quigonejinn: (avengers - never change your mind)
[personal profile] quigonejinn
Steve, Natasha, the past. Amalgam of Marvel movieverse and comics and video game Captain America canon.

Fifty-eight weeks into being an Avenger, Steve and Natasha get orders to be on the helicopter deck at 0500 in the morning, shiptime. Underground work, Coulson says. Some files recently came to light; they’re going to be clearing out an bunker complex in the side of a mountain. Nothing unusual, and they aren’t expecting much resistance, but it has the potential to turn ugly. When Steve arrives on the helicopter deck, he sees that Coulson wasn’t exaggerating: there are a dozen tactical helicopters loaded with SHIELD ground agents in gear. At the other end of the runway, they are boarding one the agency charter with equipment, technical assistants.

Dawn is not quite a smear of light on the horizon.

All the things that Steve Rogers doesn’t know --


Fifty-eight weeks into being an Avenger, Steve is standing in underground chamber with Natasha; there are very large doors blown into small pieces behind them. It took the ultrasound techs fifteen hours to find the entrance, the explosives crew another four to figure out how to remove the doors without triggering a collapse of the entire mountain around them. There were five rooms in the subannex. Two were empty. Two had something or someone dead and long gone and rotted inside them; one of them had crawled into the corner quietly and died. The other had fought and struggled to get out; there were blood streaks and claw marks on the door out of that room.

Natasha and Steve are standing in the fifth.

"It’s -- alive," Steve says, not sure he believes it. Steve can make out two long, cadaverously thin legs, the top of what might be a head, and with a start, he realizes that not only is it alive, it’s human.

The lights are on and have been cycling on twelve hours off and twelve hours on for two and a half months, as are the air circulators, but no food. No water. The smell in the room is indescribable; the way it looks is indescribable, too. The heap moves a little; Natasha looks at it and says a few words in -- Russian, maybe? The heap moves a little more and rolls over; bones and skin and filth, and then, in a voice that doesn't sound like a voice at all, it makes a series of sounds.

Natasha says a word back, and then, the next sound that Steve hears is Natasha taking both of her guns out of the holster.

"Are you going to -- " He steps between her and the body.

"We have another twenty-five seconds before the backup team arrives," she says, quietly, not blinking. Not lowering the guns. "Get out of my way, and I can put him out of his misery before they arrive."

"No, Natasha, what --"

"Look at him. We'd be doing him a favor."

Steve looks over his shoulder and feels his stomach clench. The mound -- person, Steve tells himself -- the person knows it's being looked at, and it makes a surprisingly loud noise somewhere between a word and a scream. The sound goes on and on and on, echoing and echoing back from the walls, until Natasha cuts it off with a few sharp words. Definitely Russian.

"What are you saying to him? How do you know him?"

Natasha takes a moment to answer. "I told him that I was going to kill him," she says, and Steve knows it's a selective editing of the truth, so he doesn’t move, and when Steve doesn't move, Natasha says, a little more gently. "We worked together in the old days. For decades."


The man makes another noise, sort of somewhere between a gasp, and there are a few more sounds that might be words, or might be the man laughing or sobbing or -- any number of things. Natasha doesn't say anything back, nor does she take her eyes from Steve. "Let me put an end to him," she says surprisingly gently.

Steve is about to say that he doesn’t care who the man is, or what he did while working with Natasha. Didn’t she do those same things? And he can’t let her shoot a helpless, clearly ill man, but footsteps are in the corridor outside -- a full tactical team, followed by a medical unit with a gurney, but what surprises Steve --

What surprises Steve is the open, naked anger on Natasha’s face as she turns on her heel and stalks out of the room.

The man thrashes as he is lifted onto the medical gurney. One of the tac-team goes into the corner and vomits.

All the people that Steve Rogers --


"What happened?"

"Two and a half months of being locked in a prison cell and being forgotten about," the doctor says.

"They just -- left him in there?"

She nods, taps her pen against the clipboard. "Sealed up the doors, poured concrete over the front, and left them all to die."

"How’d he survive?"

"You sure you want to hear this?" Steve nods, and she sighs. "He ate himself. From what we can tell from the other papers we found at the complex, he came into with a -- sped-up healing factor. Astonishing stuff. It wouldn't let him starve to death, even when he apparently chewed off parts of himself. The arm pre-dates that, though.”

Steve looks through the triple-strength, strong-enough-to-hold-back-an-ICBM plasteel window at the man lying on the hospital bed; the left arm gleams dull and metal.

On landing, Natasha had stalked off the flight deck and went straight to Fury's office. She had been in there for an hour; it was just possible to hear her shouting, actually shouting, at Fury.

Coulson stood guard at the door and kept anyone from making out any words.


Four hours after capture, the man’s skin no longer appears to be stuck to his bones.

"Do you have any idea who he is?" Natasha says to Steve.


Eight hours after capture, the arms and legs no longer have obvious bite marks out of them.

"You have honestly no idea who he is?" Natasha says to Steve. "You have no idea what happened to him?"


Twelve hours after capture, the man’s hair begins to grow again; his face begins to fill.

"Winter Soldier," Steve hears one SHIELD officer say to the other on the other side of the bridge, when they think he is immersed in drafting his post-operation report for Fury and because they don’t quite know the degree to which the Super Soldier Serum enhanced his hearing. "Him and Natasha worked together for years, decades. They kept him on ice, popped him out whenever there was something they needed them for, and you know how she is. You remember the assassination of the Czech diplomat in Cannes in '61? That was them. The US ambassador shot at his desk in Paris in '78? Them agai -- "

"Is it true that she got Fury in his office and -- "

Coulson comes onto the bridge to make sure that Steve is actually working on his report.


Sixteen hours after capture, Steve goes down to the medical holding bay and --

Sixteen hours and fifteen minutes after capture, Steve goes into Fury’s office and has the grace to close the door before starting to shout. It's roughly three-thirty in the morning, and Coulson is in bed, and Nick Fury should be, too, but there isn’t anyone in the hallway to eavesdrop.


Twenty hours after capture, Steve is in the holding brig, arms draped over his knees, and Coulson, looking pale and a little unshaven, comes to let him out.

"You shouldn’t have said that to Director Fury," Coulson says, rubbing his face. It rasps; Coulson hasn't had a chance to shave himself yet, but Steve doesn't feel even a little bad.

"What are you here for?"

"You wanted to talk to him alone."


" -- sold him to the highest bidder. "


"What are the restraints for?" Steve says, knowing he is talking a little loudly for six o' clock in the morning, but the intensity of his anger surprises him. Natasha puts down her coffee, looks up from the magazine she has been reading, and it does not escape Steve, it does not escape him that she is in her full tactical suit down to the dart casings at the wrists and the guns strapped to each thigh.

"He woke up and attacked the doctor," Coulson says. "He broke both her arms and smashed her face before we could get him down."

Steve looks over quickly at Coulson, and finds that both Coulson and Natasha are looking at him, Coulson looking a little guarded, and Natasha looking completely, completely closed-off.

"I’ll be fine," Steve says.

Coulson keys him in, and the door hisses shut behind Steve.


Steve has memories of Bucky, and the man on the table looks like them. A decade, maybe two decades maybe, after Steve’s last memory of him. Definitely older, with a little gray in the hair at the temples, but definitely recognizable. Bucky in his thirties? Forties? A good fifteen years older than Steve remembers from the train, and the flesh on the forearms looks bright and shiny around the restraints; as Steve watches, a wound on the left ankle disappears and is swallowed up by new skin. The man isn't wearing any clothes.

Steve leans against the counter; the man’s eyes are open.

"How are you feeling?" Steve says.

There is a long, long moment of silence, and Steve begins to think that the vocal cords haven't mended yet, but then the man says:

"Fairly terrible," he says, with a little bit of a laugh, and Steve’s stomach tightens at the famili --

"You messed the doctor up pretty badly," Steve says.

"I know," the man says, and starts to say something that could be I’m sorry, but breaks off, and Steve watches him breathe, deep, whole-body breaths that make his chest lift and expand. The metal arm lies is the man's left. Neither of them say anything for a long time until Steve crosses his arms over his chest and takes a deep, deep breath.

"You look like your father now."

There is a low, sort of disbelieving noise, and then, the man says, "My father?"

"You didn’t like him very much," Steve says, and watches the man digest the information. "He couldn’t hold down a job. He used to get drunk, and when he came home, he used to hit you and your mother.”

Steve does not add: the first time that we did more than look at each other was when he came home in the middle of the work day and you found him searching the apartment for money. I was home sick; you were skipping school. He started hitting you and might have killed you if I hadn’t gotten the building super and Mrs. Collins’s husband to pull you off him.

Steve does not say: you weren’t grateful. In fact, you told me to get out of your sight, but a week later, two fifth-grade boys were beating the daylights out of me in an alley for telling them they were dirty bullies, and you showed up with some pipe and suggested that they should get fucked. You helped me clean up my face, and you came back from the corner store with two Cokes, and we put on the radio to listen to the Dodgers until our mothers came home.

The man on the table -- how much does remember of this? Not much if he doesn’t remember that he didn’t like his father, and Steve comes a little closer and puts his hands in his pockets.

The man’s head turns to look at Steve, and Steve studies the face, carefully, for any signs of recognition.

"I’m going to undo the restraints on your wrists," Steve says. "Don’t make any quick moves."


" -- sold him to the highest bidder. The aftermarket for Red Room products, especially if associated with Super Soldier Serum -- "


Steve bends down and undoes the right one, then goes around the table and undoes the one on the man’s left wrist, the metal one. The metal doesn’t look like flesh, has bands running across the width of it from end to end, and Steve doesn’t let himself think of the man as Bucky, even though --

The man sits up. "I know we’ve met before, but I don’t remember who you are," he says, rubbing his left wrist with his right hand, as though it hurts from pulling against the restraints.

"Do you remember Natasha?"

"I worked with her for fifty years," he says. "They took me out of the ice for a month every year so that I could cover her back. I had two weeks on my own, running missions or catching up on developments."

"You sound like you’ve said that before."

"They've been interrogating me."

"Have they?"

The man smiles, sort of on one side of the face, and the eyebrow on that side of the face goes up. Steve recognizes the gesture, Steve doesn’t let -- "I’m a professional at being interrogated. Did Natasha tell you that story?"

Steve shakes his head.

"I had a breakdown one day in the field, on one of the missions where I was on my own. Natasha had been covering for me, but she wasn’t there that time. I think they suspected it."

"You were friends?"

"When the two of you found me, she offered to shoot me, didn't she?"

Steve stares at him, and the man looks back.

"What do you remember about me?" Steve says.

"I know we’ve met before, and I don’t think it’s from a briefing." The man looks down at his ankles, makes a gesture with his hands. Steve is still looking at the metal arm, the metal hand. . "Do you mind if I -- ? I’m pretty sure Natasha and a dozen trained SHIELD agents are outside with neural paralyzers."

Steve is sure of it as well, and the man leans forward and undoes the restraints around his ankles. The metal arm moves like flesh, and the rest of the body --


" -- sold him to the highest bidder. The market for old Red Room biotechnology, plus the association with the Super Soldier Serum, Howard Stark’s wartime work. You know, Tony’s father?"


Slowly, deliberately, the man swings his feet off the table and slides down, so that he, too, is sitting on the edge of the table. In fact, they're both leaning against the edge of the medical table, which is bolted to the ground. They have their backs to the one-way observation window. Buc -- the man is still naked but doesn’t seem to worry about it. Steve is wearing a blue shirt and slacks. He crosses his arms over his chest.

"How do we know each other?" the man says, softly.

"We grew up together. You had the apartment below ours. Me and my mother."

The man nods. "And it was me and my mother and my father?"

"When your father was around."

Steve looks over, studies the hair, the eyes, and the mouth. The set of the shoulders. "I guess you don’t remember." Steve says.

"No. Didn't you have a nickname for me?" Steve can't answer that, and the man looks back at Steve, and either calculates for a moment or tries to remember for a moment. "I remember they were putting new blood into me, and taking old blood out of me. Doesn’t sound familiar?"

"No," Steve says, shaking his head.

"What about an alley?"

"An alley?"

"In the city," the man says, and when Steve doesn't look away, he slides over on the table, so that they're hip to hip. Steve is a few inches taller; the shoulder bumping against his is skin and muscle, and then, after a moment where Steve doesn’t move away, the man bends his head down. His hair brushes against Steve’s cheek, and the mouth starts out near a spot just above where Steve’s shirt ends, then moving up the neck, past the jaw, up to the ear. It isn't contact, not yet, but Steve can feel the heat of his breath, feels a knot tighten in his stomach. Is it possible to have breath that hot when one of your arms is metal?

"I remember an alley. You looked different. Did I get that right?"

Steve swallows. "That’s about right."

And then the man puts his hand -- Steve can’t look down to see which one -- on Steve's knee, and his mouth is hot and wet and almost, almost on Steve’s neck. There is almost, almost the feeling of a mouth, and Steve --

"It was a long time ago, I think. I used to be taller than you," he says, and the hand goes up Steve’s thigh, along the seam. "Your hair used to be more brown. Your face was different, too."

The hand traces Steve’s dick through his pants, up, back, down, very lightly. "I think you used to look at me. I remember you looking at me in the alleyway. I was wearing a uniform." He presses his hand on Steve, and at the same moment, puts his mouth on the skin of Steve’s neck -- it’s contact. It's pressure. Heat. Wetness. The hand on his dick and the mouth at his neck run into each other; Steve closes his eyes, knows that he’s hard, and knows that he makes a noise.

"What do I have to do to get out of here?" the man says, softly, mouth wet and brushing against Steve’s ear. "Are you going to start hitting me now?"

Steve pushes the man off of him with force, and leaves. The man lunges, overbalances on newly re-grown muscles, and crashes into the wall behind him, falling over the table, and as the doors hiss shut, Steve hears a cut-off scream, something something about a train, a train in the mountains --


Natasha is outside, her face set in a line. Coulson took the magazine she had been reading and is studying it intently, but he looks up and says, "I’m guessing you didn't put the restraints back on him?"

"No," Steve says. The man inside the room is screaming, rocking back the table back and forth, trying to loosen it.

Coulson looks over at the medical technician standing in the corner. "We’ll need to gas the chamber."

"I’ll be in my quarters," Steve says.


Six hours after that, Steve wakes to someone pounding on the door of his quarters. He opens it to find Natasha standing, gun in hand. She sweeps the room from one end to the other with her eyes before looking him in the face.

"You weren’t responding to the comm system."

"I was asleep. Fury did put me in the brig for the rest of the nigh -- "

"Alexei is loose," she says, and Steve, with a start, puts the strain on her face together with the -- "He was only pretending that the gas worked, and he overwhelmed the technicians."

From the way she says overwhelmed, Steve knows very clearly what actually happened. "Where is he headed? The helicopter pad?"

"He isn’t trying to escape," Natasha says, and for a moment, almost sounds tired. "I thought he might be coming here."

"Why -- "

She looks at him for a long moment, then decides not to answer that, and instead activates the mic in the collar of her tac suit. "Black Widow to bridge. He's going after Stark."

Faintly, Steve hears Coulson promise that he'll get Stark into the suit and off the helicarrier.

"Why Stark?" Steve says.

For an answer, Natasha pulls the gun from her left-hand holster and tosses it to him. "Get your shield."

All the things that Steve Rogers doesn't know --


"They thought he might have some of the Super Soldier serum in him. That's how they made him, you know, with extracts from Rogers's blood. Hydra -- "


"Do you know who bought him? You know the market for after-use Red Room biotech, both prosthetics and bioengineering. If you look at the scarring at the shoulder, you can see clear indications that they tried to separate the arm from the body, and what with the supposed Super Soldier pedigree -- "


Fifty-eight weeks and six days into being an Avenger, Steve Rogers --

Fifty-eight weeks and six days into being an Avenger, Steve Rogers tracks his childhood friend from deck to deck on the Helicarrier. Natasha has the clearest idea of what Bucky's movements will be. She predicted that he would go after Stark; twelve minutes after getting Steve out of his bunk, a team reports that Tony's quarters have been trashed. What part of Steve's knowledge of Bucky would be useful? He knows that Bucky was good with a rifle; he knows what Bucky looked like at twelve, and he knows what Bucky got his mother for her birthday the first year he had a real job at Christmas. They spent a year together, working through Hydra plants, but what does that mean? How sophisticated were those tactics?

Bucky worked with Natasha for fifty years and under the same masters, under the same training, and without looking at a schematic or hesitation, she gives directions for containment and separation, for how many teams there should be and what pattern they should employ. The orders from Fury are to give her a free hand.

They find him in a cargo bay. He has a terrified supply technician by the throat and a gun pointed at his head; Bucky is wearing the uniform of a regular, ground unit SHIELD agent, except the sleeve of the left arm is torn, showing his metal arm.

"Bucky," Steve says, stepping into the light and putting his hands up.


"Did you hear that he tried to seduce the Captain. I heard he offered to blow Cap, right there in the medical holding unit. Do you think that was the -- "

"It wasn’t the Red Room. I mean, if it had been the Red Room, it would have worked."


"I heard they -- "


"Put the shield down," Bucky says. He is pale and sweating. "I know what you can do with that shield."

Steve puts the shield down, carefully.

"Do you know how long I was in that room?"

"Two and a half months," Steve says, gently.

"Try fifteen years," Bucky says. "It was a relief when they locked the door and tried to starve me to death. Where is Stark?"

"We sent him off the Helicarrier. He -- "

"You should have let me die in that factory camp," Bucky says and shoves the gun into the open, sobbing mouth of the supply technician, who trembles, who has already wet his pants, but before Bucky can pull the trigger, Natasha puts a sniper round through the front of his skull, then once the terrified technician has scrambled away, two more into his spinal cord, just to be sure.


Fifty-nine weeks into being an Avenger, Steve climbs to the highest deck at the highest level of the helicarrier, then squeezes through the access hatch. There is a deck beyond the deck, roofed in clear material. There was originally some thought of mounting a gun turret here, but budgetary reasons decided against it, although the roof was installed, and because it’s sunset and the Helicarrier is hovering over the desert, so everything is washed in red and orange.

Natasha is sitting there, back against the wall, arms crossed over her chest. Steve sits down next to her, and neither of them says anything for a long, long time.

"He was my friend," Natasha says, finally.

"Who did they sell him to?"

"A family friend of Tony Stark's. Somebody who knew his father." Natasha looks at Steve. "You should have let me shoot Alexei when we found him."

Steve wants to say something else, but every time he opens his mouth to say part of it, his throat sticks together, and he can't get any words out, until he finally manages, "I should have let Bucky die in that factory camp."

The sun disappears without either of them saying another word.


All of the things and people that Steve Rogers --

1. Yes, in my head, it's Obadiah, and there is creepy badtouch.
2. Yes, the entirety of the Steve-and-Bucky interact bit was basically sketched out by [personal profile] destronomics.
3. Sebastian Stan, guys. Sebastian Stan. I want like fire the Kings!style version of Iron Man where Howard unfroze a Steve clone in the 70s, when they cut funding for that project and he thought he wasn't ever going to have a kid. Then, Tony, whoops! And all the terrible things and Sebastian Stan's role in Kings being not-that-bright Tony at 17, resentful as fuck.
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