They didn't have names. They were identified by numbers, by codes, by titles. They were soldiers and nothing more.
On the first mission they worked together, the other soldier went by Eagle. He was tall and broad, his hair sheared into short blond fuzz across his head. He said things like yes sir and roger that. The other soldier fell into line. The other soldier was stronger and faster in every conceivable way. The scientists talked. He knew which soldier was superior.
He was called Osprey. He didn't speak unless asked a direct question. He let Eagle take charge. It felt natural to follow Eagle's lead.
He never questioned it. He never questioned the missions. There was nothing to question.
There were two beds in the motel room. The carpet was a rust orange color and the bedspread was stained.. Their mission started in the early hours of the morning, only five miles away. The room was a place to rest. A bed was practically a luxury accommodation.
Eagle dumped his weapons out on one of the beds and began to take an inventory of them. He looked them over for imperfections. Nothing could go wrong. The mission needed to be successful. Every mission had to be a success.
Osprey sat at the edge of the bed, protein stick in hand, and ran his metal finger over the edge of a knife. He'd never been alone with Eagle before. They'd always been surrounded by soldiers, by scientists, by mission commanders. It didn't feel like it should matter, but it did.
"Are you going to eat or are you going to help?" Eagle asked.
"Eat," Osprey replied. He took every task one at a time, and he had his own bag of weapons. He wasn't going to do Eagle's work for him.
Eagle stood and knocked the protein sick from Osprey's hand. It fell to the floor, picking up orange carpet fibers where Osprey's mouth had been around it. "Now you're going to help."
Osprey jumped to his feet. He was shorter than Eagle, but only just. "You're not in charge of me."
"I'm in charge of the mission. This is part of the mission."
"This is a weapons inspection." Osprey wasn't sure why his hands, both flesh and metal, were shaking. He reached out and grabbed Eagle by the front of his shirt and pulled him in close. He was going to say something, but he shoved their mouths together instead.
Eagle made a muffled sound and pushed Osprey away. His eyes went wide and his face flushed as he stared down at Osprey, and for a moment Osprey thought he was about to be hit. Instead, Eagle kissed him again.
Heat flared throughout Osprey's body. Eagle's kiss was sloppy and wet, and Osprey bit down on his lip. Eagle made another desperate noise, and Osprey pulled him closer, their legs tangling together.
They fell down onto the bed that wasn't covered with weapons, rolled around on the squeaky mattress, rutting against each other until Osprey finally got his hand down the front of Eagle's pants. Eagle's shoulders stiffened, but didn't stop him.
It felt good, kissing Eagle's neck, stroking him as well as anyone could in the confines of his pants. Eagle had his hand on Osprey's chest, heavy and warm through his shirt. It felt—Osprey wasn't sure if he had ever felt anything.
Eagle grunted as he came, spilling hot over Osprey's hand. His head dipped, his forehead pressing against Osprey's shoulder, panting. His hand tightened around Osprey's chest.
Osprey slowly pulled his hand from Eagle's pants. He wasn't sure what to do next. He was never uncertain on a mission, but this wasn't the mission. This was something else. "What now?"
It was apparently the wrong thing to say. Eagle pulled away and got out of the bed. He stalked to the bathroom without looking back, the door closing behind him with a slam.
Osprey sat up and grabbed a few tissues to clean off his hand. He was still agitated and aroused, still unsure of what to do next, as he mindlessly tossed the tissues into the wastepaper basket. He heard the shower running through the thin walls. He didn't think about what to do, he just started moving.
He stripped out of his clothes, leaving them behind on top of the weapons, and went to the bathroom. He tried the door handle first, knowing he would break the lock if he had to, but the handle gave without any resistance. Eagle's clothes were in a pile on the floor, as he stood still beneath the spray.
Hands pressed against the tile wall, Eagle looked up at the sound of the door opening. "I don't understand this."
"Neither do I." Osprey climbed into the shower with him. It was strange how easily Eagle gaves beneath Osprey's touch. He was pliable, allowing himself to be turned toward the wall, moaning as Osprey fingered him open. Osprey pushed inside of him, burying his face in the crook of Eagle's neck. He bit down bluntly on the thick muscle of his shoulder, and he ignored it when he noticed that Eagle was crying. He wrapped his flesh arm around Eagle's body, holding a hand to his chest, feeling the thunder of heartbeat against his palm.
Afterwards, they laid together on the bed, damp and satisfied. Osprey rested his head on Eagle's chest, as Eagle wrapped an arm around him. They were both stiff, not quite sure how to hold each other, but the longer they stayed that way, the more they began to relax. Osprey's eyelids began to droop when Eagle spoke.
"This isn't the mission."
"If it's not the mission, it doesn't need to be part of the mission report," Osprey said.
Eagle nodded, his chin bumping against the top of Osprey's head. "Right."
Osprey breathed easier. They laid in silence, Eagle's heart beating steady in Osprey's ear. Finally, he asked, "Do you remember your name?"
Eagle's entire body tightened. "No."
"Does it matter?"
Maybe it didn't matter, but Osprey couldn't quite bring himself to say so.
After the mission was over, they went back to the base. Osprey stepped into the cryogenic chamber and looked across the hall at Eagle. He had already climbed into his chamber, the door closed, with only the window between them. Eagle met his gaze, but his face gave away nothing. He turned his eyes straight ahead and closed them as he went to sleep.
Osprey exhaled as the door closed on his own chamber. For the first time he could recall, he wanted to stay awake. But he closed his eyes.
Osprey and Eagle didn't always work together. They both were assigned quiet solo missions as the years passed, but when both of them are sent out, they always find time to share a bed, even if only for a night. It was the first thing Osprey thought about each time he was revived. He came back to the thought every time he was wiped.
Eagle got wiped more than Osprey.
"His healing factor is so high, it starts to wipe out the programming," one scientist said as they locked Eagle down in the chair. "He needs a reset."
"Concerns about brain damage?" another scientist asked.
The first one shrugged. "He'd regenerate any damaged tissue. If you're concerned about brain damage, look at that one." He thumbed in Osprey's direction.
Osprey barely heard it, but he felt it in his bones when Eagle screamed through the wipe.
Even after a wipe, it didn't take long for Eagle to start lingering at Osprey's side. He always sat on Osprey's right side during briefings. During the long meetings, their fingers tangled around each other under the table. They were drawn together, no matter how many wipes, and no matter how many years locked in cryo, they orbited around each other.
"I don't want to go back."
The words slipped from Osprey's lips. He didn't mean to say it, but he meant it. He looked across the small motel room where Eagle stood naked, drinking a glass of water. He turned.
"I don't want to go back." Osprey sat up. He'd never wanted anything. Fucking Eagle in between missions had been the closest thing he'd ever felt for wanting something more. Any other desires had been wiped away. "I want to be with you."
He wasn't sure what he expected, but it wasn't Eagle eyeing him warily. "We have to do the mission."
Osprey stood and approached Eagle slowly. "No, we don't. We could do anything. We could leave right now."
Eagle grabbed him around the face. His grip wasn't hard enough to bruise, but it was tight. "Don't talk about this ever again. We do the mission. We go back. We do the next mission."
Osprey nodded as best as he could and Eagle released him. Osprey lingered there and after a moment, Eagle leaned in and kissed him. It was soft and warm. It was affectionate.
"We have this," Eagle said. "What else is there to want?"
"Nothing," Osprey replied.
He didn't mean it.
Osprey walked through the old military base. He kept his footsteps light, the empty halls prone to echo, and his rifle pulled close to his side. He turned the corner and came face to face with a redheaded woman standing in front of the terminal he needed.
"Oh, hi," she said, as if she had been expecting him.
He raised his weapon, but she pulled her gun and fired first. Osprey didn't have time to blink.
Hands pushed Osprey from behind and he fell to the floor. He smelled the blood before he managed to get up onto his knees. He turned to see Eagle splayed across the floor.
"Steve!" He scrambled to Eagle and found the wound in his side, just under his rib cage, to put pressure on it. "You idiot."
Eagle didn't respond. He stared up at Osprey, confused, like he didn't know he'd been shot. He wheezed, so Osprey reached up with his other hand and pulled the mask from Eagle's face so he could breathe easier. It didn't seem to help.
Osprey knew he should get up and fight the woman for the disk. The training was telling him that only the mission mattered, and yet he couldn't seem to make himself stand. Blood seeped between his fingers as he held Eagle together.
"Holy shit," the woman muttered from somewhere above them. "I need an evac and a medic. And get me Director Fury." She started to approach them. Osprey could hear her soft inhale and then nothing as she held her breath.
Without looking, he pulled out his sidearm and pointed it in her direction. "Don't."
"I called for help," she said. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Osprey didn't lower his weapon, but he turned his head to look at her. She was blurry through his tears. "The mission."
Osprey's hands were covered in Eagle's blood as the medical team took him away. The redhead had him follow her, and he knew he should resist her and try to finish the mission, but he couldn't look away from his hands. She could have taken him anywhere. Probably to some underground prison. Instead, she took him to a hospital.
"He's in surgery," she said as they walked down a long hall. "It shouldn't be too long, I don't think. If he's who I think he is. I mean... he's Steve Rogers, right? You called him Steve."
Osprey stopped in his tracks. "I did?"
She nodded. "You did."
He thought back, but the whole thing was a blur. He couldn't remember anything he had said.
When he didn't reply, she pushed more. "You're Bucky Barnes, aren't you?"
"I... don't know," he said, but his stomach churned at the mention of the name. "We failed the mission."
"No. The mission is over. Whatever happened, it's done."
Osprey shivered. "I don't understand."
She awkwardly patted his arm. "We're going to take care of you. We can undo whatever has been done to you. At least, I hope we can."
He straightened up. "There's nothing you can undo."
The redhead didn't respond. She led him into a room with chairs, and they sat together in silence. Hours passed and people walked in and out of the room. She talked to some of them, but she kept them away from him, even as they stared in his direction.
"He's out of surgery," she said finally. "He's fine."
Relief flooded Osprey's system. He jumped to his feet and started for the door, but she held up her arm to keep him from leaving. "I need to see him."
"Soon. I promise."
Another few hours passed before Osprey was able to get into a room with Eagle. Patience had always come easy to him, but it turned out there was a difference between sitting in a sniper's nest and a waiting room. The redhead stayed by his side, even if she didn't say anything.
Finally, he was allowed into the quiet private room. Eagle was attached to different machines with tubes and wires. He looked strangely small and vulnerable. Osprey took off his boots and climbed into the bed with him. Even though the redhead stood in the doorway, she didn't say anything. As the slow, steady rise and fall of Eagle's chest pressed against his own, Osprey relaxed.
He drifted in and out, until he finally drifted in to see Eagle was awake, watching him sleep. He smiled when Osprey's eyes opened.
"Hi." He gently brushed Osprey's hair away from his forehead.
"You shouldn't have done that," Osprey said.
"I'd do it again," Eagle replied. He slid his hand down to Osprey's cheek, his touch warm and familiar."Bucky."
Osprey hesitated. That was what the redhead had called him. "Is that my name?"
"Yes. I remember so much of it now. It's like I got reset, without the wipe. Do you remember anything?"
Steve smiled, bright and reassuring. "Don't worry. You will."