Fandom: Captain America/Avengers
Series: To Rewrite History
Pairings: Steve/Bucky, minor Sam/Natasha, one-sided Rumlow/Bucky
Ratings/Warnings: R for violence, mentions of torture/imprisonment, Rumlow being a creeper
Word Count: 9580
Disclaimer: If I owned it it would be strange
Summary: Zola should have paid more attention, but hubris had ever been one of Hydra's flaws.
Hydra had never been one to dwell on its mistakes. A few small failures meant nothing when the beast would only grow back stronger, the weak ever sacrificed to feed its one true cause.
Failure meant nothing when Hydra had twisted America's greatest heroes into its greatest weapons, the Captain and his Soldier remade into something beautiful. They had been so weak when Zola found them, frozen and bloody but somehow still breathing, and he had known then that they would be his masterpiece.
All Zola had needed was time and now that America believed the war was over, there was time to spare.
Waking up was always the worst part. He wasn't sure how he knew that when everything else was so hazy and even his own name escaped his memory.
He had one; he knew he had one but there was only blankness where the word should be. Blankness and a faint sense of guilt beneath his skin. Because he had done something that he shouldn't, something that stained his soul red and bloody until it would never be clean again.
But in the depths of his confusion, a voice spoke within him, a solid anchor of familiarity. 'You are Bucky, my Bucky, and you will never do anything that could stop me from loving you.'
Steve... he thought and then there was warmth; a thousand sunlit memories rushing into him.
'Let's hear it for Captain America...' Soft kisses on a lumpy mattress, Steve small and sickly but so perfect in his arms. 'I can make it on my own, Bucky... Yeah, but you don't have to.' The wind rushing around him, Zola’s train disappearing into the distance as he fell helplessly. 'Hello, Soldier, do you remember me?' Straps digging into his shoulders, his arm a blinding agony. Needles and doctors and metal screaming in his ears. But Steve was there, slotting into place inside him and together they could do anything.
'Til the end of the line.' Bucky wasn't sure which one of them spoke or if they even spoke at all but he didn't know how he could have forgotten this. He didn't know how he had ever lived without this connection, when words and hidden glances were all they had instead.
“Soldier!” the voice was harsh, snapping Bucky from his memories. He opened his eyes to see another scientist, as faceless, nameless, and interchangeable as they always were. But with Steve came other memories so he didn't give into his first instinct and slam the man against the wall. Violence would only lead to punishment and while Bucky had lost his fear of pain during that long and bloody winter, he could not leave Steve behind.
Not when he only survived Hydra's tortures because he had the other man as an anchor to his past humanity. Without Steve, Bucky would already be a monster – a broken dog licking his master’s boots – and if he struggled, their captors might cage them separately.
So he allowed the scientists to shove him forward and strap him to the table, forcing his face into blankness with the practice of long routine. His handlers always checked him over after a mission, patching any wounds that he had gathered and cleaning the bloodstains from his metal arm. Although no matter how hard they scrubbed, Bucky swore that he could still smell it sometimes: death and rust and iron seeping from the metal to choke his every breath.
A fitting scent for the weapon that Hydra had created from his shattered body, a grotesque caricature of the man he used to be. Where Bucky had been strong, the Soldier was unstoppable; where Bucky had killed for Steve and his survival, the Soldier killed anyone with a target on their back.
“Stand!” the voices barked and he followed obediently. It did no good to show the scientists how much he despised their smug uncaring faces; it did no good to fight.
Steve kept promising him that they would escape this prison and they only had to fake their obedience until the time was right. But as much as Bucky tried to hold on to the hope his fellow offered, he didn’t know if that day would ever come. He didn’t know if there would be anything left to save when each remembrance was more painful than the last.
Maybe if he could hold his one-time lover, wrap his arms around Steve and press his head against the other's shoulder; maybe then Bucky would feel real again.
But the only time that they were allowed to touch was when Hydra wanted to see its assets fight, the latest science squaring off against Erskine’s miracle. So he and Steve would drag these matches out as long as possible, reveling in the warmth of skin beneath their hands. They would spar until their handlers grew impatient and declared them equal before dragging both men back to the ice again.
This time was no different from the others, the scientists leading Bucky back to his frozen prison now that his task was done. Although Steve was almost close enough to touch in his own cryo-chamber, two feet might as well be a mile, and the fleeting glimpse of his lover only made the distance seem more insurmountable. The prisoners were forced to make do with echoes of memory instead of other comforts, their minds entwined closer than skin could ever be.
So Bucky held tight to the familiar warmth of Steve's thoughts as that metal door hissed shut again. He held tight to the endless love his fellow sent him when the chamber whirred into life and icy cold washed across his skin. It was almost like dreaming, his heartbeat slowing and his mind drifting to that strange limbo where Steve awaited him. ‘I’m with you, Bucky. I’ll always be with you now.’
It was the experiments that changed them; Zola's attempts to create the perfect weapons causing some unintended side effects. The scientist had wanted strength, loyalty, and obedience and he received them, only not exactly as he'd hoped.
Because the Soldier was obedient until you tried to hurt his Captain and the Captain looked at everyone with angry haunted eyes. In truth, their loyalty was only to each other and in the beginning, it was threats alone that kept them both in line. So Zola bullied and cajoled his prisoners into compliance and when they least expected it, he dug his hands into their minds. The scientist tore out the memories that allowed the pair to fight him and replaced the truth with a history of lies.
Zola broke them and remade them as a thousand different monsters; shattered their identities even as he made their bodies strong.
The scientist never noticed the way that his weapons looked at each other or the fragile seed of memory that his creations shared. He did not realize that he could not wipe out their humanity completely, not as long as such bright moments were protected by the man he left behind. For Zola would never risk both of his assets on a mission when the Captain was his one perfect sample and the Soldier's memories would not stay buried where they belonged.
Zola should have paid more attention but hubris had ever been one of Hydra's greatest flaws.
The plan was simple: get free, get Bucky, and get out. A little too simple, maybe, but Steve had always preferred to charge his enemies head on whenever possible. He was a soldier not a spy and while he could be crafty if required, deception had never rested on his shoulders easily.
That was Bucky’s job; the other man watched his back from the shadows while Captain America drew their targets’ attention and despite all that Hydra had broken, some things were burned too deep. Some things could not be overwritten no matter how their captors tried and even if their minds had not been locked together, Steve was sure that Bucky would still remember him.
Though maybe that was simply mad optimism, his mind finally cracking beneath the weight of their shared memories. For he was the one who carried them most often, the one who took Bucky into himself when Hydra wiped his body clean.
He was the one who had to feel the Winter Soldier where his fellow was meant be – nothing but focus, orders, and brutal efficiency. He was the one who could only watch as his lover slaughtered innocents, every death seen through two sets of eyes. But Steve could not block out their connection and retreat to blindness, not when he was the only one who could make the Soldier merciful.
There was no hope of saving Bucky’s targets, Hydra’s conditioning was too strong for that, but he did not need to kill everyone who stood in his way. With Steve whispering inside his mind, the Winter Soldier struck to disarm instead of slaughter and the effort this took was worth the pain.
Because when Bucky remembered, he remembered everything – the blood and the death and the sickening crunch of bone beneath his hands. He remembered the Soldier’s actions as though they were his own and it was destroying him.
So really, Steve’s plan was simple: find a way to escape from Hydra before his fellow broke completely and then burn the bastards to the ground.
However, this was much more difficult in practice than in imagination because their captors rarely released the Captain from his cage. The Winter Soldier was one of Hydra’s primary assets but the scientists only woke Steve when their need was truly dire for they did not wish to risk his body until they had replicated the serum locked inside his veins.
Decades had passed since Captain America was captured but no one had managed to repeat his transformation, Hydra making monsters instead of soldiers every time it tried. Scientist after scientist had failed their purpose without understanding why they could not build the army that their cause deserved.
Of course, if anyone had bothered to ask Steve for his opinion, he could have told them since he remembered well the words Erskine had said. Hydra made monsters because the men they chose were wolves beneath the skin and no amount of serums could turn them into dogs instead.
So while these failures kept Hydra from seeking total domination, they also made Steve valuable when he would have preferred to be forgotten, decades passing without a chance to run. The Captain and his Soldier lived on in limbo even as the world turned around them and eventually they began hearing whispers of a plot in the US capitol. Hydra’s men never bothered to bite their tongues around the assets any more than they would have worried about spilling secrets to a rifle or a vehicle. Instead the scientists spoke freely, never realizing that their captives understood every word.
Understood and were horrified because Hydra was planning something that would change the face of history and if it succeeded, there would be no need for assassins anymore. There would be no need for the Winter Solder once Hydra ruled in sunlight and Steve could not allow Bucky to become expendable.
Yet even as this new plot threatened their existence, it also granted them the chance that they'd been waiting for. Because the arrival of the Avengers in New York City had sent a frisson of panic through Hydra’s many facets and their captors wanted those heroes dead at any cost.
So for the first time in more than seventy years, both Captain America and his Soldier were sent back to the country of their birth. Hydra shipped them to DC., Steve and Bucky locked away beneath the streets of the city until their final mission dawned.
It was there in a vault beneath the asphalt that the Captain was awoken, Hydra's machines trying to overwrite the memories that he had carried all these years. But their success with the Winter Soldier had made the scientists complacent and they did not understand that things were different now. They could not destroy Steve's memories when Bucky was bred into his lover's very bones and body any more than they had permanently overwritten the Winter Soldier's mind.
Of course, Hydra certainly attempted it, shoving Captain America down beneath a construct of false loyalty before waking his Soldier to aid him in his task. However, this facade was but a shadow and a promise against the fire in his heart and when he was finally returned to his lover, those walls came down like sand.
Only long practice allowed Steve and Bucky to control their reactions, to stay immobile as every nerve screamed out for them to touch. But a sniper must learn patience and a captain strategy so they buried their longing beneath the knowledge of their purpose and the work that lay ahead.
Yet even though their bodies remained still, their minds ran together in a mass of 'love – need – want – home' until neither man could have said where he ended nor the other one began. They were Steve-and-Bucky again; Steve-and-Bucky as they always had been because Zola's experiments had only solidified a truth beneath their skin. They were and Hydra would rue the day that it had meddled where no mortal man should tread.
When Pierce had first joined Hydra, he had believed that the Winter Soldier and his Captain were nothing more ghost stories told to keep the sheep in line. They were a myth, a legend meant to show the truth of Hydra's power because if America’s greatest heroes could be turned into assassins then nothing was impossible.
All Pierce needed was persistence and the courage to act without hesitation and the world would reshape itself beneath his hands. That’s what Fury had shown him when the agent saved his daughter in Columbia and Pierce had never regretted bringing the other man into SHIELD afterwards. For Fury was a man with conviction and the practicality to recognize that peace was worth the cost. Indeed, Project Insight had been Fury’s idea; he had built the Helicarriers that would rain justice from the sky.
Hydra's justice, of course, because the crew of these Helicarriers had been populated with agents loyal to this world’s true masters while Jasper Sitwell uploaded a different targeting algorithm than the one that SHIELD had written for its cause.
Pierce made these changes in secret and he believed that they had gone unnoticed by Hydra’s enemies. However, when the Lemurian Star was hijacked with Sitwell still on board and Fury ordered the Black Widow to join the infiltration, the Secretary began to have his doubts. Romanoff was a spy not a soldier and when Pierce learned that she had been in the Lemurian Star’s command center, he knew the jig was up.
Fury clearly suspected that something wasn’t right with Project Insight and while Pierce had hoped to sway the other man to Hydra, he had no more time for that. It would be a pity to kill his friend, but he would allow nothing to stand in the way of his better future when progress had always required sacrifice.
However, the Secretary could not afford to move openly until the Helicarriers were in position and when he asked Hydra for assistance, he was given an address deep in the heart of Washington DC. It was an old-fashioned bank, the kind with marble stonework and vaults beneath the street, and when Pierce went inside, he discovered history.
He discovered that myths and legends were sometimes living flesh, the Winter Soldier and his Captain far more than ghosts tonight. Not ghosts and not men either with the cold dead eyes they wore.
Because Hydra had given Pierce its perfect weapons and with such assets at his command, he would be unstoppable.
Their new handler made Bucky’s skin crawl violently. It wasn’t the man’s casual dismissal of Steve and Bucky as tools instead of people – the Soldier was far too used to that. No, it was the conviction with which he spoke, the conviction that slaughtering millions was the only path to righteousness, and while his plan was utterly insane, it was also far too plausible.
‘Remind me why we can’t just kill him and be done with it?’ the Soldier asked his fellow when their handler started off on another of his self-important monologues. ‘We should strike now before anyone suspects the cracks in our conditioning.’
This plan was more Steve’s usual style than Bucky’s but he wasn’t feeling particularly subtle anymore. Not when his Captain was right there, awake and fucking beautiful, and it was taking all of his control to keep from slaughtering everyone in this room. He wanted to hold his lover, to bury himself in the other man’s body until the ice in his bones finally melted and only warmth remained.
But while the Soldier could feel this same desire burning beneath Steve’s skin, the logical part of his mind knew that they couldn’t act just yet. Two men could not hope to stand against the might of Hydra, not without careful strategy, and from what Pierce had told them, Project Insight had gone too far to be halted easily. They needed allies, people who understood Hydra’s tech well enough to stop it and who could be trusted with the secret of their true loyalty.
So no matter how much Bucky would have liked to shove Pierce’s smug smile back where the sun didn’t shine, he listened silently as the man ranted about his enemies. Everyone that Hydra planned to kill was a potential ally and by the time their handler finished, the Captain and his Soldier knew exactly whom to contact first.
Nicholas Fury was the man most feared by their current master and so he must have the best chance of ruining Hydra's plan. Assuming, of course, that Bucky and Steve could keep him alive long enough for introductions since SHIELD's director was also the first target on their list.
However, just as Zola had before him, Pierce trusted too much in Hydra's conditioning.
The man gave his assets their orders and then left to take care of other business, allowing Steve and Bucky ample opportunity to sabotage their task. Indeed, a carefully missed shot alerted Fury to the threat before the rest of Hydra’s Strike Team could close in on his position and when he bolted, the Soldier and his Captain were not far behind.
They tracked Fury across half of DC and while they nearly lost him when his car proved to be some sort of hybrid airplane – as much due to Bucky's startled 'Fuck, they really built one?' as the vehicle's actual utility – the pair caught up soon enough. For the Soldier's bullet had been a tracker as well as a warning and it led them straight to Fury’s hideaway.
Although the building appeared to be a normal apartment from the outside, appearances were always deceiving where SHIELD was concerned. So Bucky wasn't particularly surprised to see five lethal booby-traps on his initial scan of the building and he knew there were probably at least a dozen more inside.
Of course, Fury's paranoia was well-founded considering their current mission and if Hydra's Winter Soldier had been in control, this would be ending very differently.
‘You should talk to him. Fury's probably heard of me,’ Bucky said. The Winter Soldier might be feared as a ghost story amongst covert organizations but Captain America was still enshrined as a hero by history. Hydra had kept Steve's identity intact in case it ever needed a superhero and this caution would serve its captives now.
So the Soldier kept watch from the opposing rooftop as his Captain knocked on the door of the apartment, his fellow grinning that stupidly disarming smile and holding out his hands peacefully. Steve had insisted on open negotiations and despite SHIELD’s general paranoia, Bucky was pretty sure that sheer curiosity would get his fellow through the door. After that, it was up to Captain America to convince Fury that he should listen, the Soldier’s rifle held at the ready in case anything went wrong.
Steve was really hoping that nobody got shot.
Mostly him given the pistol that Fury had pointed at his chest but he was well aware of his lover's train of thought. Bucky didn't even need a line of sight when he could see the director clearly through his Captain's eyes and the only way that Fury was going to survive this was if Steve managed to talk him down.
Unfortunately, the blond was pretty sure that this task would not be easy considering the way the other man was glaring at him now.
“Captain America is dead so who exactly are you supposed to be?” Fury asked as he eyed Steve’s uniform. “I've known a lot of assassins in my day, but they usually try to be less conspicuous.”
“I'm not here to kill you; I'm here to help you,” Steve replied and while he was admittedly out of practice at charming people, he could hardly have expected that to be the wrong answer in Fury's mind.
But the other man reacted to his offer of aid as a more normal man might react to threats of violence and only the blond's frantic 'Wait!' stopped Bucky from killing the director when he pressed his gun against Steve's head. The Captain wasn't going to allow one small setback to cost them their best ally and where the hand of friendship failed, “We need to stop Project Insight,” saved his life instead.
In some ways SHIELD was just as bad as Hydra – Fury prepared to use whatever tools he had at his disposal in order to see his business done – and once he realized that Steve might have valuable information, the director was willing to listen to what he had to say.
Listen, not trust, and it took nearly an hour of interrogation for the Captain to convince Fury that he was not an enemy. After that, telling the director about the Winter Soldier almost ruined all Steve’s progress and it was another hour before the two men could be trusted to meet each other face to face.
‘I still think you should have left me out of it,’ Bucky said, watching Fury as warily as Fury was watching him.
‘Keeping secrets isn’t the way to win allies and we need SHIELD to stop Hydra,’ Steve chided his fellow gently, to which he received a bitter, ‘One cage or another, they’re all the same to me.’
Steve hated to hear the other man sound so despondent, though he could hardly blame him when Bucky had borne brunt of Hydra’s tortures through the years. But Captain America would never have existed without his lover there to drive him forward and if he hoped too much, he hoped for Bucky’s sake.
His first loyalty would always be to his fellow – that was true long before Zola bound them past any chance of separation – so Steve found himself promising, ‘There won’t be any more cages, Buck. We’re together now and I’ll die before allowing anyone to imprison you again. But if we don’t stop Project Insight then we’ll never be free of Hydra, no one will, and we can worry about SHIELD once those Helicarriers are nothing but burning slag.’
Of course, there was no reason not to tip the odds in their favor from the beginning and once Fury understood how deep the corruption ran within the heart of his organization, Steve managed to convince him that SHIELD should be destroyed as well.
However, even with the other man’s help, defeating Hydra would not be easy when the only people that the Captain and his Soldier could be sure of were the ones on Pierce’s list. In truth, all three men had to be insane to even think about attempting this – or maybe just that desperate – and indeed, their final plan wouldn't have been out of place on some big movie screen.
But its insanity was also the only reason it had a chance of succeeding and Captain America had done more with less back in the day. The Howling Commandos had made a habit of such bold recklessness on their missions and Bucky was all too happy to help Fury fake his demise.
Steve should have known that someone would still get shot after all.
Sam hadn’t meant to get involved.
The vet had just gone out for a jog as usual, ten laps around the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial enough to make his lungs burn pleasantly. He always went out early so the park wasn't filled with tourists and it was just him, the birds, and the street vendors setting up their carts. By the time Sam finished his run, these carts would be open for business and he wasn't ashamed to admit that the prospect of a fresh pretzel was sometimes the only thing that got him through those last few yards.
This morning was no different - a jog, a rest, a pretzel – and he could never have predicted where the rest of the day would lead.
It started with a woman, the vet brushing the last bit of salt off his fingers when a very attractive redhead caught his eye. She was walking briskly along the reflecting pool with a newspaper tucked under one arm and he couldn't help but wonder what she was doing here. Because her clothes said casual businesswoman while her expression said “Don't fuck with me” and she was watching their surroundings as though expecting either a clandestine meeting or a ransom drop.
Truthfully, this woman reminded Sam of the nameless government agents that his unit had sometimes flown into highly classified locations and when she headed toward the Lincoln Memorial, he found himself following.
He had always been too damn curious for his own good and if there was something shifty going on, he had to try and help. Not that the redhead looked like the sort of girl who needed rescuing but maybe Sam could offer her a ride or some coffee once she was finished kicking ass. After all, gorgeous, dangerous, and brilliant was everything that he liked in a woman and he hadn’t been on a date in far too long.
However, when Sam glanced around the side of the Lincoln Memorial to see what was happening – and seriously, this was an odd place for a meeting – what he found drove all thoughts of coffee from his mind.
The vet had been right; the redhead was definitely a spy and she was in the middle of a very tense standoff with a man dressed like Captain America. He seemed to be trying to convince her of something, though she was far more inclined to shoot him based on her expression and the gun in her right hand. The woman must have been concealing it underneath her newspaper since those clothes didn't leave any room for a holster and Sam was starting to think that his inquisitive streak might have led him into trouble one more time.
He needed Riley on his six to stop him from getting into these situations but his wingman was gone and there was no point in wishing otherwise. So, since he had come this far already, Sam figured he might as well indulge his curiosity.
“What could I possibly gain from lying about this?” the man was saying, his tone growing more frustrated with every word. “If I’d wanted to kill you, you’d be dead already; I’m trying to save everyone.”
“Yes, from Hydra. Why is that so difficult for people to believe? Hydra has been secretly working within SHIELD ever since it was founded and if we don’t stop Project Insight, you’ll be too dead to worry about which side I’m on.”
That was enough for Sam, the vet fully intending to leave and then warn everyone he knew that something bad was going down. Maybe he wouldn’t mention the whole “I overheard a couple of spies planning a mission behind Lincoln” part of it, but he could definitely urge everyone to take those vacations that they’d been dreaming of.
However, he hadn’t taken more than a step when there was suddenly a knife pressing against his spine and an iron grip wrapped around his neck.
“Don’t struggle,” a rough voice commanded and while Sam wasn’t exactly planning on agreeing, his captor didn’t give him any chance to fight. He’d barely thought about it before the hand around his throat tightened sharply and he was shoved forward, the other two spies halting their argument when he came into view.
“He seemed harmless, Soldier. You didn’t have to bring him in,” the blond man said, answering a question that Sam’s captor hadn’t asked.
None of these people seemed particularly worried about his presence or what he might have overheard – which either meant that they intended to kill him or Sam knowing about their plans wouldn’t change a thing. Both options were equally disturbing given the topic of conversation and the next time that his curiosity urged him to do something stupid, the vet was going to stay right where he was instead.
Assuming, of course, that he survived this, an outcome that was in no way guaranteed. Because even if the Captain America lookalike wasn’t inclined to hurt him, Sam couldn’t say the same about the man’s companion or the woman that they were talking to.
“Who the hell are you, anyway?” she asked Sam, backing up so that she could cover all three men with her gun. “I thought you were with them and just laughably bad at hiding; but if you’re not, what are you doing here?”
“Jogging,” Sam replied, wincing when the redhead’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “No, really! I always jog here and I got curious when I saw you walking by. I recognized your type from the Air Force and I wanted to know what was happening. Although, I have to say, he doesn’t look like a normal spy to me.”
The vet made an aborted movement toward the blond man – aborted when his captor growled into his ear warningly. But at least his explanation seemed to have appeased the redhead and Sam figured that if he was going to die anyway, it would be a shame to die with questions left unsaid.
“I’m a spy; he’s an assassin, and I don’t know what he’s supposed to be,” the woman told him, pointing to each of the other men in turn. She seemed more amused than suspicious now; maybe the sheer ridiculousness of their situation was finally sinking in.
“He’s the one and only Captain America. Didn’t history teach you anything?” the man behind Sam asked and if his words were true then the world had just become far more interesting.
Not that the redhead seemed particularly impressed by this statement, shrugging her shoulders and retorting, “I’m Russian. We’re more concerned with killers than with heroes, Winter Soldier, or are you going to deny the blood upon your hands?”
“I think we’re evenly matched in that, Natasha Romanoff. I never claimed to be a hero but I wasn’t a monster until Hydra got its claws in me. I wasn’t a monster until Zola dug his hands into my brain and pulled out what made me human and the only reason you’re still breathing is because Hydra wasn’t as thorough as it thinks.”
The man said this so matter-of-factly that it took Sam a second to register his meaning, after which his first thought was, Fuck, he probably needs some serious therapy.
However, he was hardly going to offer at the moment and the newly identified Natasha had barely opened her mouth to reply when Captain America cut her off.
“Enough!” he commanded, Sam snapping to attention without conscious thought. “You don’t have to like each other, you just have to work together long enough to stop Hydra from committing genocide. So can we please focus on the problem at hand? Project Insight is scheduled to launch in twenty-four hours and we’re running out of time.”
There was a long moment of silence before Natasha finally nodded, dropping her gun to her side as she relaxed her stance.
“Thank you,” the blond said before looking back at Sam and asking, “How about it then? You want to take down SHIELD with us?”
Sam suddenly found himself released, the man who had been holding him walking over to stand by Captain America instead. “The Winter Soldier,” Natasha had called him and the vet stopped feeling bad about his inability to escape when he got his first sight of the man. Because this Soldier was built like a brick shit-house and looked inclined toward violence, the gleaming metal of his left hand explaining the grip around Sam’s neck.
The vet was so busy gawking that he almost forgot that the Captain had asked him a question, one to which he could only respond with, “Excuse me? Are you serious?”
“You’re free to go if you wish, but you don’t seem like the sort of man to walk away when you’re needed and you’re never going to get a better chance to help us save the world,” the blond told him and somehow when he said it, it seemed so reasonable.
“Let me get this straight. You’re inviting me to break into a secure government facility – the secure government facility from what I’ve seen of the Triskelion – in order to stop a secret evil organization from committing genocide?”
“Pretty much, yes.”
“All right, then. Count me in.”
“Natasha Romanoff has disappeared,” the Winter Soldier told his handler. “The mission could not be completed with the intelligence we had.”
“Then what use are you?” Pierce roared in answer, slapping his asset hard across the face. Bucky’s head snapped back from the force of it though he did not react otherwise, the skill of long practice keeping his expression blank. In truth, it was Steve who nearly blew their cover when Pierce hit the Soldier one more time, only an extreme effort of will stopping him from breaking the bastard’s neck.
‘Just a few more hours,’ Bucky reminded the blond when his fingers began to twitch in anger. ‘I’ve lasted this long; I can last a little longer in order to be free.’
These words were followed by a flash of sun, sand, and alcohol, the entire image echoing with his lover’s laugh. ‘You promised me a vacation years ago in Brooklyn, do you remember? Said you’d make it big and take me somewhere far away. We'd live a week at the fanciest hotel that would give us a room, one with soundproofed walls so that I could make you scream.’
'I don’t think that conversation really happened, Bucky,’ Steve replied, distracted from his anger as the other man had known he’d be.
‘Then it’s a promise now. Maintain our cover long enough to sabotage the Helicarriers like we planned with Fury and then I’ll show you exactly what this metal hand of mine can do. I’ve missed you, Stevie. I’ve missed the way you moan against me and kiss me like you’re starving for it; I’ve missed loving you long and slow for hours and I know that it will be even better now that we’re finally matched in stamina. Body and mind together, you’ll be able to feel my pleasure as strongly as your own.’
With this promise simmering beneath his skin, the Captain had to fight off an entirely different rush of emotion and by the time he’d gotten his blood to stop pounding, Pierce had run out of steam. Their handler seemed the sort to prefer his victims screaming and the Soldier’s calm blankness couldn't keep him interested.
So Pierce started the mission briefing instead, pulling up a model of the Triskelion on screen to show his assets what to do. If this also showed Steve exactly where their enemies would be located, their handler had no reason to be concerned.
“You will be stationed on the upper levels, providing cover and watching in case Romanoff or anyone else tries to interfere.” Pierce told the Winter Soldier and his Captain, Steve listening with half an ear while he and Bucky made plans of their own.
‘With this information on Hydra's movements, Fury’s people should be able to sneak in without any problems, though I still wish we had had time to gather more allies in this fight. A couple SHIELD agents, the Black Widow, and an ex-Paratrooper aren’t exactly an overwhelming force. And I still have no idea how you convinced Flyboy to come along.’
‘My winning personality, of course.’ Steve joked before answering him more seriously. ‘Sam might have left the Air Force but I think he still wanted to be needed and it’s hard to find a better cause than this.’
‘Or maybe you just inspire mad loyalty. Either way, that gives us two people per Helicarrier once we make our move. Do you really think that will be enough?’
‘It’ll have to be. If nothing else, we’ll have the advantage of surprise. With a bit of luck, Pierce won’t know that anything is wrong until his Helicarriers shoot each other out of the sky and Fury can take advantage of the chaos to make his move.'
'I still don't like it. The last thing we want is for Hydra to know that we're the ones who ruined their victory and Fury plans to march in the Triskelion's front door. We'll have every agent in the world gunning for us after this.'
‘So just like usual then? Unfortunately we need both Pierce and Fury in order to break through the encryption on Hydra's data and we'll need that information to stay ahead of our enemies. SHIELD is just the beginning, Buck. We're going to demolish Hydra once and for all so that the bastards can never hurt anyone or come after us again.'
'After our vacation.'
'Yeah, Buck. After our vacation. Now you better look sharp; I think he's finally shutting up.'
Pierce had indeed finished his grand speech about shaping centuries and was now looking at his assets expectantly. Not that the man wanted an actual response – that would require listening – but a vague nod in his direction pacified him well enough.
“Our triumph is at hand,” Pierce pronounced, his eyes looking toward some future that only he could see. “Now go forth and destroy your enemies.”
Oh we will, you bastard. I can promise that.
Fuck, I love my job, Brock Rumlow thought, settling his gun more comfortably in his hands. Tomorrow morning Hydra would reshape the world in blood and fire and Rumlow would be there to see the total annihilation of everyone who had ever stood against their cause. The destruction would be as glorious as any the agent had ever dreamed of and the thought of it made his blood run hot.
Hot enough that Rumlow was tempted to find a private corner in order to take himself in hand but the soldier had never been one to shirk his duty and Pierce had ordered his men on high alert tonight. Their leader was worried about Romanoff and the other Avengers and Rumlow would not allow his inattentiveness to be the reason why Project Insight failed. There would be time enough for debauchery once Hydra had culled all weakness from the world.
So the soldier began another sweep of his quadrant, the Strike Team set to guard the lower levels of the Triskelion while Pierce's assets stood watch upon the roof. The thought of those men standing vigil high above him made Rumlow shudder, his dick twitching in his pants.
He had been lusting after the Winter Soldier and his Captain ever since he saw them – all that lethal skill wrapped in unthinking obedience. He could do anything to them without consequence, their eyes too blank to be human any longer, and Rumlow knew exactly what he wanted as his reward for years of loyalty.
Once Project Insight was up and running, Hydra would have no more need of assets and the agent could think of much better uses for Captain America. He was going to break the hero as even Hydra had never managed; shatter him and his Soldier until they were nothing but dogs beneath his boots.
However, while this fantasy was useful in keeping Rumlow warm if not entirely comfortable with the fit of his fatigues, it played havoc on his concentration and he nearly missed the intruders when they finally arrived. Perhaps the agent could be forgiven his inattention since no one should have made it past the Triskelion's inhuman guardians, but Rumlow had not survived this long by trusting his allies any more than he trusted his enemies.
So when the agent saw a flash of movement in the corner of his eye – there and gone in an instant – he moved to investigate. A quick word over the comms to Kaminsky and Rollins warned his fellow agents that they might have company, though Rivera was suspiciously silent on the other end of the line.
Rivera was one of the Strike Team's best fighters and if he'd been taken out without time to warn his comrades, the intruders must be skilled indeed. So Rumlow held his gun at the ready as he walked through the hangar, ducking behind a stack of weapon crates when he saw movement near one of the Helicarriers.
While each of the machines usually had its own set of guards, those men were not Hydra and Pierce had ordered them home tonight. Thus it was Rumlow and his Strike Team who had to stop any attempt at sabotage and Rumlow's head alone that would roll if they failed. But this was simply justice because Hydra had no use for the weak within its ranks any more than the agent had room for imperfections in himself.
The weak died and the strong survived and Rumlow knew exactly which one he planned to be
Although, the agent began to wonder if he had been mistaken about the intruder because he searched the Helicarrier nearly top to bottom without seeing anyone. The machine stood empty, ready and waiting for Hydra's loyal men to fill it, and Rumlow must be more worried about tomorrow than he'd thought if he was seeing men where shadows moved.
However, just when he was about to call off his search and go beat Rivera half to death for not answering his comm, the agent heard a noise further on. It came from the lower levels of the Helicarrier and when Rumlow glanced around the corner, he could not believe his eyes.
Because Captain America was standing by the Helicarrier's main computer and while Rumlow couldn't see what he was doing, something was very wrong. The asset had been given clear orders to guard the Triskelion from Hydra's enemies and he should not have been able to disobey. Not unless his conditioning had broken and if it had, then the Captain was fair game.
So while Rumlow should have called for backup before confronting Pierce's wayward asset, the agent turned off his comm instead. He would not have any other member of the Strike Team stealing his glory in this moment because he was going to be remembered as the man who did what even the Red Skull could not. Rumlow was going to be remembered as the man who killed Captain America and he holstered his weapon without a second thought.
Hydra's greatest enemy deserved a more hands on approach, the agent pulling out his combat knife with a feral grin. Then he leaped down onto the walkway behind the Captain, his weapon aimed at the asset's unprotected neck.
But Captain America had been known as the world's greatest soldier for a reason and Rumlow's knife had barely grazed skin before his enemy was dodging out of reach. Neither man bothered with threats or explanations; there was just the dull thud of fists on flesh and the low hiss of pain whenever a weapon found its mark. For the Captain was hardly unarmed and he pulled another knife from his armor after Rumlow managed to knock the first one from his opponent's hands.
This was the sort of fight the soldier lived for, the thrill of an equal contest better than any sex he'd ever had. But this time Rumlow intended to have both; he was going to kill Captain America and then search out the Winter Soldier so that he could fuck the asset next to his partner's corpse.
Those pretty lips will be even more gorgeous smeared with blood and tears from gagging; maybe then he'll finally show an expression other than that dead-eyed stare.
With this goal driving him, Rumlow shrugged off the Captain's blows without flinching, the pain only making the thought of coming pleasure burn more sharply in his veins. A minor sacrifice meant nothing in the face of victory so the agent let his foe's next strike land true. The knife dug into his gauntlet, catching on the grooves embedded in the leather for just this purpose and twisting out of the Captain's hand.
Before he could pull out another, Rumlow slammed into him, knocking his enemy off his feet and back onto the deck. He wrapped his fingers around the other man's neck and squeezed, a few vicious knees and elbows blocking Captain America's best attempts to throw him off.
However, in the agent's glee at the feeling of his opponent's life disappearing beneath his fingers, he forgot to watch his back. He didn't see the shadow moving on the upper level or the gleaming flash of silver as a metal arm caught the light.
Instead, the last thing that Rumlow saw before the world went dark was his own blood splattering across Captain America's chest, this splash of crimson accompanied by the sharp crack of a gun.
“Good riddance.” Bucky didn’t stop to watch Hydra's soldier crumple, just slung his rifle over his shoulder and jumped down to the deck. Steve was already struggling to his feet, an offered hand speeding up the process, and the sniper was relieved to see that his fellow was still in one piece.
‘That was a little close, Stevie.’ he said, knocking their shoulders together before nudging the body with his boot. 'And this has rather screwed our plans. There's no way that Pierce won't notice the head of his Strike Team missing even if we hide the body so it isn't found.'
Bucky had hated this agent a little more than the others, the way that Rumlow looked at Steve making his protective instincts scream. However, while the sniper was sure that no one would miss the bastard, his death was still damn inconvenient now.
'Natasha and Fury will think of something; misdirection is exactly what spies are good at and we don't need Pierce to believe their lies for very long. Once the Helicarriers are launched, it won't matter if that asshole has any doubts,' Steve told his lover as he checked in with their allies over SHIELD's fancy radios. The other two teams had already finished with their Helicarriers so the Captain ordered Agents Hill and Thirteen to leave the area, while Wilson and Romanoff joined them by Rumlow's corpse.
“Did you have to shoot him, Soldier?” Romanoff asked with a sigh as she looked down at the mess, Rumlow's brains splattered all across the deck.
“He stumbled on Captain America sabotaging the targeting computer; he had to die before he ruined everything,” Bucky answered plainly. What was done was done and the Soldier did not regret his actions when it meant that Steve was still alive.
But now they had to deal with the consequences and it was Steve who asked, “What do we do with the body? Even if we hide it, Pierce is going to notice that Rumlow's gone.”
“So we don't try to hide it; we use it,” Romanoff replied. “You were set to guard the upper levels of the Triskelion, right?”
“Yes. Which means we're going to need a damn good excuse for being here instead.”
“Exactly. You're Hydra's brainwashed pet assassins; everyone will assume that killing this guy had to fit in with your programming somehow. So we'll paint Rumlow as the traitor, say you caught him trying to sabotage the Helicarriers but shot him before he could damage anything. By the time Pierce realizes that you're lying, it will be too late.”
This was better than any plan that Bucky had come up with and it would certainly save on cleaning time. So he and Steve waited for their allies to clear the Triskelion before calling Pierce on his private line. The Secretary had been so worried about SHIELD ruining his plans that he'd ordered his assets to contact him at the first sign of trouble and while they hadn't planned on saying anything, his paranoia would serve them now.
Admittedly, even Pierce voiced some doubts when he arrived to see the Soldier and his Captain standing over Rumlow's bloody body, but he was rationalizing soon enough. Because Romanoff had been right; Hydra was incapable of believing that its conditioning had flaws and if the assets were not lying, then they must be speaking truth.
Rumlow must have been a traitor to Hydra and a few careful hints from Bucky cast suspicion on the rest of the dead man's team as well. It was easy to feed into their handler's paranoia and after telling his assets to dispose of Rumlow's corpse, Pierce ordered the rest of Hydra's Strike Team into lockdown, leaving the Captain and his Soldier as the only guards instead. He told them to ensure the security of Project Insight and they nodded blankly as they always did.
But underneath that mask the Winter Soldier felt only anticipation at the coming triumph, his thoughts curling around his lover's in soft apology. It had been so long, seven decades of torture and experiments and inhumanity, but Steve had sworn that they would escape together and Bucky should have trusted him to keep his promises.
Fury took no pleasure in the thought of killing Pierce. The man had been his friend once, as much as men like them had friends, and he had never thought that their tale would end like this.
However, the Secretary had been twisted beyond saving and even Fury could not agree with preemptive genocide. A few deaths maybe, but not this mass slaughter of anyone who might grow up to fight Hydra and when he had learned the whole plan from Captain America, he had felt sick inside.
Sick and furious because he should have realized that Pierce was lying sooner, but there was no point in dwelling on that now. The only thing that mattered was ensuring that SHIELD could never threaten the world like this again and when the Helicarriers began to turn on each other, Fury made his move.
He and his allies flew to the Triskelion, the building in such chaos that no one even hailed their helicopter, and there were only a handful of guards remaining at the doors. Those men did not last long when faced with Fury's few remaining agents, Agents Hill, Thirteen, and the Black Widow as deadly as they were beautiful.
So the quartet worked its way to the upper levels of the building, Wilson staying with the chopper as backup in case everything went south. Once they reached Pierce's command center, Hill broke off to hack through his security, the others bursting through the doors once the lock released.
“You!” Pierce shouted, spinning around to confront the intruders with a snarl. Behind him, Captain America and the Winter Soldier were standing around the members of the World Security Council, holding them hostage with their weapons drawn.
“Yes, me,” Fury agreed before signaling his agents, the Black Widow moving to the Secretary's computer console to start uploading Hydra's information while Thirteen kept him in place with a loaded gun. “Rumors of my death were somewhat premature.”
“What the hell are you doing? I can give you money, power, everything you've ever dreamed, why would you side with him instead?” Pierce asked Thirteen, glaring at the woman furiously when she wouldn't drop her gun.
But if cajoling would not work, the other man was fully prepared to slaughter everyone. He turned to his assets and yelled, “Kill them! Kill them all and get me out of here!”
“Didn't you hear me? I told you to kill them!” Pierce shouted again when his assets didn't move and his eyes nearly popped out of his head when they holstered their guns instead.
“Sorry, sir. We don't take orders from Hydra anymore,” the Winter Soldier said, dropping his blank mask to reveal the burning hate beneath. When Captain America did the same, Pierce looked ready to pass out from apoplexy, though the World Security Council mostly just seemed confused.
However, confused or not, the world's leaders protested just as loudly as SHIELD's Secretary when Natasha told Fury that she was ready for his authorization and everyone realized just what she planned to do. She was going to leak all of Hydra's secrets and SHIELD's along with them, drag everything into the light and let other heroes sort out the truth. Because Fury didn't have the resources to destroy Hydra without SHIELD to help him, but the contents of Hydra's files should tell the Avengers where to start.
So Fury ignored the protests, removing his eye-patch in order to give his authorization and then dragging Pierce over to the scanner to do the same. Releasing this information required two people with top level clearance – that was the whole reason he'd forced this confrontation – and he didn't relax until the upload was complete.
“Oh look, it's trending,” the Black Widow a minute later and this seemed to be the last straw for Pierce's sanity.
“You're all going to die, you hear me? You're going to rot like you deserve!” the Secretary screamed, breaking free of Fury's grip and lunging for his phone. He pressed a button before anyone could react and Madam Hawley collapsed with a scream as the pin attached to her jacket began to glow red hot.
Thirteen ran to the woman's side, some members of the World Security Council scrambling for their own pins while others stared in shock. But before Pierce could make good on his threat to murder everyone, Captain America pulled the pistol from his holster and shot him in the back. The Secretary crumpled, his phone slipping from numb fingers to be caught by the Black Widow before it could hit the ground.
Pierce was not so lucky, Fury holding the other man's gaze as he bled out in seconds, and when he looked up from his old friend's body, the Winter Soldier and his Captain had disappeared.
He didn't see them again for another week, long after the damage control and the cleanup had begun, and Fury almost didn't recognize them in their civilian garb. They'd traded the leather for jeans and sweatshirts, baseball caps hiding their faces as they waited with Natasha by his grave. Like this, SHIELD's former director could see Steve Rogers and James Barnes instead of Hydra's assets, though he knew that they were no less dangerous than they'd been before.
“I was wondering when you'd find me,” Fury said by way of greeting. “SHIELD might be gone, but Hydra is still out there and I could use men like you.”
“I bet you could,” Sergeant Barnes snarled back, his expression savage enough that Natasha stepped in front of Fury warily. But Captain Rogers grabbed his friend's arm before he could try to back up his words with the violence that simmered underneath his skin.
“I'm sorry. I'm afraid I promised Buck here a vacation and I'm about seventy years overdue,” Rogers said with a quiet smile, somehow managing to project truth and wholesomeness despite his lethal skill. “Besides, I'm afraid we don't take very well to orders anymore.”
Barnes still looked about five seconds from trying to rip Fury's throat out with his teeth so that was something of an understatement and the former director of SHIELD had enough self-preservation to let the subject drop for now. Their experiences with Hydra had clearly made Barnes and Rogers rather twitchy about offering their loyalty, no matter how much he could use a symbol like Captain America.
“Then this is goodbye,” Fury said, holding out a hand for the blond to shake – Barnes he didn't try. “Though the offer stands if you ever change your minds.”
“Don't worry, Fury. We'll be in touch, eventually,” Rogers promised before the Captain and his Soldier slipped off between the trees.
'Together. You know you can't get rid of me.'