quigonejinn: (avengers - future so defined)
[personal profile] quigonejinn
This fic is probably the worst thing I've written in a while. And by worst, I mean "meanest to characters that I really enjoy." It starts out with Nick Fury explaining kill switches to Steve Rogers and gets worse from there.


There is a SHIELD response team all over the apartment.


There is a SHIELD response team all over the apartment. Steve rubs his face with both hands, asks if he can go ahead and use the kitchen. They say that he can, so he makes a pot of coffee and does not offer any to Fury.

This, he decides, is appropriate.


"Are you familiar with kill switches, Captain?"

Steve shakes his head.

"Imagine a faucet," Nick Fury says. "Water is running through it. If you don't want water running, reach out and turn off the tap."

Steve nods.

"The Red Room is very good at setting people up, so that they could be turned off at any time. It could be a word or combination of words. A certain frequency of sound. Did you hear or see anything unusual last night?"

"There was a call this morning. Did SHIELD know -- "

"That's classified."

Steve looks at Fury and says, slowly, "Is that why they're tracing the phone?"

Fury turns to look at Steve, his expression hard to read, a mix of sadness and anger and what Steve realizes is mourning, and Steve tells himself that he, personally, should be feeling --


"Tell us, in detail, what you did."

"I woke up. I realized she wasn't there, but she does that. She likes running in the morning, or going down to the training facility in the basement, so I went to the bathroom. I brushed my teeth, washed my face. I may have had a cigarette out on the fire escape. I can't remember."

"Did you take a shower?"

Steve nods. "No, I did that while I was waiting for the team to arrive."

"So when -- "

"After I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I came out. And I saw her."

"Did you touch anything?"

Steve looks the technician in the eye and feels himself getting angry. "I turned her over, if that's what you mean."


The SHIELD response team arrives in thirty-six minutes. Nick Fury is with them. They take a lot of pictures, a lot of measurements, and then transport Natasha's body out in a bag.


What is Steve supposed to do while he waits? He activated the emergency communication beacon, then followed up with a message with the correct sign, and there was a moment where the early morning desk person sat there in shock, but responded, after a moment, with the standard response meaning: A team is on its way. Hold your position. Do not engage with any hostiles. So what was Steve supposed to do? Steve had closed off the connection, tossed the beacon onto the counter, then went back into the bedroom that still smelled like Natasha, and went out onto the fire escape to have another cigarette.

The city was starting to wake around him, and Steve breathed in the smell of the tobacco, the warmth of the smoke in his lungs. He listened to the trash trucks, the sound of the subway five blocks aways. The city was quiet at this time of day, and his hearing was good. He put the cigarette into the bucket they kept out on the fire escape, and then, he went in to take a shower.

Steve closed his eyes and let the hot, hot water run over him.

When he comes out of the shower, he does a lap around the apartment and concludes that he's alo --


"What are you doing?"

"You can't exactly claim that you just woke up next to her like that and slept through it."

"Are you really going to carry her that way?"

"Do you want to leave drag ma -- "

There is a hook in the living room, screwed into a beam and left, probably, by a previous tenant who liked hanging plants. It's near the phone, and Steve watches Bucky Barnes carry Natasha with one hand under her knees, the other under her shoulders, like a bride going through the doorway to a new house. Her head rolls backwards; her face is a mass of bruising and her tongue sticks out of her mouth, swollen. There is spit and vomit on her front.

All in all, death by strangulation is an ugly way to die.

What does Steve Rogers remember about the Red Room?


What does Steve Rogers remember about James Barnes? How many times has Steve Rogers woken up from the ice? Aside from the rookie mistake SHIELD makes about playing a ballgame from May 1941, why is he so, so sure that the recovery room is a setup?

The phone rings, and Steve, as arranged, picks it up, waits for a moment without bringing it up to his ear, just long enough for a hypothetical person to say a hypothetical phrase, and puts it back down.


The first time that Steve pushes back while in the field, nothing happens then and there. Bucky looks at him for a long, quiet moment, but he covers, or at least acts like he has; they get the mission wrapped up, but when they back home, the Red Room puts Steve in a chamber. "You should fit," they said to him, in both English and Russian. "We measured it just for you." He struggled; they put a tranquilizer in him. They had factored for the sped-up metabolism; the injection lasted until they got the lid on. They had factored for his strength, so it was just deep enough for him to lie flat on his back and not enough for anything else. They closed the lid, and it was insulated from sound and utterly isolated. Steve could feel the panic starting inside him; the box was too small for him to lift his hands up or bend his knees. He could barely breathe. He couldn't see anything.

The tranquilizer began to wear off; he was barely managing to keep his breathing even and his mind clear.

And then they turned on the cold.

Nobody leaves the Red Room alive.


Steve stands on the fire escape, smokes a cigarette. He can hear subways pass five blocks away; he can pick out the different sounds of the different kinds of taxis passing on the main arterial route. He tries not to hear Natasha on the other side of the wall, struggling against the double effects of the paralyzer and the garotte wire.

"Nobody leaves the Red Room alive," Steve hears Bucky say. The window is open; Steve doesn't dare shut it.

Natasha makes a horrible choking noise. There is a moment of quiet, and then a grunt: Natasha is sitting on the edge of the bed, and Bucky is behind her with the wire wrapped around each fist. Out of the corner of his eye, Steve can see that Natasha has fought off the paralyzer enough to be able to bring two hands up to the wires around her throat, but the lack of oxygen is telling, because she can't get a grip on anything.

"Did you hear me? Nobody leaves the Red Room behind," Bucky says, and he tightens the wires around Natasha's throat some more. The wire is wrapped around his metal hand, and now, she doesn't have the strength to bring her hands up to her throat anymore or making choking noises. There are garbage bags laid down on the carpet in front of them to catch any vomit or spit.

Steve looks down at his right hand, holding the cigarette, left hand, holding nothing, and sees that they aren't even shaking.


Steve knows that knows that the only reason that he isn't in there, strangling Natasha with her own garotte wire, is because Bucky asked for the job, and they gave it to him: a reward.


How long had Bucky been working for the Red Room? Decades, Steve guesses, before they decided to let him out of the ice. They were holding onto him until something that came up that was worth it.

Three, four minutes go by, and Steve feels his arms and legs coming back to him. He knows he doesn't have the stomach for it, and they've previously discussed how he is permi -- so as soon as he can, Steve slides off the bed and grabs the cigarettes and lighter off the dresser next to Natasha's hairbrush and her sunscreen. The cigarettes are a bad, occasional habit; left to his own devices, it takes him a month to go through a pack, and Steve is about to climb out the window to the fire escape when Bucky turns from the bed and says, "I'm going to sit her up. It'll save your sheets."

Steve stops and looks over at Bucky. Bucky looks back at him, doesn't take his hands from the garotte wire around Natasha's throat, and Natasha isn't to the stage of being able to fight the paralyzer enough to make a sound, but she has fought the paralyzer back enough that her eyes are expressive. It wore off faster for Steve because of his bigger body and greater distance from the door; the Red Room also made certain adjustments after Natasha left.

After a moment, Steve goes into the kitchen and gets some garbage bags.


One time, two years into working together, Bucky is doing -- something to the person that crossed them. Something has gone wrong, and they have to find out why, and even with two years of field experience under his belt, what Bucky is doing, paired with the exhaustion, the adrenaline, means Steve has to step outside. He needs fresh air. It's an abandoned warehouse of some kind, with nothing around it but acres and acres of other empty warehouses and run-down parking lots, and the guy had been leaving on an extended business trip when they grabbed him, Bucky has scope and time to work, and Steve needs to get away from the sounds the guy is making as Bucky works on him.

A split second afterwards, a moment too late, Steve realizes that he didn't ask for permission.

To Steve, fear always means cold.

He helps Bucky dispose of the body, and they're back in the warehouse, prepping for pickup, in the little closed-up room they shared for the two weeks it took to get out from under whoever was chasing them, and Steve looks over at Bucky. The lights are overhead, old tungsten lighting, so it makes everything yellow.

"About before -- " Steve says.

Bucky's expression is carefully blank.

"About before, when I went outside." Steve picks his words just as carefully. He had been zipping up a bag of the -- implements that Bucky had been using, cleaned, put back into their slots in the roll. "Can you keep it to yourself?"

They are miles from anything, so the only sound Steve can hear is the generator they've been using, and Bucky is still looking at him. Considering. Thinking.

After what feels like -- years, Bucky nods, and Steve goes over to him on his knees and blows Bucky, Steve still on his knees, still in that room with the bloodstains on the floor and Bucky leaning against the wall. Steve swallows, then licks Bucky's metal left hand afterwards, from fingertip to wrist; Bucky puts the hand in Steve's hair and runs it through, once, twice, maybe three times.

When they get back to base, the Red Room puts Steve into the box.

He fights so hard they have to jab him with two doses, and they put him inside the box for -- an incomprehensible amount of time. Time loses meaning without sound or sight or feeling, but it feels extraordinarily long, it and when the lid comes up and Steve is lying in the box, feeling the room-temperature air scald his skin and lungs, but not being able to stop sucking the air in anyways, definitely not able to stop the trembling as his body warms up enough to start that again, and Bucky leans over and puts his elbows on the edge of the box.

"Listen, kid," he says. "That's not how it works here."

Just to make sure that Steve is paying attention, he taps the places on Steve's face where condensation froze and is now starting to melt. "We aren't allowed to keep secrets."

The Red Room makes sure that since Bucky is training him, Bucky is always the one who lets Steve out.


Natasha's eyes freeze open, very, very wi --

Bucky gets into bed with them.


Bucky comes into the room, quiet, still, but with the blue lights already gleaming in his ears. Steve manages to suck in a deep breath before Bucky sets the paralyzer out to broadcast.


She sleeps.


Natasha wakes. She hears something.

"Probably nothing," Steve says.

"Yesterday, we fought a giant floating squid that tried to open a portal between parallel universes," Natasha says, but sleepily.

"So a burglar has you worried?"

Natasha laughs, still sleepily, and she puts her head on his chest and curls up against his side. He puts his hand on her bare shoulder.

"Go back to sleep," Steve says.

She does, and her skin is warm underneath Steve's fingers.


"Before she left, I was her trainer, too," Bucky said to Steve three years before -- before what came next. They were in Krakow. "Do you know what they did to each and every one of us when she left? Do you know how long they did it for?"

Before they go to bed, Steve and Natasha have sex. Steve sits on the edge of the bed; Natasha is in his lap and kisses him, knowing that he likes it she holds his face with both her hands, and Steve slides his hands up her back, feeling the bones, the muscle, the heat. She still sleeps with garrotte wire under her pillow, still has a gun under the sink, but wants to lie down in the bed afterwards and pull the covers up over them both. Steve laughs, asks what will happen if the building catches fire and she has to run out naked? Natasha rolls her eyes; he brings her a t-shirt of his and some sweatpants to sleep in. The night might get cold, he says, touching her neck where it meets her shoulder. He doesn't want her to get cold.

She studies him for a moment, kisses him on the forehead, and puts on the clothes.

They've been together for --


They fight -- a lot of things, ranging from would-be bombers of the United Nations to a thirty-foot green dragon that sometimes wears purple pants.

How much of it is Steve, and how much of it is Natasha responding to things she doesn't even have words for herself?

The Red Room trained her before she defected. Bucky tra --


Steve and Natasha fight M.O.D.O.K. Steve comes out on the flight deck one rainy afternoon when they're both neck-deep in paperwork, and finds Natasha, quietly smoking. She does it to relax: her previous employers never let her pick up personal habits, she says. They thought of it as a weakness, and she holds the pack out at Steve, casually, without seeming to really think about it. He takes one and bends down, lets her light it for him.

He notices that his hands shake, and she cups the flame, holds it extra-steady for him.


The Avengers fight the Chitauri. A man at SHIELD tells Steve that he watched Steve sleep; Steve had been a hero of his as a child.

Steve steps off a plane and calls Natasha Ma'm.


Steve wakes up in a room with a game from May 1941 on the radio. A woman stands at the foot of his bed. Her hair is pulled back to vaguely resemble Peggy.


"How long is it going to be for?"

"How long is it going to take them to find you, kid?"


The first time Steve pushes back in the field --

The first time he kills --

The first time they tell him that he is going to go back into the ice, so they can play the long game and prove that nobody leaves the Red Ro --


A long time. He doesn't break his first round through, and they take him out in a wheelchair to a garden. It's spring. Steve has lost track of time; he is wearing a hospital shift, and his feet are strapped to the wheelchair. His hands are chained to the handles, and Bucky shows up in the uniform of an Army colonel, hat, stars on the shoulder, and they talk for a while. Bucky brings a plate of real food, a picnic basket with bread and cheese and fruit. Wine. Even some champagne, because as Bucky says, while unpacking the basket, somebody has a sense of humor. Steve says he doesn't want any, so Bucky sits on the bench and makes a meal out of it.

"Did they do this to you?" Steve says, finally.

"Yes," Bucky says, not stopping in breaking off some bread for himself, but glancing up at Steve, so that Steve can judge for himself how calm, how composed Bucky is. He isn't afraid of these questions.

A bird sings from a tree nearby. It smells like wet earth, growing things. The green of the grass was almost painfully bright to Steve's eyes after --

"How long did they do it?"

"Until they broke me," Bucky says.

"What year is it?"

"1995. You were in the ice for fifty-two years."

The bird in the tree is still singing.

"I'm sorry I let you fall from the train," Steve says.

Bucky doesn't say anything, but finishes eating, then goes back in to report that Captain America isn't broken yet: Steve isn't broken that time, or the time after that, so they keep working, keeping learning his fears, his triggers and responses. After another trip to the garden, he lets Bucky tell him about all ways in which America has gone backwards in the fifty-two years he was in the ice, all the broken promises

They've learned, and they're very good: it doesn't take another full trip back to the garden before Steve is willing to do more than listen.

When he is ready, they give him to Bucky.


What do you have to do to Captain America to --


How much time does Captain America --


"And now I know I'm dead," Steve says, when he wakes in a room full of sunlight and sees Bucky standing there at the foot of his bed, grinning, arms crossed over his chest. "What -- "

"Long story, kid," Bucky says, and he looks good. Strong. Tan. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and slacks, leaning against the wall, and the sight of him knocks the breath out of Steve for a while. He can't talk. He can't think. He just -- he doesn''t have a name for what he feels, so he looks around him and takes in the here is a baseball game on the radio; the walls are painted sort of hospital white, and Steve thinks that is about right because, sitting up in the bed, he can see linoleum on the floor and a white medical coat hanging by the door. The room has furniture that looks roughly right to Steve, but he doesn't have too much time to think about it, because Bucky says, "I'll tell you in a little bit. Here, catch."

Steve is a little surprised, a little clumsy, but catches it all right. "Jesus," he says, involuntarily, when he looks at it and pops the lid, which is more than a little corroded. The picture of Peggy is inside, mostly preserved, but a little stained from seawater.

"How long -- "

"You were in ice for a while," Bucky says, and while Steve digests this information, Bucky comes by around the bed, and Steve looks from the picture of Peggy up to Bucky's face. There's a scar he doesn't recognize; now that he's closer, he notices that the left arm doesn't quite hang right, and the skin on below the sleeve of the shirt is a little different in color from the rest of Bucky, but --

"Come on," Bucky says, and helps Steve out of bed.

"You can come back for that," Bucky says, hand still on Steve's arm, just above the elbow, and Steve puts it down on the bedside table. His hand is surprisingly steady as he does that; in fact, he finds that his legs are fairly steady, he doesn't need much support as they go through the door, and Bucky takes Steve into the Red Room.

The entire HORRIBLE PART about Steve blowing Bucky and Bucky still putting him in the box? It's straight from [personal profile] destronomics. The idea, let's be honest, was from her, too. Half of the things in here are her fault, and I can't even remember what they are anymore through the tears, so let me just put this out there: THIS IS ALL HER FAULT.

Written while listening to "What the Water Gave Me" by Florence + the Machine, which is where the title is from.

The world's a beast of a burden
You’ve been holding on a long time
And all this longing
And the ships are left to rust
That’s what the water gave us

(no subject)

Date: 2012-05-22 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] redradio

(I loved it.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-05-22 02:47 am (UTC)
destronomics: (Default)
From: [personal profile] destronomics
He doesn't want her to get cold.

She studies him for a moment, kisses him on the forehead, and puts on the clothes.

JESUS. I think this might be the worst, Rhod, might be the very worst. Easier to sell the story if she's wearing clothes? Or the smallest allowance of kindness Steve allows for himself, so they don't find her like--

And the end, the end, cycle back to the beginning and it's a brief moment of the rest of Steve's life that looks like a happy ending. Aughhhh.

I really, really hate you right now.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-05-22 03:56 am (UTC)
prosodi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] prosodi
So I was going to quote things that just BROKE ME, but then it started to be JUST ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and that seemed a little excessive but just-- oh god. SOB.

Where he gives her clothes. The long game. "Now I know I'm dead." Kill me why don't you.

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