His throat is raw and his tongue tastes like rubber. It feels like rubber, too. He tries to bite it to find out, but his jaw hangs loose on its hinge and will not obey him.
The light, which has been burning bright through his eyelids, is blocked by shadow. Someone is leaning over him. Wiping drool from his chin with a rough cloth. Prying his eyes open. The light hurts; the world is a writhing blur of motion. “Patient, confirm. Can you hear my voice?”
Yes. The word comes out as a gurgle. How did he get here? The smell of rubber is giving way to the smell of antiseptic. A hospital? So he must be hurt. This explains the searing pain in his head, and why his whole body feels like it’s been hit by a -
“Do you know why you are here?”
If he’s in a hospital, then the voice must belong to a doctor. Maybe they will give him a painkiller. It feels as though someone has poured boiling water through a hole in his skull. His brain is soft boiled, burning, numb. He doesn’t know what they want, he doesn’t know how to answer them. If they would just give him something for the pain -
More voices. They’re talking amongst themselves, and he stops trying to keep track and focuses instead on the rhythmic thrum of his heart in his chest. That hurts, too; he can feel every fatigued beat, and he wishes he could let it rest for just a minute. They say something else. He’s not listening anymore. What’s it to him? He doesn’t even know where he…
He doesn’t even know who he…
Footsteps, leaving. A cool hand on his face, tilting his chin up; a familiar smell, rich and piny. He is sitting upright, but the weight of his swollen brain is dragging his head down; only the chair holds him in place, the chair with its stiff straight back and its cold metal grip on his arms.
It hurts, he wants to say. This time the words come out, slurred and broken, but words at least. “I know, pet,” the doctor says, and there is a ring of confidence in his voice that soothes, calms. “Don’t worry, I’ll make it better.” Relief. The doctor will give him a painkiller, and then the ache in his head will clear away and he’ll know where he is and why his heart feels like it’s ready to give out at any second.
The cool hand moves to touch his chest, right over his heart. He’s shirtless - fleshy and exposed, like an oyster without its shell. He sucks in a shuddering breath. “Shh,” says the doctor. The doctor presses two fingers to the pulse point under his jaw, and his heartbeat accelerates. The doctor can feel it, the doctor knows that it hurts - knows his senses are raw, trembling, and he wants to flinch away from the touch but the shackles hold him in place. The doctor stills him with a soft pressure on his sternum. “Am I hurting you?”
Everything hurts, but that isn’t the doctor’s fault. The doctor is here to make it better. To soothe his fevered skin with cool hands, to take away the fire in his skull.
“I’ve got you, don’t worry.” The doctor leans in closer. For one floating moment his warm pine scent blocks out the stench of antiseptic. The doctor’s hands are ungloved, soft-skinned. The touch hurts, but it’s not so bad. “Hold still, now.”
The doctor checks his heartbeat again, feels his chest rise and fall, feels the goosebumps pimpling his skin. He holds still like the doctor asked. The doctor’s hands trace the grooves between his ribs. They run down his caged arms, digging a thumb into the crook of his elbow. They move slowly, methodically, covering every inch of his bare torso. A thorough inspection. Prickling warmth, bright flares of pain follow everywhere the doctor touches.
The doctor lingers at the hollow of his throat, at the curve of his shoulder. Traces the shape of his Adam’s apple, feels him swallow reflexively. Scrapes blunt nails down his hollowing stomach. Strokes back up to his chest, plucks at his nipples, rolls them between his fingertips. His stomach is churning now, too; his heart beats hard against his ribs. It’s like the doctor is moving the pain, redirecting it, focusing it.
But not easing it. The doctor’s hands are firm on his sides and this isn’t what he needs. Maybe the doctor doesn’t know, maybe there’s a mistake, maybe -
Maybe, if he concentrates hard, he can speak. “Why are you -”
“Shh,” the doctor says again. “It’s okay, just concentrate on my hands. This feels good, doesn’t it?”
It’s not good. It doesn’t feel good. It feels… But the doctor is dragging the pain lower still and there’s a hand spreading his legs apart, rubbing up and down his thigh. Blood rushes to the area. The doctor’s hand brushes his knee. The doctor’s hand strokes his hipbone. The doctor’s hand curls around his groin, squeezing through the fabric, and it feels raw, it feels too much, like a finger jammed in an open wound, and he kicks -
He doesn’t kick. His legs are shackled too; he can’t move. I’ll make it better, the doctor promised, but the doctor is making it worse and the thought of trying to talk again makes his throat ache. He needs - he needs to look around, needs to take stock. He doesn’t know the doctor, dark haired, bearded, white lab coat and solemn face. The walls are white and nondescript and the light, now that his eyes have adjusted, is dim. There is a long table against the wall, littered with objects he doesn’t understand; there is the chair beneath him. Two hemispheres hanging over his head. Clamps, wires, cables, electrodes. How did he get here? Where is he, how is he -
A picture is forming in his mind, but it is hazy and indistinct, and it fades again when the doctor unbuttons his pants and works a hand inside. His stomach lurches. Another sharp pang of feeling - overstimulation. Like sand chafing under sodden clothes.
“Relax,” the doctor admonishes. He is limp in the doctor’s hand, vulnerable and exposed. He feels sick and small and humiliated. “I’ll be good to you, pet. No one’s taken care of you in a long time, have they? No one here is ever good to you. I know how hard it must be.” The words are spoken soft and gentle, like an adult talking to a very small child. Maybe it’s supposed to be soothing. A rough palm on his groin, cupping, rubbing. Is this man really a doctor? He said he was going to make everything better, but he hasn’t offered a painkiller. Hasn’t taken any notes. It doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t seem -
“So good.” The doctor’s beard scrapes over the skin of his chest; the pine smell is strong, cloying. A tongue curls around his nipple, slimy and sinuous. He shudders. “That’s it, that’s the way. Just let it feel good.” Another lick, another film of cold saliva. It’s disgusting. His balls feel like they are shrivelling up, retreating back inside his body to escape the doctor’s clammy touch.
The doctor gives his soft cock another squeeze and sits back, brows furrowed. “It’s not like you to have -” a delicate pause - “trouble. What’s the matter?”
So many answers, so many questions. He opens his mouth to speak, but more noise interrupts him: footsteps in the hall, new voices from outside the room. “What the hell is going on in there, Webb? The asset should have been briefed by now.”
The doctor stands up and crosses the room, outside his line of sight.
“He’s still recovering,” the doctor says calmly. “We need a few more minutes. Leave him with me.”
“How long can it take to get dressed?”
“Not long now. I’m taking care of him.”
A moment’s silence. “Just hurry it up,” says the unknown voice.
The doctor - Webb - comes back into view. Annoyed now, impatient. “Every fucking time, I swear. Do you think you can manage it now, or will I have to send you out like this?”
“Out where?” If only he knew what Webb was trying to do, if only he knew what those voices wanted…
“To work, of course.” Webb sighs and shakes his head, reaches out to clasp his shoulder. His eyes are gentle, anger fading. “I wasn’t going to worry you with that just yet. We’ve got a job for you, okay? You’re a valued Hydra asset. You’re our best guy. It’s my job to get you ready for your briefing and if you don’t start cooperating soon, you’re going to be late and they are going to be mad at you.”
A delicate stress on they. Whoever they are, whoever Hydra are, he doesn’t want them mad at him. That much he knows instinctively. “What do I have to do?”
“Just relax,” says Webb. Calm again now that the footsteps in the hallways have passed. “Just lie back and let me take care of you. I always do. This is your reward, for all the good work you do for us. You’ll remember that later when you’re out in the field.”
It still doesn’t make sense. There’s still so much missing. Just lie back. Just let Webb take care of him. He - the asset, it’s his first clue, it’s something to go on - sucks in a deep breath and tries to force the tension from his limbs. Maybe if he obeys, Webb will let him out of these restraints; maybe Webb will finally give him a painkiller. He can hardly think through the pain in his head, the hot, pounding ache that whites out all his other senses with every pulse.
“Don’t worry,” says Webb. “I’ll make it easy for you. You like this, you always like this.” This time, instead of resuming his old position, Webb is tugging the asset’s pants down over his hips, he is taking the asset’s limp cock in his mouth.
It’s worse than when Webb was licking his nipples. It’s awful, it’s too intimate, it makes his head throb unbearably as the feedback sears his overwrought nerves. His breath picks up, adrenaline takes hold. He’s reacting now, his body can’t help it, and maybe this will be good enough for Webb: the blood is rushing to his cock, a pained whine is escaping his lips. It doesn’t feel like a reward. It doesn’t feel like being valued. It feels -
It isn’t good enough. Webb keeps going, his hand is creeping down behind the asset’s balls, clammy fingers prodding at his hole; he flinches, clenching up against it, and maybe Webb takes this as encouragement because he forces one dry finger inside and curls it sharply like a fish hook.
The asset can’t help it; he struggles. “That’s it,” Webb croons, and bobs back down on his cock, now fully hard. His head is on fire and it’s not pleasure, it’s sickening, it’s shocking, like ants crawling through his veins, like electricity jolting his bones. Webb is humming - tuneless, happy. Webb is rubbing inside him, dry and raw, grating until tears prick the corners of the asset’s eyes.
Webb’s finger pulls out. He has only a second to enjoy the relief because Webb is reaching up, touching his mouth. He purses his lips tight, and Webb pulls off his cock to frown at him. “Make these nice and wet for me,” he says.
The asset shakes his head.
“Come on,” Webb coaxes. “Don’t be squeamish. You don’t want it dry, do you?” There’s no choice, it wasn’t really a question; he is locked in place by the chair. Webb forces two fingers past his teeth and swirls them around his tongue, collecting saliva. Then he goes back to work. The asset hopes it will hurt less for a short break.
His body knows Webb’s rules, though, even if the rest of him doesn’t. Slick fingers force him open, and to block it out he concentrates on Webb’s mouth around his cock. Little pinpricks of pleasure are starting to break through the blanket pain in his head; it’s not much, but it’s the best of all available sensations and he clings to it. He’s tensing up, coiling tighter inside. It’s almost over now. A sense of urgency is building. If he just...if he closes his eyes, so he doesn’t have to see the contraption above him, so he doesn’t have to see Webb’s head between his legs -
Every nerve screams in protest when he comes, but finally Webb pulls away; hot semen splashes his stomach, pools around the base of his cock along with Webb’s saliva.
And then it’s over.
“There you go, pet. How was that?” Webb is breathless; he is back to stroking the asset’s thighs, smiling a satisfied little smile. “Wasn’t that good? I told you I’d take good care of you.”
Deep, trembling breaths. The asset’s chest heaves; his ribs feel like cracking. “Let’s get you cleaned up now,” Webb says. Coarse cloth scrapes at his groin, wiping away the mess, and the asset doesn’t flinch this time. The pain in his head is turning to numbness. When Webb unlocks the shackles on his legs and wrists, he almost forgets to feel relieved.
“Get yourself dressed.” Now he is on his feet, and Webb is losing interest. “You’d better hurry. You know they hate being kept waiting.”
The asset’s limbs feel loose and wobbly, but he balances against the wall and puts on the clothes Webb gives him. Black on black, sturdy and practical, layers of sweat-wicking fabric and tough kevlar weave - his second clue. His shoes are combat boots, worn in neatly to the shape of his foot.
“What,” says Webb, as he finishes lacing and heads for the door, “is that all? No thank you?”
It’s like the yank of a chain around his neck. He pulls up short, a stab of nausea clenching his bowels - what has he forgotten? Something’s missing - but the numb flesh of his brain absorbs the feeling, sponge-like. Deep breaths to calm. It isn’t, after all, such a steep demand.
But speech still makes his throat ache. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” says Webb with a quiet little smile. Behind him, as the asset leaves, he hears Webb begin to hum.