Actions

Work Header

Safe From Harm

Work Text:

When they come to auction the Avengers, the Winter Soldier does not have the money to bid on Captain America. He would if he could. He doesn’t pretend to understand it, but Captain America is his. But Captain America is also extremely valuable, far beyond the means of a mere operative.

He observes the whole auction, noting the rivalries and the power plays, as this information may be useful in the future. His own organisation is successful in its bid for the Black Widow. He is pleased with this. Their skills complement each other, and he would like to work with her again. He enjoyed her company before, but he knows it is likely that the reprogramming she will undergo will change her.

He is also pleased that his organisation fails in its bid on Hawkeye. This means that he will probably be ordered to kill the man sometime in the future. He doesn’t like the competition.

He notes who buys Stark and the Hulk, although he doubts their new owners will get any real value for their money from them. Of course, Thor has already been claimed by Loki.

They save Captain America for last. They have already found that he is not vulnerable to the techniques they can use to reprogram people. He could be used as a slave (he feels pain, and that means he can be controlled that way), or to try and get the secrets of the serum (though SHIELD obviously failed in that), but he suspects that vengeance is high on the list of the bidders’ priorities.

The bidding is vicious, and he isn’t surprised that Hydra win. They have a history, and they are prepared to make the bigger sacrifices to have Captain America at their mercy. They are open in their intent to keep Captain America as a living, suffering warning to anyone who would cross them.

But Captain America belongs to the Winter Soldier, and he is resourceful. He has a target, and when he has a target, he does not miss. Though this time he does not intend to kill, merely to possess. Mine.

He starts with containment. There is no point in acquiring Captain America merely to lose him again. He has his own apartment these days, part of the greater freedoms that years of loyalty have earned him. He fits out a room to hold a supersoldier. His apartment isn’t bugged; General Lukin is a traditionalist, and he relies on informants to keep his operatives in line. It’s more efficient than constant surveillance.

Next he thinks of transportation. Captain America needs to be unconscious for this. He offers his services freelance to some scientists in return for drugs that will work on a supersoldier. Shortly thereafter, one professional rival and his mistress are dead, and he has the drugs he needs. Then he kills the scientists, along with anyone he thinks they may have talked to. He intends to keep Captain America, and this will be easier if no one knows he has him.

Location is easy. The Red Skull has always had a flair for the dramatic and is not trying to hide his trophy.

It takes him nearly two months to be ready to retrieve Captain America, and all through that time he has the feeling that somewhere, someone is screaming that he needs to be going to get him now. In that time Tony Stark has managed to kill himself, evading the suicide watch von Doom put him under (though the Latverians try and keep it secret, pretending that Stark is still building for them). It almost feels like an inevitability, after the death of Pepper Potts in the final battle. He is fairly confident that Captain America will not kill himself, though he doesn’t know why.

The retrieval itself is simple. He has the research facility thoroughly scouted, and there are no surprises.

Maybe one surprise. Just before he puts several bullets through the Red Skull’s brain, the man says, “You always were my greatest creation.”

Captain America is strapped to a table, barely conscious, mumbling something. He realises that it is the Captain’s name, rank, and serial number. He blinks at Yasha when he comes into view, starts to say something, but Yasha is already emptying a syringe into Captain America’s vein. He watches as he passes into unconsciousness, then starts the far harder task of bringing him home.

Captain America awakes in his containment room, naked, shackled hand and foot in adamantium chains. The Winter Soldier watches him from the door, sees him take in his surroundings. The room is spartan but functional. There is no window. He knows that Captain America could rip the toilet or sink from the wall if he wanted to, could smash the light or the air vents, but then what? He would still be chained down, and he will know that any attention he could summon would just put him into another prison. And there is something, some certainty, that Captain America will not try to kill him.

“Bucky?”

“Who the hell is Bucky?”

“You–you are.”

“I’m not.” He realises the ludicrousness of the situation, that he is about to formally introduce himself to Captain America, his prisoner, but does it anyway. It amuses him. “I’m the Winter Soldier. You’re mine now. Since you are my prisoner, I think you can call me Yasha.”

“Bucky–”

“Yasha.” He pulls the lever that shortens the shackles, brings Captain America helpless against the wall.

He’s going to fuck him, and it seems Captain America realises that. He could have fucked him while he was unconscious, but where was the fun in that? There’s also something, some faraway voice insisting he has to look after Captain America. So he’d washed him, shaved him, cut his hair. But now he gets to play.

“No...”

The faraway voice echoes this, but he ignores it. “Why not?” He presses his body against Captain America’s, revels in his helplessness. He’d known that Captain America would respond, but doesn’t know why he knew that. He slides his leg against the other man’s cock, feels him harden. “You want to.”

“Not like this.”

Again the faraway voice echoes this. He pauses. He is impressed with Captain America’s composure, after two months at the hands of the Red Skull and now this. “How would Captain America like to be fucked?”

“Steve. You call me Steve, Bucky.”

“Yasha. I’m not who you think I am.”

“You’re Bucky Barnes–”

He bites the muscle at Captain America’s shoulder–Steve’s shoulder, if they are to be on first name terms, and sharply slides a lubricated finger into his ass. He has no interest in continuing the argument, and this seems an effective way of silencing him. Steve gasps, and Yasha revels in his reactions as he stretches and finger-fucks him. Steve doesn’t want to find this pleasurable, is shamed and humiliated by his own arousal. It’s beautiful.

When he finally unzips his own fly, pushes his cock into Steve, he has to pause to stop himself from coming right away. The war on Steve’s face is wonderful, between sensation and thought. He wraps his flesh-and-blood hand around Steve’s cock, works him to watch the effort that Steve is putting into trying not to react. Only then does he move, fucks Steve hard and rough. He should be surprised by Steve’s coming first, this loss of control so removed from his public persona, but again it’s one of the responses that he knows about without knowing why.

He bites Steve again as he comes, even though he knows the mark won’t last. He relaxes against him for a moment, before pulling out and wiping himself off. He walks back to the door and releases the lever, allowing Steve the length of his chains to walk the room.

Steve doesn’t move, stays standing against the wall.

Yasha brings him food, sliding the tray across the floor with his foot. Steve looks at it for a moment.

“I didn’t go to all this effort just to poison you. Eat. I don’t even know if you could starve to death, since you can’t freeze to death, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Steve eats, and when Yasha tosses him an elderly quilt, he wraps himself in it.

He knows that Steve will try and escape. It’s in his nature. He also knows (how does he know?) that Steve is a lot cleverer than anyone credits. Cleverer than he is, certainly. So Yasha will have to be more observant–and more devious.

The next morning he wakes and goes to Steve. Fucks him against the wall again, makes him come again. Steve still calls him Bucky, asks him not to do this, but he doesn’t beg. He wonders what Steve’s breaking point is. Every man has one, even Captain America. But he hasn’t reached it after being used by Hydra for three months, then raped twice (Yasha does not feel any squeamishness about using the correct words for what he does).

It would be interesting to try and break him, simply as an intellectual exercise. But again, there is the knowledge that he can’t do that. He couldn’t deliberately break Steve. He can ignore the faraway voice sometimes, especially when lust hums in his veins, but not entirely.

Yasha can see no sign that Steve has made any escape attempt during the night. That means that Steve is hiding it well, which is a little concerning.

He leaves him food and goes to work. The news that Hydra have lost Captain America has spread, but all the leads go away from him, and he has strong alibis for the time when Captain America was taken. He is satisfied that there is no suspicion on him, at least for the moment. He is a little proud of himself. Captain America, even unconscious, is not a subtle figure to transport, but he seems to have managed it.

He can still see no signs of an escape attempt when he returns. He will just have to observe and see if any signs become more obvious. Steve is sat on the floor, quilt loosely wrapped around him.

He brings him food again, takes away the dirty tray he left earlier. He knows that he has walked into the range that Steve can reach with the chains loose, but Steve doesn’t make a move. He’s still confident that Steve won’t kill him, and still doesn't know why.

“It doesn’t have to be like this.”

“Yes it does. I unchain you, you’ll escape to go and be a hero.” He sneers the word ‘hero.’ It’s a word worthy of contempt.

“You could come with me.”

Yasha laughs. “I’m not suicidal.”

“We could–”

“You lost, Steve. You and the Avengers and SHIELD and the forces united behind you. What do you think you could do on your own? Or even with this Bucky who lives in your head–”

You’re Bucky.”

“Did he chain you down and rape you as well?” That shuts Steve up very effectively. He flushes deep red and can’t meet Yasha’s eyes. Yasha can’t help but push a little further. “Because you’ve come both times, so you must have enjoyed it, perhaps when he–”

Steve lashes out, and Yasha is definitely in range, but he’s fast, and he gets beyond Steve’s reach before he can connect. He laughs and shuts the door behind him. So he can provoke Steve into violence. But he still has a certainty that his life is not in danger.

That night the faraway voice berates him for hurting Steve. He wishes it would shut up.

He sleeps badly and takes it out on Steve the next morning. He takes him hard, poorly stretched and poorly lubricated, makes him bleed, scratches his skin with the metal arm so he bleeds there as well. Then he jerks Steve off, makes sure he comes, because Steve’s humiliation at his own response is even better than causing him pain.

It makes him feel better for all of two minutes, but that damn voice is berating him again before he has even finished showering. He leaves food for Steve, but Steve doesn’t even look up when he comes into the room.

The healing factor does its work, and when Yasha returns that evening the only signs that he hurt Steve are the bloodstains on the quilt. He slides down the wall to sit facing Steve, just out of range if he chooses to lash out again.

“Do you get it yet?”

“You’re still Bucky.”

“He do that to you, then?”

This time Steve’s reaction is muted. He’s had time to think about it, control himself. “Natasha told me what they did to her. What they can do to people. I think you are what Bucky has become.”

“Is that important?”

“Why did you bring me here?”

“Perhaps I just want Captain America as my personal sex slave.”

Steve holds up his wrists, looks at the thick shackles around him. “It’s a lot of effort for a lay.”

“Perhaps you’re my trophy.”

“Locked in a windowless, soundproofed room, hidden from everyone? I’m not a trophy. I’m a secret.”

Yes, Steve is much cleverer than people credit. “Perhaps–”

“You don’t know, do you? You’ve done all this, and you don’t know why.”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you–”

“But you do have to explain it to yourself, and you can’t.”

“Is this supposed to talk me out of fucking you again? Because it won’t. You’re mine, Steve. Whenever I want you.”

He stands up and walks out. The faraway voice is a little quieter this evening, and he sleeps better. He still fucks Steve in the morning (and wonders if this is what addiction feels like), but is gentler, doesn’t hurt him.

There is one reaction that Steve can’t control, so he controls all the other ones. Yasha is impressed with how Steve can keep his breathing even as he’s being fucked, how he doesn’t move a muscle. If you could only see his face you might think he was resting his eyes in a dull meeting, instead of having Yasha’s cock in his ass, his own cock hard and leaking in Yasha’s hand.

That evening he moves a store of non-perishable food into Steve’s room.

“I might be sent out on a mission at any time. If I don’t come home, don’t go hungry.” It’s also so Steve never knows how long Yasha will be away, to discourage him from any more complex and involved escape attempts.

Steve regards him critically. “You already said you don’t think I can starve to death.”

“It’s a theory. Let’s not test it.”

“Bucky–”

Yasha cuts him off. “Is there anything you want?”

The sentence is out of his mouth before he thinks about it. He has given Steve everything he needs, why would he be concerned beyond that?

“Apart from not being chained down?”

“Apart from that.”

Steve shrugs. “Something to read?”

Yasha goes to look over his bookshelves, filled with ragged paperbacks in multiple languages, picked up as something to do when waiting around on missions. He picks up an English copy of Crime and Punishment and smiles.

He walks to the other room and throws the book at Steve, who catches it. “If I was Raskolnikov, I’d have seen it through.”

He wants to see if he can resist his addiction. So the next morning, he doesn’t touch Steve, just gives him some breakfast. He sees Steve tense up, and the thrill from that is almost enough to make him break his resolve. But he is the jailer. He is the one in charge. He has to retain control.

That evening he eats with Steve, who looks at him warily, obviously wondering if he has been spared the morning just to be taken in the evening. He both loves and hates the feeling, the power thrill from him having that effect on Captain America warring with dislike of seeing Steve unhappy.

But apparently it takes more than that to keep Steve quiet. “You still eat in the same way. Eat the stuff you like first, fast, ‘case someone decides they can take it.”

“Lots of people eat like that.”

“Have you worked out why you’re doing this yet?”

“What are you trying to achieve?”

“I want you to remember who you are.”

“I know who I am.”

“Tell me about your childhood. If you know who you are, you’ll know.”

“I don’t need to tell you anything.”

“What do you need?”

“I’ve got what I need right here, chained to my wall. It really is that simple.”

Steve finishes the last of his dinner, pushes the plate away. “We met when I was seven and you were six, but you were taller and you’d been kept behind a year at school, so I didn’t realise you were younger until much later–”

Yasha picks up their plates and stands up. “I’m not interested.” It’s a lie. He is curious. It’s quite possible that he is Bucky Barnes, given that he is American, probably approximately the same age as Steve, and is missing that part of his life. But being interested gives Steve an advantage, a way to get at him and he doesn’t want that.

He sleeps well that night. Perhaps he is an addict, because he needs to fuck Steve in the morning. Steve is all control again, so Yasha stops and says, “Did Bucky fuck you like this? Or did you have a bed? Did you keep your eyes open when he fucked you?”

Steve’s voice is tight, but still controlled. “I thought you weren’t interested.”

“I’m not. I just like your reactions.” He goes back to fucking, hard, but not enough to cause pain, just how Steve likes it. The hot spurt of Steve’s orgasm in his hand (no other reaction, not even an intake of breath) is what it takes to make him come.

Yasha has to be careful at work. He has something to come home to now, but he needs them not to know that. He can’t rush home, even if he wants to.

When he finally does come home he finds that Steve has put the book on the tray, pushed it close to the door, tidied his room. Captain America lives up to his reputation.

“You liked the book?”

“It was interesting.”

“Raskolnikov panicked. He held his nerve, he could have gotten the money, gotten clean away, no problem.”

“Apart from his conscience.”

“I read that book a long time ago. Between parts four and five, I had to go to work. Killed ten people. Then I read the rest. It didn’t make me grow a conscience then, it isn’t going to now.”

“You’re better than you think you are.”

Yasha laughs. “I used to think that the all-virtuous Captain America was a myth, but it’s true.”

He gives Steve Sense and Sensibility to read next. There are no killings, no hauntings of conscience in that (though he doesn’t put it past Steve to make a lesson of the treatment of the Dashwood sisters by their half-brother).

“You didn’t used to be a big reader.”

Yasha sighs and speaks like he’s talking to a small child. “Because I’m not the man you think I am.”

Steve smiles. “You always did give the impression of being a bad boy, but it was never really true. You’d help old Mrs Riley up the stairs with her groceries any time that there wasn’t anyone but me to see–”

“I said I wasn’t interested.”

“You read, but you don’t like stories.”

“You think the world should be like that. This isn’t your neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 30s. This is a world where you can buy and sell people, where people get shot in the head in the street for speaking their mind. This is reality, Steve, and you need to get used to it.”

Steve looks thoughtful. “Brooklyn.”

Yasha isn’t sure why he said that, why he can picture a neighborhood, a few city blocks to call home, but he isn’t going to admit this to Steve. “Everyone knows Captain America comes from Brooklyn.”

Steve smiles and shakes his head. “Everyone knows Captain America comes from New York. No one ever remembers it’s Brooklyn.”

He doesn’t know why that is what makes him snap. He does know he is not going to be patronised by his own prisoner, and he will teach Steve a lesson, whatever the faraway voice in his head has to say. He pulls the lever and Steve is restrained against the wall. He open-palm slaps him with his metal hand, hard enough to bring a spray of blood from Steve’s lip. He waits a moment, then backhands him. It’s not enough, not enough to defuse the anger at Steve’s naivety, or the swirls of confusion in his head. He kicks him viciously in the stomach, hard enough to hospitalize a normal man, but the supersoldier should be able to take it. Then he just hits, no thought or combat skill or finesse, just letting all his frustration out on his human punchbag.

When he’s out of breath he puts a hand in Steve’s hair, lifts his head, and says into his ear, “This is the world you live in. Where I can do that, and face no consequences. No punishment. No conscience. No helping little old ladies with their groceries. You need to stop living in the past.”

Steve doesn’t respond, doesn’t give him any satisfaction. He drops Steve’s head and lets down the chains as he storms out of the room.

He shouldn’t let Steve rattle him like that. He doesn’t even think that Steve is deliberately trying to get under his skin––the problem is that he’s confused. He wants to fuck Steve, wants to protect him, wants him to shut up, wants him to talk, wants Steve to hold him, wants to hit him. He breathes, focuses like he’s about to take a shot, and eventually calms down.

In the confusion there is a certainty that he wants Steve here with him. He holds on to that, tries to let the rest wash over him.

In the morning Steve looks like he was beaten up a few weeks ago. There are new bloodstains on the quilt. Yasha shortens the chains, and perhaps Steve is closer to breaking, as he almost groans when it happens. He inspects the bruises and healing cuts.

“No permanent damage?”

“There never is.”

Yasha surprises himself by kissing Steve on the cheek by one of the bruises. He finds he wants to be gentle, tender even, wants to take Steve to his bed and wrap him up against the world. But the desire, the lust, is still there, and he is not leaving until he’s satisfied. He wraps a hand around Steve’s cock, pushes down his own pants to press his cock against him, rocks against him and thrusts into his own hand until they both come.

The sense of deja-vu is almost overpowering. He leans into Steve, presses his face into his neck, and without even intending to, says, “You’re beautiful, Stevie.”

Steve tenses, flinches, almost half a sob. Yasha pulls back, surprised, but Steve won’t meet his eyes.

Steve says, voice quiet and half-cracked, “You are Bucky. Or you were.”

He strokes a thumb over Steve’s cheekbone, and says, equally quietly, “Perhaps I was. But that was then.”

“You could change–”

“Why? There’s one of us who functions in this world, and it isn’t you.”

“We could–”

“You would get yourself killed. I’m not letting that happen. I’m looking after you. I think–” He considers not saying this, it gives Steve more leverage over him, but decides to go with it. “I think Bucky looked after you. Stopped you getting yourself killed.”

“You did.”

Yasha kisses Steve on the cheek again. “I’ll buy you a new quilt.”

He does not come home that night, but instead, he is away for three days. They have news that a target is near and have to move quickly, with little preparation.

It gives him great satisfaction to work out where Hawkeye will have placed himself, then take the shot and kill him. He has no close rivals now. His value to his organisation has increased. All in all, a good mission.

On his way home he buys a duvet and cover. It’s more practical than a quilt. If he has to hurt Steve again he can change the cover, rather than the whole quilt.

He is relieved to find that Steve is still there. He wonders if Steve thinks he can save him, that he doesn’t need to escape, but will somehow persuade Yasha to release him, and then they will take on the world together. If that is what he is thinking––well, that is something to pity him for.

He is still in a celebratory mood after the mission, but surprises himself when, after he restrains Steve, he sinks to his knees to suck him off. He can feel the effort that Steve is putting into not reacting, the fine tremor he can feel in Steve’s thighs. But Steve still doesn’t even move when he comes down Yasha’s throat. Doesn’t react when Yasha fucks him.

He lets the chains down again, picks the book and tray up from where Steve has neatly left them by the door.

Steve eats like a horse when he brings him food. The store of non-perishable food is barely touched. Of course, he hadn’t known when Yasha would be back, so he had rationed himself. He finds that he enjoys watching Steve eat... and... a memory. Yes, clearer than the impressions of a neighborhood, clearer than his instincts that he needs to protect Steve. A memory of having money after not having money for some time and taking Steve to a diner, the pleasure in watching him eat, the pleasure in being the one who provides, who cares. The memory is Steve, but not this Steve, one much smaller, weaker. He’d say more in need of protection, but the ideas in the head of this strong, powerful Steve are enough to make him sorely in need of protection.

So. He is definitely Bucky Barnes, not that he has quite worked out who Bucky Barnes is, or was. He thinks that the faraway voice that screamed at him for his treatment of Steve is Bucky. He also suspects that the Bucky that Steve thinks of is not quite the Bucky he was. Steve’s interpretation of the world does not seem reliable.

But this doesn’t change anything. Steve is going to get himself into trouble (Steve’s always been getting himself into trouble, and Bucky’s always been saving his ass, ever since they were kids), and this is the best way of keeping him safe.

He’s not going to tell Steve that he’s remembering, even though with the exception of the diner, it’s mainly feelings and impressions and images. He doesn’t give away information unnecessarily.

He folds the bloodstained quilt in the bottom of his closet. It will save dirtying something else if he needs to move a body close to home in the future. He brings Steve the new duvet and some cheap thriller novels whose plots he can’t even remember, and sits at the other side of the room again.

“How’ve you been while I was away?”

“Fine. How was your mission?”

“Successful. I’m leaving you with more books.”

Steve shrugs. “Austen can stand a re-read.” There is a long pause and Steve looks at him searchingly. “Do you still believe?”

“In what?”

“In God.”

Yasha laughs. “This world is a powerful argument against his existence.”

“You used to. You never made much of it, but you always believed.” Steve smiles. “You’d pray like you were talking to a cop or a teacher, like you could charm the Almighty like you could charm them.” He looks right at Yasha. “I never told you this before, but I remember, when I was nineteen and real sick, you prayed. You thought I was too far gone to hear. You offered yourself instead of me, if someone had to die–”

“If you were that sick, you were probably hallucinating.” He doesn’t remember that at all. But he’d do a lot for Steve, and perhaps when he was younger and stupider he’d have thought of that sort of bargain. “So where is he now, your god?”

“He’s there. He always is.”

“That mean this is all part of some grand plan?”

“There’s no free will without the potential to do evil. It’s how it has to be.”

“And how did your god feel about you fucking Bucky?”

“Love isn’t wrong.”

And that, right there, was everything about Steve Rogers, wasn’t it? Clear, shining certainty. Beaten and raped, chained down, and still talking about love. Still with faith in a god who, if he existed, had certainly abandoned him. It would be beautiful if there was anything that justified it. As it was, it was pitiful.

When he lies in bed, the threads of a conversation come into his head, something similar to the one they’ve just had, about whether God would judge them for screwing. As he falls asleep, he remembers a jumble of sensations, of a small body in his arms, of fucking a Steve who was tiny, fucking desperately and quietly and quickly, fear in the pit of his stomach all the time.

The next day he leaves Steve alone in the morning, just stopping to bring him food. On his way home in the evening he goes via an English-language bookstore, buys a couple more randomly chosen paperbacks and steals a bible. There is a high probability that someone is reporting back on his purchases, especially unusual ones (he’s been very careful with acquiring food as well, to obscure the fact that he’s been needing more), and for him to buy a bible is wildly out of character. It also slightly amuses him to steal something which explicitly commands him not to.

He puts the bible in one of the kitchen cupboards. He’ll save it to be a reward if Steve has been especially good.

As soon as he comes into Steve’s room, he knows there is something wrong, but it takes a moment for him to put his finger on it. He restrains Steve and looks more closely. Yes, there, Steve has figured that the weak point isn’t the chains or the mounts they slide through, but the wall itself. He’s started to try and work round one of the mounts for the chain, and then cover his handiwork by putting the plaster back in place. Toothpaste to stick it down. He’s probably been working at it for some time, it’s just that today, there are enough cracks in the plaster for Yasha to notice. Fairly clever. But Yasha had planned for this; the mounts may come through the plaster of the wall, but they’re actually attached to the structural metal girders of the building.

Steve doesn’t say anything, but his expression is all defiance. He’s going to have to do something about that. He slaps him hard, using the power of the metal arm, and is rewarded with fountains of blood from Steve’s nose and lips.

“You wouldn’t last five minutes out there. You need me to look after you.”

He sees the blood and thinks that this lesson needs more of it. He fetches the nearest knife and strips off as well, to save washing the blood out of his clothes later. He returns and stabs Steve in the shoulder without any preamble, twisting the knife as he says, “So you need to be taught a lesson about not trying to escape.” Steve doesn’t make a sound, but his agony is obvious.

He pulls the knife out. The blood wells up and drips from the wound, tracks down Steve’s perfect torso, and Yasha thinks this might be one of the most beautiful things he’s ever seen. But he will be careful, he knows if he stabs Steve in the wrong place, he will bleed out before the healing factor can compensate. He draws a shallow line down the center of Steve’s chest, slashes horizontally across his stomach, not deep enough to penetrate the muscle.

He slaps Steve in the face again, a little more gently this time. He doesn’t want him to lose any teeth. “Are you paying attention?” He slams the knife into Steve’s other shoulder. “Are you going to promise me you’re not going to try and escape again?”

Steve is still defiant, chin up. “No.”

“Thought not.” He twists the knife, sees the effort Steve has to put into not reacting, not screaming.

He scrapes and slashes at him some more, still careful. He is mindful of everything he has learned of anatomy, of how to bring a man to the brink of death but not push him over. He is angry with Steve, but he couldn't bear to lose him.

Steve is bloodied and beautiful and still not giving an inch, and it’s making Yasha harder than he can remember ever having been before. He’s dimly aware of the faraway voice telling him to stop, but it’s easy to ignore. Blood is terrible lube, but he wants him now, and Steve will heal. He uses the knife to reopen one of the wounds in his shoulder and coats the fingers of his metal hand with the blood. He throws the knife behind him, out of the room, as he slides the fingers of his metal hand into Steve’s ass before the blood has a chance to clot.

Fucking Steve like this feels bestial and brutal and wrong and like the best fuck he’s ever had. Steve’s not hard, unsurprisingly, but Yasha knows he can make him hard, works one hand around his cock, puts the effort in because this degradation is part of the lesson. He mouths the wound at Steve’s shoulder, tastes the blood, jerks him off in time to his thrusts until Steve comes, still silent, still unresponsive. Yasha comes so hard he feels like he’s on the verge of blacking out.

He steps back, takes a moment to admire his handiwork, perfection covered in cuts and blood and semen. Then he fetches a washcloth and cleans Steve up, gently and carefully. Is this part of being Bucky Barnes? He’d left Steve to bleed before, but it hasn’t occurred to him to do that now. He knows he doesn’t need to stitch any of the wounds, that Steve’s body will take care of that, and realises that’s another of Bucky’s memories.

He kisses Steve on the cheek. “You’re a stubborn jerk. You’re not going to learn your lesson, are you?”

Steve doesn't react to that. Yasha lets him down, then showers and comes back with food. Steve doesn’t eat. Yasha thinks this is part of the defiance. He leaves the food; Steve can decide to eat later if he wants.

Yasha lies on his bed and thinks. He knows that Bucky would never have treated Steve the way he is treating him. Not least because the small, weak Steve from most of the memories that have crept back wouldn’t have been able to take it. But there’s also the knowledge that Bucky was (is?) a pragmatist at heart and always wanted to keep Steve safe. Yasha has been schooled in pain in ways that Bucky never was, but he has a memory of punching a guy in an alleyway who had been hassling Steve, and there is a thrill in there which Yasha knows well.

He closes his eyes and tries to make his mind blank, to reach out to that faraway voice. He (whoever he is, Yasha, Bucky, or a new man who knows things the both of them know) is going to keep Steve safe. He is going to protect Steve from a world that would rip him apart. He is going to do his best to make Steve see sense, even though he thinks this is going to be a losing battle. Bucky may not approve of Yasha’s means, but they are working to the same end.

He checks in on Steve in the morning, restrains him and inspects his wounds, even though he knows he’ll be healing. He combs his fingers through Steve’s hair, kisses him on the forehead, and says, “You get out of here, you’ll get yourself killed. I need to keep you safe. Why can’t I get you to understand that?”

“Why can’t I get you to understand?”

“Understand what?”

“It’s not about being safe. It’s about doing what’s right. You used to understand that. You followed me fighting Hydra across Europe because you understood that.”

“Perhaps Bucky only followed you because he wanted to stop you getting killed. There’s no right in this world anymore, Steve. Just surviving. I can’t lose you.”

“There’s always good in people. You just need to look harder.”

It’s obvious that Steve really believes that. Yasha smiles sadly and brings him some breakfast.

He doesn’t think he shows the changes when he is outside his apartment. He concentrates on being Yasha, of showing no difference, with no hint that he has recovered any memories. He remains assiduous at his work (but doesn’t put in extra time or effort, as that in itself would draw attention to him).

He sits with Steve again that night, but this time sits next to him, chains loose. It’s a risk, and Steve sees that.

“I could kill you.”

“You could.” Yasha loops one of the chains around his neck and holds it out to Steve. “So do it.”

Steve unloops the chain from Yasha’s neck. “No. But you’d only know that you were safe sitting here if you were Bucky.”

“So. I was Bucky. So what?”

“What do you remember?”

“Some things. You were short. I beat people up who were beating you up. We fucked. I looked after you. I liked looking after you.”

“You remember being the sort of man who would intervene in an unfair fight.”

“I remember trying to stop you intervening in unfair fights because you’d get your ass kicked.”

Steve sighs. “You used to know right from wrong.”

“What I’ve always known is winning and losing. I’d go into an unfair fight I could win. You’d go into one you’d lose. ”

“I have to do what’s right, even if that means losing. Even if that means dying. Don’t I have the right to make that choice?”

“If you saw a man about to jump off a bridge, you’d try and stop him, wouldn’t you?”

“This is nothing like that.”

“Yes, it is. Your noble sacrifice isn’t going to achieve anything. It isn’t going to change anything. All those other people you saw die before you got captured, did their deaths achieve anything?”

“It was their choice-”

“That’s not what I asked. I asked if their deaths changed anything. Like the woman who blew herself up to take down our vanguard, to give the Avengers time to regroup. She’s dead, and you’re chained up here. I don’t doubt she chose. But did she change a single thing?”

Steve looks at the floor. “Her name was Maria Hill. It could have–”

“Could have. Didn’t. She’s still dead, you’re still here.” He doesn’t like the defeated slump of Steve’s shoulders, rubs comforting circles on his back. “I’ll look after you, Steve. Like always.”

In the morning Steve looks a little better. Yasha still restrains him, still fucks him, his bone-deep need for this winning out over any qualms that his recollection of being Bucky may have.

He pauses, says, “Tell me what you like and I’ll do it, Steve.”

“If I told you to stop–”

He twists his hand around Steve’s cock, swipes his thumb over the head, “You don’t really want me to stop.”

Steve looks at him and says firmly, “Stop. Not like this.”

The faraway voice is nearer now, insistent that he should stop. But he doesn’t want to, he’s going to finish what he’s started. And he can feel that Steve is aroused. It’s not his fault that Steve’s stubborn head doesn’t agree with his body.

He starts to fuck him again, says, “You want this. You need this.”

Steve closes his eyes. It doesn’t take much to bring him off. He loves making Steve come.

Before he leaves for work, he gives Steve the bible. He thinks Steve needs it.

“You said you didn’t believe.”

“I don’t. You do.”

He thinks that Steve would be happier if he could draw. Acquiring paper is easy and unobtrusive. But he doesn’t want to give him pencils or pens; he knows from personal experience that they can be useful tools. Sticks of charcoal and pastel would be safe, but going into an art store would be out of character for Yasha, and it would gain too much attention. He settles on stealing some children's crayons from the corner store.

He finds Steve sat cross-legged, wrapped in the duvet, the bible open in his lap. He looks a little more settled, a little more balanced. He gives him the paper and crayons. “Sorry. I don’t think you’re six, I just couldn’t get to an art store.”

“Don’t expect any masterpieces.”

Yasha smiles. “Aww, I was going to have you faking Michaelangelos by the end of the week.”

Steve smiles at him, a weak smile, and Yasha realises it’s the first smile that has been directed at him, rather than at a recollection of Bucky.

They eat sitting next to each other again.

“Even if you look after me, it’s still a cage.”

“You are an endangered species.”

“They said that you had something similar to the serum–”

“It’s not the serum that makes you endangered. It’s that you’re a genuinely good human being. Sometimes I think there might just be the one of you left.”

“Let me go, Bucky. Let me live my life, however short it might be.”

“No. I can’t let you kill yourself.”

“And if the cage is worse than death?”

“You’re talking like death is the worst that can happen. You know it isn’t. Hydra will happily take you back. We both know that’s worse than dying. And if it isn’t Hydra, there are a dozen others who would do the same.”

“It’s still my choice.”

“If I’d asked you, when I found you with Hydra, when all you were saying was your name, rank, and serial, do you think you’d have said the same then? If I’d offered this, or offered to leave you, which do you think you would have chosen?”

“That’s not fair–”

“Oh, well done, you’re getting it: life isn’t fair. It’s just that I’m clear-headed enough to see it, and you aren’t. It’s not a choice, it’s a fantasy where you can still win. Where you can still make a difference. You can’t.”

“You can’t know that.”

“Yes, I can.” He leans over and kisses Steve on the cheek. “I love you, you dumb punk. If you can’t see reality, what’s best for you, then I’ve got to.”

“You’re wrong. It can be better than this. You can be better than this.”

Yasha just sighs and leans against Steve.

The next day they have a mission for him, and a new partner. The Winter Soldier and the Black Widow are to work together again.

The changes in Natasha are individually small but significant when taken together. She has lost much of her sense of humor, and unfortunately there is a blankness about her which diminishes most of her skill and subtlety in extracting information. Her muscle memory is completely intact, though, so she is more of a brute weapon than before. It all means that they are not as good a complement to each other as they once were, not as good a team. She recalls that they have met before, but nothing more. She doesn’t remember that they were lovers.

But they are still well-trained and efficient in their work. Information is retrieved and people die.

They are away for eight days. Yasha knows he has laid in enough food for Steve for longer than this, so is not concerned about that, but is worried that he has given him scope to escape.

As soon as he opens his door his fears are confirmed. The flat smells like it hasn’t been lived in for a few days; Steve has a strong head start on him. He looks into Steve’s room, and can’t help but smile. The duvet is neatly folded, with the books, bible, crayons, and paper equally neatly stacked by it. He has even left a note: “I can’t live in a cage. Don’t follow me if you’re going to bring me back here again.”

It takes him a moment to find out how Steve made his escape. Yasha hadn’t realized that one of the packets of food he’d left had a metal strip strengthening the packaging. Steve had taken the strips and used them as lockpicks. After all the effort Yasha had gone to to ensure Steve was contained, he’s been undone by simple carelessness.

No one has announced that they have Captain America. This either means that he has evaded capture, or his new captors are keeping it a secret. It could be that he has been killed in secret, or without anyone realising his identity, but Yasha will only think of those possibilities when all others have been exhausted.

He tries to think how Steve would think, and the answer to where he would go is obvious: he will try to rescue his friends. He wouldn’t start with Widow or Hawkeye (Hawkeye’s death is not widely known), as he would know they have been reprogrammed. The Hulk is a risk, Thor difficult to reach. So the obvious is Stark, whose mind was too valuable to be tampered with. Unless Hydra told him that Stark was dead, or he found out after he escaped. Still, it’s a good place to start.

He finds an excuse to go to Latveria. He scouts, gathers information, and finds that he is right, Steve came here on some harebrained rescue scheme and was captured. It seems that after having accidentally acquired Captain America, von Doom is not quite sure what he wants to do with him and is leaving him to rot in his dungeons while he considers. This makes Yasha’s life easier.

Steve is strung from the roof of the dungeon when he finds him, chained by his wrists. Yasha can only imagine how much pain he must be in.

He stands under him and says, “I have better things to do than keep rescuing your sorry ass. If I take you home, will you promise to behave?”

Even through the pain he is defiant. “No.”

“Didn’t think so. You don’t know what’s good for you.” He empties a syringe into Steve and carries him out of the dungeon.

When Steve wakes, chained in Yasha’s apartment again, he eats and drinks solidly for some time. When he’s done, Yasha says, “So tell me what happened.”

Steve shrugs. “Not much to tell. I knew von Doom had Tony, so that’s where I went. And when I got there I found...” He casts his eyes down, obviously upset. “Tony was dead. They caught me, chained me up, and forgot about me. You were the first person I’d seen for four days.”

“I told you that was what would happen.”

“You didn’t tell me Tony was dead.”

“There didn’t seem any point in upsetting you.”

“What else have you been keeping from me?”

“Hawkeye’s dead. Widow is happily working for us. The Hulk is causing so much trouble I think they’re thinking of blasting him into space. We don’t get much news from Asgard, so I don’t know about Thor.”

“What else has happened?”

“The same as ever. Wars, diplomacy, natural disasters. Perhaps these days we play with more vicious rules, but the game is the same.”

Stark’s death has obviously hit Steve hard. He’d probably been working his plans around Stark, use his technological genius as the start of some fightback.

Steve says, “This is where you beat me up, isn’t it?”

“I only hurt you when you need to be taught a lesson. I think ending up in a dungeon was lesson enough. I told you, I love you. I only want to look out for you.”

Steve says very quietly, “If you really loved me, you’d let me go.”

“I can’t let you go because I love you. I’ve got to save you from yourself.”

Steve sighs and closes his eyes. Yasha draws him into his arms, and after a moment Steve wraps his arms around him. Something warm blooms in Yasha’s chest–something like contentment.

When Yasha gets up the next morning, he finds Lukin sitting in his kitchen. The General does not travel alone, so even though Yasha cannot see anyone else, he knows he is in the sights of at least three rifles.

“Our analysts came up with over thirty scenarios for what had become of Captain America after Hydra lost him. The possibility that he had been taken by one of our own operatives simply to feed his own perversion did not cross their minds.”

The door to Steve’s room is half open, and Yasha can see that Steve is still there, obviously listening, but Lukin is speaking in Russian and Yasha is certain that Steve does not understand.

He does not talk back to Lukin unless he is asked a question or the success of a mission depends on it. So he stays silent.

“But you could have taken a pretty blond boy from anywhere, with far less trouble than he is causing you. Why did you take Captain America?”

Yasha has no answer for that, or at least no answer which he wants to give Lukin.

Lukin takes something out of his pocket. US Army dog tags, old and tarnished. “These are yours. But you already knew that.” He hands them to Yasha. They belong to a James B. Barnes. They are his. “The Winter Soldier works for me. Does Sargeant James Barnes also work for me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How did he escape?”

“I was careless, sir. He used food packaging as a lock-pick.”

Lukin nods. “Otherwise, your containment seems adequate. Is he dangerous?”

“Not to me.”

“Tell me why I should not punish you.”

“I am allowed to take on targets that do not interfere with the organization's plans. I am encouraged to hinder our rivals. That is all I have done, sir.”

“You did not clear the target with us. You are to hand over items of potential value or use. You were careless enough to let him escape. That is sufficient for punishment.”

Lukin stares down Yasha for a few moments. Physical punishment does not concern Yasha, but Steve’s fate does. He knows he keeps his expression neutral, but his every action up to this point makes this fact obvious.

Lukin speaks again. “Captain America has little inherent value to us. We could send him to Siberia, but I think he would be a poor worker, however we tried to motivate him. A disruptive influence as well. I believe our scientists will want blood and tissue samples from him, but we are more interested in how the change was effected than how he is now. There are those we could sell or trade him to, but I find I do not want to give them the satisfaction. So, for the moment, you may keep him. If anything of interest comes from the blood and tissue samples, our scientists will have access to him. And if you fail us, you will watch us break him before we break you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You will report to me for punishment at 1100.”

Lukin leaves, and Yasha brings Steve breakfast.

“You going to tell me what just happened?”

“My boss found out about you. Says you can stay. I have to let the scientists in if they get some ideas they want to test on you.” Yasha sighs. “If you hadn’t gone and drawn attention–”

“You’re not going to make me feel guilty for leaving.”

“I don’t want you to feel guilty, I want you to stop being an idiot.”

Punishment is not the worst he’s had. Lukin is obviously not that angry, but he has to show that his operatives cannot do something like that behind his back. So Yasha can just about walk when they’re finished with him, even though he’s bruised and burnt and his head is swimming. As always, the marks are in places which are easily hidden, so he doesn’t even merit a second glance from people on his way home. Something surfaces in his head, an old memory, an old comfort, and he goes home via a pizzeria. He’s still off-balance from his punishment, and very nearly orders in English before correcting himself.

Steve is perceptive, of course, sees something is wrong, but takes the pizza and just looks at him, waiting for an explanation.

Yasha doesn’t give him one. “Probably not the pizza you’re used to.”

“But you remembered what I like on it.”

They eat in silence. When they’re done he reaches to take Steve’s empty box and Steve catches his wrist in his hand, pushes his sleeve up to see the burn marks on his forearm. “What did they do to you?”

Yasha laughs mirthlessly. “You think I can kidnap Captain America behind my superiors’ backs without consequence?”

“Does––do they do this to you often?”

“Only when I step out of line or screw up. I try to do neither.”

“I’m sorry.”

Yasha sighs. “You know I’d take a hundred times that for you. But if you’d just behave–”

“This is about more than you and me.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s about you trying to deny what has happened, and me trying to keep you safe. That’s all.”

“I don’t want to be safe.”

“You never did.”

“Those burns need taking care of. Let me.”

Yasha strips his shirt off, brings disinfectant and cotton wool and sits in front of Steve, knowing he can’t reach the burns on his back.

The memory that comes to him is so vivid as to be a flashback. They’re in a tent after Steve has brought him back from Hydra, and Steve is cleaning his wounds because Bucky has refused point blank to let any of the doctors do it. Because Steve is the one person in the world he trusts complete and utterly, even if he has to pinch himself to believe that this has really happened and this is really Steve.

He turns his head to look at Steve in the present, and Steve is so close and so beautiful that he leans in and kisses him gently on the lips. He doesn’t push it, just parts his own lips. Steve is completely still for long moments before he responds to the kiss, kisses Bucky-Yasha-he’s not sure who he is right now. He turns in Steve’s embrace, the more easily to continue the kiss. He trails his hand down Steve’s torso, but as he wraps his hand around Steve’s cock, Steve jerks backwards.

“No–”

“I can make you feel so good, you know I can.”

“I don’t want–”

“C’mon Steve, I can feel how much you want it.”

“Please, Bucky–”

“I don’t have to fuck you, but I need you bad, Steve. C’mon, let me. Please.” He twists his thumb around the head of Steve’s cock, feels Steve’s suppressed shiver. He unzips his pants, slides closer so their cocks rub against each other, wraps one hand around both of them and rocks his hips. He presses his face into Steve’s neck, rides the friction until he comes, uses his hand to bring Steve off.

He catches his breath and says, “I told you I’d make it good for you.”

“I don’t... I don’t want...”

Steve looks confused, upset, so Yasha strokes his clean hand through his hair, says, “Hey, you’re okay, I’ll make sure you’re okay.”

That’s what Yasha does, what Bucky did. Steve is so lost in this world, and Yasha has to make sure he’s okay.

In the morning he takes the blood and tissue samples he was ordered to.

“Sorry, Steve, it’s part of the deal.”

Steve doesn’t even flinch as the scalpel slices into his arm. “It’s not much of a deal.”

“Better than any other you’re going to get.” Yasha grins. “Want me to kiss it better?”

“Go to work, jerk.”

On his way home Yasha stops by an art store. He doesn’t have to pretend Steve isn’t there any more. He buys good quality sketchbooks, pastels, and charcoals. He still makes sure that there’s nothing there that can be used as a tool to escape. He doesn’t doubt that if he’s given the opportunity, Steve will escape again.

“There’s not much to draw in here.”

“Half the stuff you drew was always from the inside of your head.”

“It’s easier to draw from life.”

Yasha grins and lies on his side, facing Steve, head propped up on one arm. “So draw me.”

Steve picks up a stick of charcoal. “These aren’t sharp enough for detailed work, so don’t start complaining when it doesn’t look like you.”

Yasha rolls his eyes, but stays still. He’s had practice at this, Steve complaining if he moved. Not bad preparation for being a sniper, actually. He never would admit it, even before, even when he was Bucky, but he loves this. Being the focus of Steve’s full attention and concentration.

Steve finishes the drawing relatively quickly, again saying he can’t make it detailed. The figure on the page is half-expressionistic, but he recognises the form of his own body, the inorganic lines of his left arm. The only oddity is the face, which is darkly shadowed and almost featureless, a blank in contrast to the body. He knows Steve can draw portraits, and thinks he must have made a mistake and shaded over it.

When he comes home from work the next day he finds Steve lying on the floor, drawing (there is no table, no chair in the room, nothing extraneous that Steve could use). There are streaks of color from the pastels on his arms, a couple of touches on his face and shoulders.

Yasha looks at the drawings. They are bright and summery, pictures of a New York seventy years gone. He recognizes all the places in them. He thinks he has most of Bucky’s memories now.

He swipes at a streak of color on Steve’s nose. “You’re covered.”

“Sorry.”

“Looks good on you.”

He brings dinner and they eat sitting together. When they’re done he looks at the drawings again. “That’s old man Lafferty’s store, right?”

Steve smiles. “Yeah. You can’t get the smell right in a drawing, though.”

Yasha wrinkles his nose. He’s smelled things a hundred times worse since then, but the intense reaction of childhood stays with him. He points to another drawing. “I kissed you in that alleyway.”

“It was still a dumb thing to do. If we’d been caught–”

“We weren’t, and I told you we wouldn’t be. You need to learn to trust my judgement.” He cups Steve’s face in one hand. “Can I kiss you again?”

Steve hesitates before smiling and saying, “Yeah.”

Yasha wonders why he hadn’t kissed Steve from the start, because he loves it. It makes him feel like a dumb kid again, when making out was the aim of any evening out. But he is an adult now, and he wants more. Though right now, he wants something different.

“Fuck me.”

Steve looks genuinely surprised.

Yasha grins. “I’m sure you remember how, and if you don’t, I’ll teach you again.” He strips out of his shirt and pants and kisses Steve again.

“I don’t know–”

“I remember how much you loved it. When you got big, you loved being able to hold me down. Please.” He digs a packet of lube out of his pants pocket. He kisses Steve again, and as they kiss he pulls him down, so Steve is on top of him. It’s a vulnerable position, but he feels safe with Steve. Steve is hesitant, but he doesn’t resist as Yasha lubes his fingers and guides his hand to his ass.

It’s been too long since he last did this, and it burns, but he wants it, spreads his legs further.

“C’mon Steve, do it, please, c’mon.” He pushes forward, is rewarded with an intake of breath as Steve’s cock slides along his ass crack. “Do. It.”

Steve finally pushes in, and Yasha gasps. Steve seems to have gotten with the program, starts to fuck him properly, and yeah, it’s good. Steve wraps his hand around Yasha’s cock without prompting, and it goes from good to great. He rocks forward to meet Steve’s thrusts, to get deeper, until his orgasm washes over him. Steve comes inside him, then drops to rest on top of him.

Steve is heavy, the floor is uncomfortable, and Yasha has one ankle twisted in Steve’s chains, but he doesn’t want to move.

It’s Steve who moves first, sits up and untangles Yasha’s ankle for him. He has that slump to his shoulders again, and Yasha waits for what he’s going to say.

“That’s all I’m here for, isn’t it?”

“What? Sex? Is that what you think?”

“I used to be able to help people, to do good. Now I’m just someone for you to fuck.”

The curse from Steve is uncharacteristic, and means it’s serious. “You’re dumber than you look if you think that. You know what my boss asked me when he was here? He asked me if I wanted a guy to fuck, why I hadn’t taken someone easier than you. If I want sex, I can get it, Steve. You’re here because I need to keep you safe.”

“But while you’re keeping me here, that’s all I am. I can’t do anything. I can’t be anything. I’m nothing.”

Yasha is genuinely taken aback. “You’re everything, Steve.”

Steve is half shouting now. “Not here I’m not! Can’t you understand that? Everything that makes me me is gone, Bucky.”

Yasha shouts back. “And what the hell other options are there? I ain’t gonna watch you die, Steve. I ain’t gonna see you tortured. And if you’re too dumb to keep safe, I have to keep you here. This is your own fault!”

“You are not going to blame me–”

“Yeah, I am, I’m gonna blame you for not getting the fucking picture. I have to let people tie me down and burn me, electrocute me, because it’s better than the fucking alternative, so don’t fucking tell me I don’t know about shitty choices. All you’ve got left are fairy stories, because everything you ever stood for, everyone who ever watched your back is fucking dead or as good as. Except me. Just you and me. That’s it. I swore, I swore before I was old enough to understand anything about the world, that I was going to keep you safe. Fucking signed and sealed with a prayer, for all the good that did.“

“There has to be something better–”

“No, there doesn’t! There doesn’t have to be anything! There is what there is.”

“We could make something better–”

Yasha slumps against the wall, and says quietly, “We could? You and me? Couple of busted, century-old science experiments? What’s your plan, Cap?”

Steve stares at him, still angry, but he can tell that he’s losing the impetus of his anger, seeing (at least partly) Yasha’s point. After a few moments he sits next to Yasha.

Yasha stares into space, not wanting to look at Steve just now. “I’ll bring you books. Newspapers if you want them. You–” He swallows, because this is something the Bucky-part of him wants to say, and the Winter Soldier-part disagrees with violently, “You can make plans. Convince me that there is something else.” He sighs. “I don’t think you will. The world’s too far gone.”

He barely sleeps that night. In the early hours of the morning, he goes out for a walk to clear his head. His route takes him past the roughest bars he can think of, hoping there is a fight he can join, but he’s too late, the fights are all done, the drunks gone home. There’s an itch under his skin that he knows from experience violence will cure.

He considers going home and fucking Steve, but this is not that kind of itch. Considers hitting Steve, but knows that Steve’s stoic unresponsiveness will not properly scratch the itch either. So he goes into work, goes to the detention block. Katya is on the desk, catches his expression and says, “Sasha does not want his interrogations interfered with for most of our prisoners, but there are two whom he will allow others to work on. Especially as it’s you.”

“Do they need to be kept alive?”

Katya checks the files. “One does.”

“Then take me to the one that doesn’t.”

The woman has the barest shreds of stubborn defiance left. She must have been quite something when she came in. Someone Steve would have appreciated. She screams, she cries, she even begs for mercy, but she doesn’t give over any information. He sees in her Steve’s fate without his protection, and that fear feeds his punches.

When he is done with the woman he walks out, washes his hands, and leans over Katya’s desk to kiss her on both cheeks. “Thank you.”

Katya smiles at him. “That did you some good.”

Yasha smiles back. “It did. She’s still breathing, if you’re interested. She might live if someone sees to her.”

Katya shrugs. “Vanya won’t appreciate being woken up. If she’s still breathing come nine, we’ll see.”

He goes home, only because he wants a break before he starts work again. He checks his hands before he goes in to bring Steve breakfast. No marks, no missed bloodstains, nothing to explain.

That evening on his way home he buys the only English-language newspaper which is allowed to be sold. He stops by the bookstore again, buys some novels, and steals some books on history and politics. He doesn’t want to appear too interested. It’s probably stuff that Steve knows already, but it doesn’t hurt to keep him occupied.

“The papers only write what they’re allowed to write. But if I got you the New York papers, it’d be the same. Just different people making the rules.”

Steve nods. “But you know what’s really going on.”

“For some things and some places.”

They talk about politics. Or rather, he corrects Steve’s wide-eyed innocence about democracy and liberty and all the bullshit he’s been brought up with. Steve doesn’t believe him, he can see that. But he has to try. It makes him weary rather than angry, so this is another day where he pities Steve rather than wanting to hit him.

He has a nightmare that night, he thinks triggered by the idea of Steve trying to take on the world. He wakes in the morning tired and irritated, so when he goes to Steve, he pulls the lever to restrain him reflexively, without thinking about it.

“Please, Bucky...”

Steve has to know who is in charge, needs to be reminded what the world is like. He’s allowed him far too much leeway, far too much space to think that he can tell Yasha what to do. He fucks him hard and sees that Steve’s control is slipping. He tries to remain blank, but the barest of winces and flinches are now visible.

They end up in a routine. Yasha buys Steve’s newspaper, eats with him, talks with him. They argue about current affairs. They fuck. Sometimes Yasha realises that Steve needs a lesson, hurts him or rapes him. That happens less and less often. Steve’s not stupid. He learns.

Yasha is still sent on missions. No one comes to Steve while Yasha is away (very few people know he is there, and Yasha is sure that Steve isn’t hiding anything from him).

After this has gone on for a few months, Lukin calls him into his office.

“There are tests Dr. Vasilyev needs to run on Rogers. He will have access to your apartment while you are away.”

He nods. There is nothing he can do about this. He just hopes that the fact that Lukin has told him in advance means that Steve won’t be damaged. He is not even allowed home to tell Steve before he is sent away.

It is a long mission, and he is away for several weeks. He tries not think about what Vasilyev and his colleagues might be doing, as this is a distraction from this task. When he returns he is called to the detention block before he goes home. Lukin has Vasilyev in the restraint harness, wired to the wall. He looks like he has been tortured for at least a few days, if not longer.

“I thought that Dr. Vasilyev would like to explain to you what happened in person. Dr. Vasilyev?”

“I did not realise– I thought he was broken– I did not know he could pick locks–”

Lukin smiles and flicks the switch. Vasilyev screams and thrashes. He flicks the switch back.

“Doctor, you were told of his capabilities. You were told how he escaped from the Soldier before. I think you let Captain America escape deliberately. What do you say to that?”

Yasha thinks that is certainly a possibility. Vasilyev is not a strong character, and Steve can be persuasive. He probably should have thought of this when Lukin told him that Steve was to be experimented on, but he’d assumed Vasilyev would be with a team of scientists, as a backup and safeguard against doing anything stupid.

“I did not– I did not let him escape–”

But why and how Steve escaped is not important to Yasha right now. “Do we know where he is?”

Lukin raises an eyebrow at him. “It distresses you that anyone else could possess him, doesn’t it?”

Yasha doesn’t bother lying. “Yes, it does.”

“Vasilyev? Did Rogers give any hints to you?”

“No, sir, he did not say anything, I did not let him–”

Lukin looks at Yasha. “You will find Rogers. If he is engaged in activities that are damaging our enemies, you will leave him at liberty, commence surveillance, and report back. If he is intending to attack us or has been captured, you will retrieve him. This is a yellow operation.”

Yellow operations were those which, while normal missions, heavily monitored the operatives–tests of competence and loyalty. Sometimes they were told which were yellow operations; sometimes they were not. Good marks from the monitors meant rewards; poor marks and he would be in Vasilyev’s place. He has no objection to Lukin’s orders, so scoring well should not be a problem.

First, he goes home. He needs to think of what Steve would do. Steve obviously left in more of a hurry this time, there are drawers and cupboards open in the kitchen where he must have taken what he thought he needed. He looks around the apartment, looking for clues. There is a note tucked into his bed. All it says is, “I love you.”

Yasha’s heart sinks. It’s a goodbye. Whatever Steve is going to do, he doesn’t think he will survive––or doesn’t intend to survive.

But that doesn’t help him work out where he has gone. He sits on the floor in Steve’s room, tries to get inside his head. He looks through the pictures piled on the floor, landscapes mainly, places Steve has been. A few from pictures in books. Some half-abstract pictures of him. Nothing that gives any leads.

Then he notices the book tucked in the corner, deliberately set to be slightly out of sight, a big glossy hardcover art book. He picks it up and realises that there are pictures carefully shut in the book. He picks them out.

A lump comes to Yasha’s throat as he looks at them, because every one of them shows him strapped down in that Hydra lab, so many years ago. They are exquisitely detailed, more than should be possible with the unsharpened charcoals Steve has. So detailed that for a moment Bucky is back in that lab, with the smells and the noises and the pain.

He closes his eyes and collects himself. So Steve will be going after Hydra. The Red Skull may be dead, but Zola is happily and efficiently continuing the organization’s work. Zola is also less of a showman than the Red Skull, and he may well have already captured or killed Steve without feeling the need to tell the world.

He scouts, researches, finds that Steve has managed to take out two smaller Hydra facilities, obviously looking for Zola and not finding him. But it is also obvious he is a lot more reckless and careless than he used to be. There have been no hits for some days. Though Steve may forget it, even Captain America is just one man, so it was inevitable that Hydra would get the better of him eventually.

It takes a while to work out exactly where Steve is being held. After that, though Yasha is also just one man, he has planned and prepared, is careful, and has had a lot of practice taking apart Hydra facilities. Zola attempts to negotiate and Yasha shoots him, then empties another two rounds into his brain, just to make sure. With the way that people don’t stay dead, it’s probably not enough, but it makes him feel better.

Steve is in even worse shape than last time. He may not keep wounds very long, but the amount of dried blood he’s coated in is enough to show what he’s gone through. He’s mumbling his name, rank, and serial, but he’s mixing them up. He manages to focus on Yasha. “Bucky?”

He brushes the hair back from Steve’s forehead. “I’ll always come get you, Stevie. You’re safe now.”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry–”

“Shush, it’s okay, you’re okay.”

He injects Steve, knocks him out. While he thinks that Steve might be biddable enough to follow him, it’s still too much of a risk. When he gets Steve home, he chains him up before washing and shaving him, just like the first time. But this time he wraps the both of them in the duvet, holds Steve in his arms and strokes his hair as he waits for him to wake up.

“Bucky–”

“You’re home, Stevie.” He kisses him on his forehead.

“I wanted– I was going to–”

“Shush, I know, I know, you were going to take them down. Make the world a little better, right?”

Steve nods. Then Steve is crying, and Yasha pulls him close, lets him cry into his shoulder. He rocks him gently, rubs his back, mumbles soothing nonsense.

It takes a long time for Steve to cry himself out. Eventually he’s just taking big, shuddering breaths, no more tears. Slowly his breathing evens out.

Steve says, very quietly, “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry enough to have learnt your lesson?”

“It shouldn’t be like this.”

“I know, Steve, I know.”

Yasha wants to stay wrapped around Steve, stay comforting, but he also knows that Hydra will not have been looking after his physical needs. So he brings him food and drink, gently makes him eat even though Steve seems not to want to. When he lets go of Steve he can see the fear that Steve is trying so hard to hide. So when it comes to that time, Yasha brings the pillows and covers from his own bed, sleeps wrapped in Steve’s arms.

He has to go to work in the morning. It tears him a little inside to leave Steve like this. Steve’s breaking point had obviously been reached somewhere in that Hydra base. He kisses him goodbye, tells him he loves him, and doesn’t look back as he leaves, because he doesn’t want to see Steve’s expression.

Yasha is commended for his work. Because this was a yellow mission, the fact that he has Captain America is much more widely known in the organization. Yasha is not happy about this. The more people who know something, the less secure it is. It still seems that Lukin’s main interest in Captain America is ensuring that any rivals who want him do not have him, so he can remain in Yasha’s custody. But he is told they will move apartments soon, somewhere more secure.

In the mess Kostya smirks at him and says, “Is your new codename the Pervert?”

“Only if yours is the Virgin.”

Kostya sneers. “Better virgin than pervert.”

Yasha smiles sweetly. “Count up how many more women I’ve had than you in the last five years. Then consider that I wasn’t even trying.”

He feels secure in the face of the names. He knows the senior command don’t care as long as he gets the job done, and he has proven just how good he is at that. He’s always been the outsider, and the people who were not concerned with that are not concerned with another facet being added to his strangeness. He even gets one congratulation for “making Captain America take it like a girl.” He grins ferally at that, lets them think that’s what motivates him.

Steve’s smile when he comes home is bright and brittle. He can see the fear, the brokenness under it. He kisses him, brings him dinner. They eat in silence, seated close by each other. Physical contact seems to calm Steve.

“You were right. I thought because I stood it once before I could––but I couldn’t. There isn’t– there aren’t– there’s nothing I can do.”

He holds Steve’s hand, smiles at him sadly. “I just wish I could have convinced you without you having to go through that.”

“You saved me.”

“It’s what I do. You’ve done the same for me.”

Steve manages a half smile. “My hero?”

Yasha grins. “Aw, shucks, you sure know how to make a guy feel wanted.”

He doesn’t even consider sleeping in his own bed. He can’t leave Steve.

In the morning he rolls Steve onto his back, pushes his legs apart. Steve makes a little noise that might be “no.”

Yasha already has his fingers inside him when he says, “C’mon, it’ll take your mind off things.”

Steve closes his eyes but doesn’t move away. Yasha takes him gently, mindful of Hydra’s rough handling, then sucks him off. Kisses him in the center of his chest, says, “I love you,” before going to fix them some breakfast.

It’s hard to leave him again, he lingers, long kisses, until he finally pulls himself away.

He’s told that they will move Steve that night, and he will follow the next day. He is allowed to see the new apartment. It is fitted out similarly to his current set-up, but looks better, more professionally done than he was able to do on his own. He tests everything, makes sure it is secure. He trusts his own handiwork more than he will trust anyone else’s.

“We’re moving tonight.”

There is a flicker of fear across Steve’s face. “Yeah?”

“Just a new apartment. In case anyone comes looking for you. It’ll be fine.”

They move Steve unconscious again, though Yasha is almost certain now that he would walk across town with him without complaint. He is aware of the other operatives scrutinising him, trying to figure out the strange relationship. He acts possessive, dominant, handles the unconscious man roughly. Disguises his discomfort over anyone else having contact with Steve with aggression. Steve isn’t awake, won’t remember it.

Kostya is one of the operatives helping with the removal. “Are you going to make a woman of him for us now, pervert?”

Yasha makes a disparaging noise. “Not while he’s asleep and can’t remember his humiliation.” He steps into Kostya’s personal space. “Why, are you so desperate for sex that you want to watch?”

Kostya flinches, backs down, and the other operatives snicker. Yasha knows he can manage this as long as he’s the stronger one and doesn’t blink first, and he has had long practice in that.

But he doesn’t like the operatives’ reactions. He doesn’t think that Steve is entirely safe. Someone else might think that they can come and use him while Yasha is away. Once Steve is chained down, the other operatives leave, Yasha sets up every trick he knows that will help him detect if someone else has been there while he has been out. Steve would probably tell him if that had happened, but not if the operative was clever enough to use threats against Yasha for his silence. Yasha is still confident he would be able to tell if Steve was lying to him, but a backup doesn’t do any harm.

He doesn’t like leaving Steve to wake up on his own, so he leaves him a note, folding it into his hand.

The next day he lets it be known that if anyone else so much as touches Steve, he will kill them. He is careful to frame his threat like Steve is his trophy, rather than someone he cares about.

It is late afternoon before he can officially move into his new apartment. Steve tries to hide his relief. He bundles Steve into a bear hug and holds him until he feels Steve relax.

He doesn’t let go, and says into Steve’s ear, “What do you think of the new place?

He feels Steve smile. “It’s exactly the same as the old one, Buck.”

He pulls back, looks at Steve, smiles back. “Nah, the grouting ‘round the sink is much better. ‘Cause I didn’t do it.”

Steve pulls him into another tight hug. Yasha can feel how much he needs to touch, needs the physical reassurance.

They slip into a routine again. Steve reads, draws, they fuck. He has to go on missions. His threats are effective, and no one comes to bother Steve while he is away. The snow melts, the sun bakes, the snow comes again. In all that time he only has to punish Steve three times, and really it’s much more to do with the missions he’s come from than what Steve has done. He doesn’t apologize. Steve may have learned, but a reminder does not go amiss.

“I can look after the apartment for you.”

Steve has made this offer several times now. Yasha is torn. Steve wants to be helpful, wants to be useful, wants a little more freedom than his one room. Steve hasn’t seen daylight for months now, and while the serum keeps him healthy, he is deathly pale. But the moment he unlocks the chains, it’s a risk. A big risk. If Steve escapes again, Lukin may take him from him.

But now he thinks that Steve won’t run if he’s there to watch him. Yasha brings the key to the chains.

“I look after you, remember? You don’t have to look after the apartment. But you can at least see the rest of it. If I take you to see the sunshine, will you promise not to try and leave?”

“I promise.” Steve is a man of his word, so that really means something.

“You can’t go near the window either.”

“I know.” Steve smiles shyly. “I wouldn’t unless you gave me some clothes anyway.”

“Oh. Yeah. That. I forget. Naked is a good look on you.”

They are high up in the building, not overlooked by anyone, so as long as Steve stays back from the window it will be fine. The sun is bright, and even up here you can tell it’s shining on crisp new snow. Yasha unlocks Steve’s chains, takes him by the hand and leads him to the square of sunlight in the middle of the living room.

Steve just stands there for a moment, looking out of the window, and Yasha stands behind him, wraps his arms around him.

“It’s... nice. Feeling the sun on your skin.”

“I’m sorry I kept you in the dark for so long. I just couldn’t trust–”

“I know. I was stupid.” He looks at Yasha hopefully. “I’m trying to be better.”

“I know you are.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too, Steve.”