It just... hurt.
And you opened your eyes. Just like that, the decision made like a snap. The ache was dulled, the gutted feeling gone. It was so bright... and you were so cold. That was normal, wasn’t it? It was supposed to be this way. There was something you needed to do but it was blurred now; nothing more than a smear in your thought. Your head was pounding, heated far too much compared to the hollow ice that encased the rest of you- somehow, you sat up anyway. Geez, this sucked. What was-
It all came back. Unexpected, sure, but that didn’t mean you’d shy away from it. Had they gotten you again? You were resting on a cot made with sterile white sheets, encased in some observation room where three of the damn walls were glass. It didn’t take a second moment for you to leap out of the bed, pressed against the glass in search of your keepers. No, no, no-
“No, no, no...”
Not again, please not again. The air was being sucked from your lungs, devastation flooding through your system like a poison.
“(Name), you’re awake!” A voice, tinged with relief and adoration. Steve! He emerged into your line of sight with a sorrow-stained smile, but you hardly noticed. You were uncontrollably laughing- maybe crying, you weren’t quite sure- as you slipped relaxed against the slim window that divided you from one of your only companions left. Steve. It was Steve. You were safe, with SHIELD.
“I’m sorry about the, ah... security measures.” He nodded to the room that kept you. “They were worried about you.” Both you and him knew that was total BS, but you couldn’t bring yourself to care. You were dangerous. They didn’t know what HYDRA did. You were so happy to be safe, even if the cost was that you’d spend your time in here. It was probably... for the best.
It was only then that you noticed the bandages that ultimately encompassed your arms. They reached from just below your knuckles to an inch past your elbows. That was... strange.
“Oh! You were wounded when you did your little...” Steve struggled for words, leaving you bewildered. What was he-
Right. That’s how you got out. You remembered, and you did your little... thing. It was vague, but new images were crossing your mind. The bright red as you stabbed Steve, beautiful blue eyes... Bucky.
“I’m sorry, Steve. I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” There. No more awkward fumbling. There was something you needed to know, now. “Bucky. Is he...? Did he stick around? Do you know where he is?” Please say yes.
The answer was clear before he even said a word. Guilt crossed his expression, defined by grief-stricken features. Subtle, but you were paying attention.
“No. I’m sorry. He let us take you and... disappeared.”
HYDRA didn’t take him back like they said they did. For now, that was a relief. But did they have him now? HYDRA. Ugh. Your own father. Your sister. One big black hole that was sucking in everything normal in your life; everything you loved.
And somehow, at the end of it all, you could still smile. There was hope.
“He really is honorable,” you murmured, sliding to the ground in order to sit. Steve mirrored you, a solid sign that he wasn’t going anywhere. The smile on his lips lost some of its sadness, replaced by memory. “I never really realized that the Bucky you told me about was still alive. Not after HYDRA, or the war. But he’s really in there, Steve. He’s still there, even though he’s different.”
The Avenger nodded slowly in mutual admiration. “I knew he was. That’s why I’m gonna find him. I made him a promise that I’m going to keep.”
The conversation went on. Oddly enough, you found yourself able to laugh. He told you war stories, even some about his childhood. He explained that you were actually in transit- you were both sitting on a huge boat and this was the only means of keeping you secure. They were sending you to Coulson’s team, apparently more experienced about things like this, for an evaluation. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Honestly, you weren’t even sure if it was really sinking in.
Nothing felt real anymore.
“Yeah,” Steve’s humor faded quickly to a sobered tone. “We stormed the HYDRA base, but some escaped.”
“Some... meaning my father,” you concluded, smile weakening as you met his gaze. “You haven’t mentioned his apprehension. I just figured...”
“I’m sorry, (Name). I really am. There was no way of knowing.”
And there it finally came. It happened too quickly to fight, the hot burning of emotion stifling your throat. A sucked in breath as you tried to regain your bearings, only fueling the short whimper that followed. You burst into tears, unwarranted and seemingly unstoppable. There were holes in you, breaking with grief with every sob that wracked your shaking body. Everything you ever knew was a lie. You had nothing left to love. Everything was wrong and they had to keep you in a cage and you were broken and wrong and poisoned.
Somewhere in the distance, you heard the gentle murmuring of your name as strong arms scooped you into an embrace. He was there, against regulation no doubt. Steve let you cry into his chest for what seemed like forever; until the shards of reality and soul-swallowing sorrow faded into a cocoon of exhaustion and your consciousness flitted away.
She was bad off, but there was still hope. Every minute she was gone felt like an eternity in which possibilities plagued the Captain’s head. There was always a lingering fear that the sweet little scientist he knew would end up like the only person that ever really mattered to him. Bucky. Yet here she was, maintaining her sanity the best she could. Today, he’d gotten both the calm and the storm. In all honesty, it relieved him on a deeper level than it broke his heart. She was getting it out. HYDRA got her, but they didn’t destroy her. Not as far as he could see. He’d held her for almost an hour as she cried, wrapped in his jacket and pressed close to his chest. She was sleeping now, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t gonna keep near.
Steve wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. He’d made that mistake once, it wouldn’t happen again. No matter what.
Before this, he had no idea how much she meant to him.