to blow his nose more than almost anything, and it distracted him from the pain lacing over his shoulder, the throb of broken bones, the bruises he could feel blooming everywhere he'd fought the restraints. His head would hurt less, he was sure, if he could just blow his nose.
But Bucky had brought him water. Bucky had looked at him, had seen him. Bucky had found a way to give him water to drink without triggering more panic.
When Bucky returned, he was muttering in jovial-sounding Russian again. He bent by the table to pick up the knife, and Steve watched him wipe it on his thigh before he tapped it admonishingly against the inside of Steve's right elbow. Steve concentrated on being still this time when Bucky opened the restraint.
Bucky pulled Steve's arm across his lap again, and resumed his cutting in the middle of Steve's upper arm, muttering contentedly to himself. Steve tried not to sniffle. He watched his own blood well up as one line after another was scored around his arm.
Steve drifted in and out of consciousness after. Bucky didn't come back for what seemed like a long time; the throbbing in Steve's head started to fade to something that would let him think. He still wanted desperately to blow his nose.
He had to make Bucky stop somehow. It obviously was possible to reach Bucky, to get past whatever script he was acting out and make him see Steve here in the present. Steve's concussion was healing, but his broken bones wouldn't knit so quickly; he was covered in bruises and he'd already lost more blood than he could afford, especially when he had no idea when he might be able to eat or drink, or even have the wounds bandaged. If he was going to survive this, he had to try something.
Steve was going to survive this. Bucky had survived. Steve wasn't going to let Bucky kill him.
He waited until he caught a faint sound somewhere behind him. It might be rats, might be anything, but Steve had to try. He swallowed, gathering his courage, and then pitched his voice low, slightly slurred.
"32557," he said, spacing each word deliberately. "Barnes. James. Sergeant. 32557--"
His breath stopped in his throat, cutting off the flow of words, when he heard running footsteps approaching. Bucky appeared at his left side and looked down at him.
"Barnes," Steve hazarded, focusing his gaze slightly away from Bucky's face.
It was like a key in a lock; Bucky was whispering to himself and snapping off the restraints. Steve felt all the heavy cuffs at his wrists and ankles release, one two three four. His left wrist and right foot blazed up in sudden agony, but that was nothing to the distance in Bucky's gaze as he looked in the general direction of Steve's face and said, "It's me. It's Steve."
Steve let his gaze settle on Bucky's eyes, which were looking right through him to somewhere else. Steve had gotten him onto the track of another memory, and now he had to ride it. He wondered how far Bucky might take him while reliving this rescue--all the way outside? Onto some city street? Would he start attacking people if they got there, imagining them to be Hydra soldiers?
One thing at a time.
"Steve," Steve said, playing his part. He found a smile, pained and desperate but genuine. Bucky.
"I'm here," Bucky said, and he tugged Steve up to a sitting position, which made his head go light but, thankfully, didn't cause the screaming pain it would have while his concussion was fresh. Bucky gave another tug, pulling him off the table altogether. Steve just barely managed to land his weight on his left foot, leaning into Bucky as he did. His right shoulder, still oozing, struck Bucky's left.
Bucky's right hand slid across his cheek and closed on the nape of his neck. Steve couldn't help tilting his head into the touch, couldn't resist meeting Bucky's eyes, even knowing what they didn't see. If Bucky could reenact this moment then he remembered it. Somewhere, under everything, he remembered Steve.
"I thought you were dead," Bucky said, and his hand was warm on Steve's neck. Steve remembered that, remembered the rush of relief, joy in the midst of everything going to pieces around them. He had found Bucky, and he had known everything would be all right.
Steve's breath caught in something like a sob, but he knew his line. He got it out. "I thought you were smaller."
Bucky's mouth flickered in something like a smile, and his left arm tightened around Steve's back, taking more of his weight. Steve draped his right arm--lacerated down to the last joint of each finger, not a detail missed--over Bucky's shoulders. He let Bucky haul him away from the table while Steve staggered beside him, barely touching his broken foot to the floor.
Bucky moved them quickly outside the glare of the lights shining on the table, and Steve was half blind in the dimness beyond them. Still, he was aware of a vast low space, cool and dry. There was a faint glow from what might be painted-over windows.
"Here, sit down a minute, catch your breath," Bucky said, shifting Steve down to sit on a crate. It was hard, but at least not splintery, under his bare ass. "Let me have a look at you."
They'd jumped forward--past Schmidt, past the bridge, past the moment Bucky had refused to leave him, past escaping the factory and reuniting with the other men. They were in the woods now, and the whole column had stopped to get organized. Steve had told the men to figure out who were the ranking officers, form into platoons as best they could, and triage the wounded. Steve had taken responsibility for Bucky's triage personally.
"You're gonna be fine," Bucky said softly. "Let me just get you cleaned up a little, all right? Stay still for me."
Steve nodded obediently. He couldn't use either hand to steady himself--not with his left wrist swollen from whatever bones he'd broken and his right hand dripping blood again where he'd broken open half the scabs that had formed along the cuts. Still, he managed to sit upright until Bucky came back.
Bucky's hand went to the nape of Steve's neck again, and he held a canteen--an actual canteen--to Steve's lips to drink. The water was lukewarm and tasted of tin, just like it should. When Steve had drunk a bellyful Bucky started checking him over, his fingers moving lightly over the bruises that lingered on Steve's face and throat. Steve could open both eyes all the way, at least, and did when Bucky asked him to. Steve probed at his teeth with his tongue, but they all seemed to have settled into his gums again; that last drink of water had banished the taste of blood, and his breathing was unhindered. He was healing. If he could just keep Bucky from hurting him more, if he could get Bucky to free him or take him to help....
He might--if he were conscious, if he were hurt no worse than he was already--he might be able to keep Natasha and Sam from taking immediate retribution against Bucky. He might get everyone out of this alive, if he could just keep Bucky on this track. If Bucky put him back on the table--
He would fight. Steve knew it in his bones. Even if Bucky killed him for it, even if Bucky broke every bone in his body, Steve wasn't going to be able to lie down on that table again. If he woke up there it would be the same as when he had thought he was drowning. He wouldn't be able to keep himself from fighting.
"Easy," Bucky was murmuring. "Easy, Buck, I've got you. You're safe now. Let me just bandage this up--" and that wasn't a direct quote, but Bucky took a delicate hold of Steve's bleeding arm and began to wrap gauze around it, starting at his shoulder and winding slowly down. The dark red lacerations disappeared under the white of bandages. Bucky crisscrossed tape over the back of Steve's hand when he'd wrapped his palm, and then bandaged the lacerations around each joint of his fingers and thumbs separately, taping every one.
He raised Steve's hand gently to his cheek when he was done, and Steve remembered doing that, wanting to feel Bucky's touch on his face. Steve's stomach shook and his breath caught as he did what Bucky had done: he gave a wobbly smile and brushed his right thumb over Bucky's lips. Bucky turned his head and kissed the bandaged palm of Steve's hand, hard enough that Steve felt the blood start leaking out again. Steve lowered his right hand into his lap and watch the red leak through the white, remembering the press of his own lips against Bucky's grimy, sweat-salted palm.
Bucky moved on, making anxious noises at Steve's swollen wrist. He went away again and came back with a length of bandage to tightly bind the break. He'd refilled the canteen, too, and he held it to Steve's lips again, letting him drink the whole thing, before he knelt in front of Steve to bind his right foot.
Steve's eyes had adjusted to the dimness now, but even when he tore his gaze off of Bucky he couldn't see which way, in the huge open space, led out. He didn't know what he might be rushing out into if he could find an exit. He was naked, and even with his broken foot bound he couldn't run on it faster than Bucky could chase him.
Running from Bucky would surely knock Bucky away from this stream of memories and into something else. Steve didn't want to find out what Hydra had done to Bucky when he ran from them, if he ever had.
"Buck?" Bucky said softly. "Is there anything else? Did they--did they hurt you anywhere else?"
Bucky was looking up at him with something like the expression Steve knew he'd had on his own face that day, bracing himself to find out the worst of what Zola had done to Bucky. He'd dimly imagined something like what Bucky had done to him on that table--rape had been a conceivable possibility, the one Steve hadn't been able to name when he was looking into Bucky's exhausted face.
Bucky had summoned up a steadier smile and said he was hungry, and Steve had apologized for not packing enough rations for everyone.
Steve tried to smile one more time, tried to say the correct words in response to the cue, but nothing came out of his mouth but a wounded noise, and his eyes filled with tears again. It somehow managed to be mortifying despite the fact that Bucky was the one who had done all of this to him. He was crying in front of Bucky. He never did that; he never let Bucky see how things hurt.
"Hey," Bucky said softly, and his warm right hand was on Steve's cheek, careful of his bruises.
Bucky stood, tugging Steve up to his feet and gathering him into an embrace. Bucky urged Steve to rest his forehead on Bucky's shoulder, and Steve did, helpless to resist. He cried against Bucky's skin while Bucky held him close, murmuring reassurances in his ear.
Steve knew he had to stop. He never wanted to stop. When he stopped Bucky would have been jarred out of that memory, skipped to something else again, and Steve didn't want to know what it would be this time. However sick and ashamed he felt for letting himself take comfort from Bucky right now, the next thing would be worse. But Bucky's arms were warm and steady around him, and Bucky's voice sounded like home, and Steve couldn't make himself stop crying.
Then Bucky pushed him back a couple of inches and said, "Hey, Buck, can you walk a little bit with me?"
That was all it took. Steve knew where he'd landed. His heart felt like lead in his chest.
"Yeah," Steve croaked, tears still dripping. It could be worse. It could be so much worse. He should be grateful for this. He said his line. "Yeah, Stevie, of course I can."
It had been the second day of the march back to the American lines. Bucky had refused to take shares of the few bits of food they'd managed to forage, which were divided among the sick and wounded. They were on short rations of water. They had taken regular breaks to rest, and on one of those breaks, Steve had pulled Bucky away from the column, hungry for an hour alone with him the way the rest of the men were hungry for bread.
Here and now, it really was only a little bit of walking--maybe five yards instead of the quarter mile Steve had led Bucky away from the column that day. Bucky laid Steve down on a little blanket pallet on the dirt floor, instead of the soft patch of forest floor Steve had found for Bucky. He remembered the smell of dirt and rotting leaves and pine needles that rose up around them when he'd lain down next to Bucky there.
Bucky lay down next to Steve, and Steve could only smell dust and sweat. He knew what was coming. He lay still and waited, telling himself this was better, that he wasn't restrained, that Bucky wasn't going to hurt him.
You were over me, Bucky had said, way back at the beginning, and it had never occurred to Steve how much being laid down on the ground might have felt to Bucky like being right back on that table with someone looming over him.
He looked up at Bucky, who propped himself on one arm over Steve. Not touching, yet, just covering him. He remembered that impulse, wanting to cover Bucky's body with his. Wanting to shelter him. Bucky had looked up at him quietly, not smiling, but Steve had told himself--Steve had believed, unquestioningly--that he saw relief and welcome in Bucky's eyes.
Bucky leaned lower over him, touching his forehead to Steve's. Bucky's hair fell down against his face, escaping from the ponytail, a ticklish soft caress.
"It's all right," Bucky said softly. "You're safe now. I've got you. You're safe."
Steve closed his eyes, shuddering with the effort of keeping still and quiet.
"Shh, it's all right," Bucky repeated, and Steve knew what was coming. He remembered the taste of Bucky's cracked lips, the sour tang of his mouth and the way it had opened under his just like always.
Bucky's mouth touched his softly, tenderly, and Steve took the deepest breath he could through his nose and tilted his face up into the kiss. When Bucky's tongue traced his lip, coaxing, Steve let his mouth open, let Bucky's hand on his cheek guide him to tilt his head to a better angle.
There was a horrible sweetness to it. After everything--upside down and backward--he was kissing Bucky again. That day in the woods and a hundred other days--days when it had been Steve flat on his back for one reason or another, Bucky holding himself so gently and carefully over him--all ran together in this kiss, and Steve gave up and let himself have it for a while. If he could just forget everything else, if he could forget why it was happening, he could be back with Bucky again, kissing him for all he was worth.
Bucky's laugh sounded almost real when he broke away to breathe. "Easy there, Buck, I got you," Bucky said, sounding happy and a little amused, and Steve was jolted back to the present even before Bucky's hand made its way down his body, closing lightly around his cock, which was just starting to respond to all those kisses.
"I got you," Bucky whispered again. "Shh, take it easy."
Steve remembered wanting to give Bucky some pleasure, something familiar and good after everything bad. He didn't remember Bucky saying a word to indicate that he wanted it, but they'd known each other so well, known each other's cues--Bucky hadn't had any reason to be scared of him then, to pretend he wanted what he didn't....
Bucky kissed him again as his hand squeezed just so on Steve's cock, a touch Steve knew too well to hold back from. Steve tried to keep breathing evenly, concentrated on not turning his face away. His damaged hands rested on his chest, and he laced his fingers together to keep from trying to push Bucky away. To keep from touching him, in case he couldn't help pulling him closer instead. He wanted--he wanted Bucky, wanted this to be real, wanted anything but Bucky's voice echoing his own words while his cock got hard in Bucky's grip and the pleasure ate away at the pain that helped him remember where he was and why this was happening.
"God, I love you," Bucky was whispering into his ear, kissing the hinge of his jaw and along his throat. "I was so scared, I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't found you. Don't do that to me again. Don't leave me, Buck, don't ever leave me."
Steve sobbed out loud, with pleasure, with the memory of his own desperation and relief. He whispered back, "I won't, Stevie, I won't," because he knew that line. He remembered that promise. He knew Bucky had tried to keep it. He knew that the fact that Bucky was reenacting the memory of it meant that somewhere inside everything they'd done to him and everything he was getting wrong, Bucky was still trying to keep that promise in his own broken way. Steve had told Bucky not to leave, and Bucky had come back to him.
Steve turned his head, catching Bucky's mouth in a kiss to stop either of them from saying anything else. He couldn't fight himself, and he let the familiar pleasure of Bucky's hand on him take him away, let his hips jerk up, shoving his cock into Bucky's grip, chasing forgetfulness and the end. Bucky's fingers were just firm enough, warm and achingly familiar. Every stroke seared itself onto Steve's awareness, leaving no room for anything else.
It took him by surprise when he came, like a key turning in a rusty lock, everything finally falling into place. He arched up under Bucky and Bucky's hand grew slick as he stroked Steve through it. Bucky's lips brushed against his in breathless, broken kisses. For a moment, everything was right.
Then Steve fell back against the floor, consciousness of his body returning to him. Bucky settled lower over him, nuzzling at his temple, and Steve realized that his right hand was curled around Bucky's throat, holding on even when he couldn't really touch through the gauze.
"Shh," Bucky was saying, just enough of his weight settling against Steve's body to feel like a warm blanket. "Shh, get some rest now. I've got this watch."
Steve had his hand on Bucky's throat. He should squeeze, punch, push. He should at least try to escape. He shouldn't accept any of this.
He let his hand fall back down, and in the dimness he could see the streaks of his own blood he'd left on Bucky's skin.
"Shh," Bucky said again, cuddling a little closer. "Rest, Bucky. I'm here."
"I know," Steve whispered back. He hid his eyes against the curve of Bucky's shoulder and tried not to think.
"Hey," Bucky said, tapping his fingers lightly against Steve's cheek.
Steve blinked his way to consciousness, and there wasn't even a merciful moment of confusion. He knew why he hurt everywhere. He knew why Bucky was here, so close, looking down at him. The joy of being this close to Bucky was still stubbornly present inside him, but so was the memory of pain and the anticipation of more. He knew that he was going to have to fight for his life the next time Bucky's memories took him somewhere violent.
"Hey," Steve whispered back, wondering if this was the last moment of this seeming peace.
Bucky pushed himself up, kneeling over Steve and putting his hands gently on Steve's shoulders, pulling him up to sit. Steve obeyed, dread coiling tighter in his belly.
"Kneel up, can you do that?" Bucky said quietly. Steve groped for a memory Bucky might be repeating--he was still being gentle, which meant it had to be Steve himself he was remembering--but nothing came.
Steve nodded and obeyed again, letting Bucky's hands guide him until he was up on his knees, facing Bucky, looking directly into his eyes.
Bucky looked back. He kept his metal hand on Steve's shoulder, steadying him or holding him still, and used his flesh hand to gently touch the bruises on Steve's face, barely raising any pain from them at all. His finger settled last on Steve's lips. Steve stayed perfectly still, barely breathing.
Bucky stood up, planting his feet just far enough apart to bracket Steve's knees, and Steve closed his eyes. He knew where this was going, and he knew it wasn't him Bucky was playing now. It wasn't that Bucky had never been on his knees for Steve, but it had never started like this, so quiet and careful, so falsely gentle.
They were back into some Hydra memory, someone who had used Bucky when he couldn't resist--tame as a little lamb--and all Steve could hope for was that the illusion had lasted long enough to let him get through this.
"Steve," Bucky said quietly.
Steve's throat went tight as he looked up, a new horror running down his spine.
Bucky looked down, meeting his eyes. He rested a hand on Steve's head, holding him in place, but his fingers ruffled gently at Steve's hair.
"Yeah, Bucky," Steve said, when Bucky stayed silent, watching him.
Bucky's fingers tightened slightly in Steve's hair, pushing him a fraction closer to Bucky's crotch.
"We did it like this, didn't we?" Bucky said quietly, calmly.
Steve wanted to scream, wanted to beg, wanted to wake up from this soft-spoken nightmare. He nodded under Bucky's grip. It didn't even matter which way Bucky meant it: Steve had gotten on his knees for Bucky as often as Bucky had for Steve.
"Not just me," Bucky went on. "Not just you over me. The other way, too. Like this."
Steve had to close his eyes and take a breath before he looked up at Bucky again and said, "Yeah, Buck. Both ways."
"Show me," Bucky said.
Steve could almost tell himself that it was a request, that he could say yes or no, that he could ask Bucky for a rain check until his broken bones were healed and his face wasn't a patchwork of bruises.
If Steve said no, if he broke this fragile moment of awareness and gentleness, there was no knowing where Bucky might land next. It was not a request. It was a world away from any time he'd ever been on his knees for Bucky, laughing and pushing and teasing, arguing about taking turns.
Steve swayed forward--Bucky's hand followed, not pushing, not pulling--to rest his forehead against Bucky's hip. He was exhausted. Just staying upright on his knees was an effort, and it occurred to him that he'd already had Bucky's cock in his mouth once today--if this was all one day, or night, there was no knowing--and that it hadn't gone well. Even if he complied there was a good chance that Bucky would get spooked the way he had the first time, and that would mean another beating.
At least he wasn't restrained this time. At least he'd have a fighting chance.
Bucky's fingers tightened in his hair, shaking him gently to get his attention.
"Yeah," Steve said quietly. He looked up at Bucky cautiously before he raised his hands to open Bucky's fly. He was clumsy--his left hand felt half-numb from the tight wrapping on his wrist, and he was trying not to disturb the bandages on his right--but he got Bucky's pants open.
Bucky decided to help, then, using his metal hand to shove his pants and underwear down a little. He got his cock out for Steve. Steve felt unwillingly grateful for the help, and the sight of Bucky's cool metal fingers manipulating his own body in that businesslike way made him want, in some painful way he didn't want to think about, to make this good.
"I got it," Steve said softly, using the fingertips of his right hand to guide Bucky's cock, which was entirely soft, to his lips.
He still smelled like Bucky. Steve closed his eyes and let his breath shake through him like a sudden gust of wind, and then he gave a tentative lick. Bucky's fingers flexed in Steve's hair, but he didn't otherwise respond, so Steve kept going, licking at the head of Bucky's cock and tentatively closing his lips around it.
Bucky made a startled sound, but his hand stayed gentle on top of Steve's head. Steve took him deeper, sucking softly, and then pulled back to lick. He could feel Bucky's cock filling, thickening in his mouth and against his tongue. When he closed his mouth on it again he sucked harder, encouragingly, and Bucky's hand jerked away, Bucky's whole body going abruptly tense.
Steve pulled back, looking up at Bucky. He braced for that same stricken look he'd seen when he was on the table, and the rain of blows to follow.
Bucky was staring down at him, but his blank look shifted quickly to bewilderment. He didn't sound angry when he said, "I didn't tell you to stop."
Steve took a breath, still braced for violence, watching Bucky for a tell. "You wanted me to stop. The way you moved--I thought you wanted me to stop."
Bucky stared down at him, his baffled look settling into an intent scrutiny and Steve stayed silent, thinking desperately, See me. Understand what I'm telling you. Stop.
"It's a lot," Bucky said slowly. "It feels... a lot. Too much."
Steve nodded understanding.
Bucky's hand settled on his head again, urging him forward. "Don't stop."
Steve squeezed his eyes shut. "I'll go slow, okay?"
Bucky didn't answer, just flexed his fingers in Steve's hair.
Steve started with licks again, taking Bucky's cock into his mouth only for a second or two and then backing off over and over. Bucky got steadily harder, and Steve tried to listen to his breathing and track the tension of Bucky's fingers in his hair while giving head in the gentlest way he knew how.
When Bucky was fully hard, Steve took him halfway down and sucked, working his tongue along the underside. Bucky's fingers tightened and his breath caught, and Steve started to pull away, but Bucky's left hand caught his jaw, holding him still.
Steve waited for that hand to slide down to his throat, waited for Bucky to start fucking his throat, but Bucky held still for the space of three audible ragged breaths and then took the metal hand away.
"Go on," he said quietly, sliding his flesh hand down to Steve's cheek, his thumb brushing beside Steve's eye. Steve felt the wetness between Bucky's skin and his, and it almost didn't mean anything anymore.
He tried not to think, not to feel anything, not to remember. He sucked Bucky's cock slowly--he could almost hear Bucky, a long time ago, laughingly calling that kind of treatment torture--and gradually built up the intensity, taking him deeper, sucking harder.
Both of Bucky's hands were on his face, holding him steady, but Steve didn't think, barely even breathed as he worked Bucky's cock.
He heard Bucky's breathing getting fast in the familiar way, and Bucky's fingers twitched in against his jaw in that way that meant Bucky wanted to grab and push. Bucky moved a little, pushing his cock further into Steve's mouth, but there was enough slack in his grip to let Steve ride it out without choking. He did it again and Steve swallowed around him, knowing he was close.
"Stop stop stop--" Steve jerked away, but Bucky's metal hand didn't let him go far.
Bucky's right hand curled around his cock, wet and shining with Steve's spit, and he jerked himself off in stuttering movements, a rhythm that didn't fit any of Steve's memories. He didn't realize Bucky was coming until the first spurt hit his cheek.
Steve belatedly closed his eyes, letting Bucky's come splatter over his face. It hit his lips and his closed eyes, dripped down his cheek and off his jaw.
Bucky's metal hand fell away, and his other hand landed on top of Steve's head, moving gently over his hair again.
"That was good, Stevie," Bucky said, sounding breathless and a little dazed and so much like himself that Steve couldn't bear to hear it. Not now, not like this. "That was--real good."
Steve bowed his head under Bucky's hand, letting his shoulders slump. He didn't look when he felt the motion of Bucky folding back down to his knees in front of him. His mouth was sore, everything was sore, and his face was dirty. He didn't want to know what the next thing was going to be, and he didn't want to fight it or suffer it when it came.
"Okay," Bucky said quietly. "Okay."
Steve couldn't remember ever being less okay in his long and miserable life. He laughed a little, and the sound was rusty and unrecognizable; after a few seconds it turned into a cough, anyway.
Bucky's arms went around him, pulling him close as the coughing shook Steve's whole body. Steve turned his head aside from Bucky's shoulder but leaned on him helplessly, coughing until he had to spit and then coughing more, until even that was too much effort and he leaned against Bucky limply, panting.
"Okay," Bucky said, and Steve jerked to awareness and the realization that he'd begun to doze off on his knees, leaning against Bucky. "Here, lie down a minute."
Steve went where Bucky pushed him, lying down on the blanket pallet again. When Bucky's hands were gone Steve curled in on himself. It was cold there without Bucky's warmth, but the chill couldn't keep him awake.
"Oh, God," Sam said, and Steve snapped awake and up into a crouch--he couldn't let Bucky hurt them, couldn't let them hurt Bucky.
Sam and Natasha were still a couple of yards away, and they both had their hands up, eyes wide, like Steve was the threat, or--Steve looked around, but Bucky was nowhere in sight. There was no threat. Just Steve.
Bucky was gone. It should only have been a relief, but it wasn't.
He looked down at himself as he crumpled back down to the blanket on the floor: naked, grimy, battered, half-bandaged. Most of the white gauze around his right arm was stained red.
When he looked up again neither Natasha nor Sam had moved closer, but they'd both assumed reasonably convincing poker faces. They were both better at that than he was.
Steve scrubbed at his face with his left hand and felt itchy patches of dried jizz flaking away from his skin. He wondered if they could see it, how much they knew of what had happened to him--what Bucky had done to him--at a glance.
"The first one to offer to kill him for me is getting their teeth punched right down their throat," Steve informed them as he lowered his hand.
Natasha raised an eyebrow but took a few steps closer as she said dryly, "Wouldn't dream of it."
Sam detoured to pick up a blanket from somewhere and dropped to his knees at arm's length from Steve, holding it out.
Steve took it and wrapped it around himself. It wouldn't stop them from knowing everything they'd seen at first glance, but it was cold down here.
"We're here for whatever you need us for," Sam said quietly. "You call the shots here. Nobody gets killed unless you ask for somebody to get killed. What do you need first?"
"I need," Steve said. He stopped and tried to triage himself, tallying up his bone-deep weariness, his hunger and thirst and his broken bones and possibly still-bleeding lacerations.
"I need to go to the hospital," Steve said, aware as he said it that he'd paused for a very long time, and that Sam and Natasha hadn't moved a muscle while they waited for him to speak.
"Yes," Sam said fervently, sounding relieved. "I definitely support that. Can you--"
"Gonna need a hand," Steve said. They were both giving the impression of dogs straining on the leash to get closer even while holding perfectly still, and with that permission they closed in--slowly, open hands outstretched, careful not to startle him.
"How did you find me?"
Sam's hand curled under one of his elbows, Natasha's under the other. They pulled him up between them in slow stages, letting him get to his knees before he put his left foot down and started to straighten up.
Steve wasn't quite preoccupied enough with the process of standing up to miss the look they exchanged.
"He led us to you," Natasha said evenly. "We had zero leads we could track when he took you, but ten minutes ago he walked right past us on the street, arm uncovered, head uncovered, begging to be recognized. He led us to the building we're under and vanished, but... there was a trail."
Steve had been considering taking a step, but he waited, turning his head to look directly at Natasha.
"Your clothes," she said, betraying a hint of distress under her careful calm. "Pieces of them. Some with bloodstains. There was a trail, all the way down to this room."
Steve closed his eyes and let his head hang for a moment, and then he shifted his arms to drape over both of their shoulders, pulling them close to his sides. They were warmer than the blanket, solid and steady. Steve took one painful step and then another, letting Sam and Natasha guide him out.