A/N: guys. i'm sorry, i'm so sorry. let's just say life + extended writer's block. i cherish and adore EVERY SINGLE review, alert, and favourite i have received in these past few months. i have them all in a special folder in my email. I never meant to take such a break, but for all you beautiful people, here is the long-awaited CHAPTER EIGHT.
The passing of time had an odd effect on Steve. It would seem like a minutes took a century to pass and later an hour was like a second. Bruce, who was feeling similar, blamed the 'sthenotranq' they were being dosed.
The tortures, too, would pass quickly and slowly. Knives, hammers, pins, needles…..all were painful, and all were administered apathetically. It bothered Steve to no end, the blank faces and eyes empty of any emotion. The only emotions he'd seen in the compound's staff were Kendall's.
After the first two weeks – or what Steve guessed at – Dominus stopped torturing the two Avengers personally. Instead, another doctor was assigned the task. Steve didn't know the man's name but hated him just as much as Dominus, if not more. The new doctor proved to be very adept at his job, as his tortures were not only physically agonizing but also psychologically. Steve swore to Bruce one day that he would never touch a knife again. Steve had taken to calling the man Adolf because of the man's stature and his obvious apathy for life. Bruce approved of the name.
Another week passed.
Steve and Bruce were slouched as far in their chairs as possible when Adolf came in; both Avengers' faces went from pained to cold in a matter of seconds, though to his credit Adolf was never fazed by their murderous glares. Behind him were four of the huge men that often hung around the room, as if they were afraid the captives could escape. With a short, sharp order in what Steve familiarized as French, the huge men paired up and made for the two restrained men. In a process that Steve refused to admire, the four men quickly had Steve and Bruce standing, but still bound. Zip-ties harshly bound their wrists behind their backs, while another larger pair restrained their upper arms. Their ankles were also bound, loose enough so they could walk at faster than a shuffle but not much else.
As they were roughly grabbed and shoved out into the hallway, Steve tried to ignore the pain in his arms as he and Bruce walked side-by-side, occasionally bumping shoulders as their weak legs tried to hold them up. Truly, he was terrified at how overall weak he felt and he despised the powerless and defenseless position he and Bruce held.
The walk was a slow one, tempting Steve to try to make a break for it, to run. It would hurt but he could get out of the cable ties; the real problem, though, was how to not only take down their burly guards but also get out of the compound. He had no idea where the exit was, no clue as to the number of guards and other details he needed to make a plan that would actually work. His alternative, though, was more infuriating: wait. Steve would be truly surprised (and pissed) if Tony wasn't looking for then that instant, that the other Avengers would just let them disappear.
Steve resolutely ignored the sudden doubt that followed his previous reasoning; the other Avengers would come for them. They would get out of this situation and they would survive, and they would destroy this compound and its director.
As if Bruce could read his thoughts, the doctor bumped Steve's shoulder and they exchanged glances.
A plan started to form in Steve's mind as they quietly walked down the seemingly never-ending maze of hallways.
"How big is this place?" Steve decided to wonder aloud. Their guards gave no answer. They are gone through yet another door, each locked with a keycard, fingerprint scanner and eye-scanner; this last one was their fourth such door.
He waited five minutes before trying again.
"Where are we now?"
Much like Bruce had done during the first few meetings with Dominus, Steve started tapping into his inner asshole.
"Could we at least have some water?" That earned Steve a swift punch to the abdomen, and Steve couldn't help fighting back a bit.
One broken nose and finger later, Steve and Bruce were back to walking down the hallways with the guards at their back, though they were more wary now.
Steve eventually got bored of glaring at the floor and instead started trying to look through the reinforced windows in the doors they passed. The world took on a sort-of horror-movie quality (Tony had made Steve watched Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween a couple months back. It had not been a pleasant experience.)
Most windows yielded empty rooms; in one, though, Steve saw a naked man on a table, dark hair an almost-invisible inkblot in the red-stained white walls. Steve shuddered when the man's agonized cries echoed through the hallway.
Bruce gave Steve a look of sympathy at his sickened grimace.
In a room across the hall, Steve fought his gag reflex as he watched a small blonde girl scream bloody-murder as an expressionless lab-coated man slice open her stomach and back off. The resulting mess made Steve sick; the guards' at his and Bruce's back seemed content to let them stop and stare in horror at the shrieking girl as her blood gushed out in a crimson flood, her arms straining against the restraints as she cried for mercy.
Steve couldn't take it after a minute more, turned to the side and puked his guts out, though not much came up due to their lack of food.
Bruce looked agonized.
It was another twenty minutes after stopped at the girl's room before Bruce and Steve reached their destination. Their new room was almost exactly the same as the previous one, though it was noticeably larger and also had an ugly gray curtain separating the room in two.
Adolf was waiting for them in the room, his face expressionless as they were both forced into restrained chairs. Steve had the mind to notice the difference in these chairs from the firsts; the arm restrains were higher and as they were strapped he found they restrained at the bicep and not the forearm. He was grateful for it, too; he had broken another finger fighting the guards, though Bruce had managed to break one guard's nose.
In the room, Adolf looked indifferent to their protests. The guards roughly shoved the two captives into chairs sitting opposite each other, each on one side of the gray curtain. The man with the broken nose made sure to break one of Bruce's fingers as he harnessed him into the chair's restraints. Bruce growled at the pain.
The two guards left with one final hit at Steve's head; the burst of pain made Steve wince.
Vision blurring, Steve blinked a few times as the pain resonated through his skull, setting off every bruise and cut on it and aggravating a still-healing concussion. He blinked furiously, panicking when his vision took its time to clean.
Adolf looked at him with his peculiarly dead-looking eyes. Steve wondered in a small part of his brain of this guy even had emotions – psychopath? sociopath? He couldn't remember the name.
There was a flicker in his peripheral vision he saw a quick flash of silver and suddenly there was a crisp, burning pain deep in his calves. The pain was making Steve woozy again, and he gritted his teeth to ignore it. He struggled weakly and in vain against his bindings as Adolf did the same to Bruce; Steve watched with worry as Bruce's face went white, though he couldn't even really remember a time now when it hadn't been pale.
He was losing his mind, surely. For a moment he had to re-count the days he'd figured they'd been there.
Another jolt of pain shocked his body, and he could feel the effects of the sthenotranq as it coursed through his body. Bruce had figured that it was a long-term tranq, as it not only managed to knock them out for more than ten minutes, but also had begun to dampen their abilities. Both healed at a much slower rate than they were accustomed to.
Steve's mood managed to sour even more as time moved on.
Three weeks into their new room (Steve had given up on finding a name to label the room that wouldn't give him a heart attack every time he heard it in the future) Steve finally heard something that might have actually been interesting.
"-the general'll be here in another month-" it was only said in passing, and the only reason Steve had heard was that one of their mystery-torturers hadn't completely shut the door. As an errant impulse Steve reached to rub the new wound in his thigh, forgetting that it hurt to rub a bullet wound. Looking down at his sweat-pants, he could barely tell what color they were, from both the holes and the various dried blood and dirt from his run in Rochester. Across the room Bruce was unconscious; he, too, had a brand-new and probably still-bleeding bullet wound in his thigh. Outside, the hushes conversation carried on. "He'll come to look at 'im, yeah. Yes, I know what I'm talking. You start to get sentimental or something I'll cut you off."
Hm. Maybe their torturers weren't as apathetic as he'd previously thought. He wished Bruce was still awake, if only for someone to share the conversation with. Instead, he started thinking through anyone he knew who could be 'the general'. He could rule out all the generals he knew; all of his generals were long dead, and he hadn't ever been introduced to any of the modern-day generals of the army. Bruce might have known, but he was unconscious and therefore incapable of sharing knowledge.
It was a true surprise when, in the dead of night – or, like any other pre-conceived notion of telling time Steve had, some time when all the blank-faced torturers left – the girl, Kendall, appeared. She had a couple bottles of water and a large napkin in each hand. Steve watched her warily, already too used to sudden attacks and pain. Shaking as constantly as the first time he'd seen her, he eyed more with worry than wariness now that he got a good look at her. Not speaking, she pulled a tiny folded-up table from somewhere deeper in the room, setting her items on top of it. When she unfolded the napkin to show its contents, just the sight of the bread made him actually feel the hunger that had been tearing apart his insides. Keeping silent, though, was priority, and as much as he wanted to wake up Bruce he was afraid of the reaction he'd have. Looking over to Bruce to assess the situation, he was surprised to see Bruce already awake. The conversation he'd heard in passing earlier sprang up in his mind, but Steve didn't want to discuss it with Kendall present, even if she was helping them. Without speaking Kendall fed both Steve and Bruce the bread; the taste made him want to burst into song. Smiling wanly, Kendall dipped her head to both of them and then departed, leaving the room looking as if nothing had been disturbed.
"That was unexpected," Bruce commented quietly, eyeing the room with hatred. Looking back to Steve, he saw the ex-soldier was rubbing the wound on his thigh, and it made Bruce want to abuse his own wound. "You're going to infect it," Bruce hissed, and guiltily Steve pulled back his arm.
As he did, Steve remembered the conversation. "Do you know any Army generals who would touch this place? I heard some of the guards mention it earlier."
Army generals…immortality….his thought process short-circuited, his mind shouting the name at him as Bruce was forced to see through every angle of why.
Immortal soldiers….the never-ending attempt of revenge and recovery of me….Goddamn it, the super-soldier himself. If Ross got his hands on Steve, he wouldn't even need Bruce anymore; the serum in there, in Steve's bones and blood. "Unfortunately, I do," he admitted. Taking a deep breath, he continued, thinking that he hadn't really wanted to tell anyone about it, but for the sake of their lives Steve would have to know.
"The man I think they're talking about is General Ross, and Army general who was actually in charge of the project that, um, resulted in me." He saw Steve blinked. "When I escaped, Ross justified chasing me for years by claiming the Other Guy was government property and I'd 'stolen' him. It never helped my situation with him that I'd, uh, dated his daughter, a co-worker. He's never forgiven me for any of it, and I can't imagine that he's coming to apologize." When he focused back on Steve, he saw his friend was staring intently at the floor. "Steve?"
Steve blinked. "I was planning," he explained, wishing he had a pen and paper to illustrate the plan formed in his mind. "The guards said that 'the general' would be arriving in about a month, so that should be plenty of time to escape," he said, despite the voice in his head that whispered, "if it's so easy, why haven't you?"
Bruce, hesitantly going over the plan his mind, nodded. "It's not much of a plan," he said, with a teasing air that then fled as he continued, "but with a motive such as this I think we can do it." He was being optimistic, he knew. It was more likely that they would never escape, that they would be stuck forever in a cold, sterile room while Ross laughed over them and their genes were used to kill….
"Bruce," he heard Steve say, and Bruce got the feeling he'd said his name several times. Steve leaned as far in his chair as he could, meeting Bruce's eyes with his blue ones. "It's going to be alright, Bruce," Steve said, pouring determination and confidence that he was forcing himself to feel into his words. Bruce nodded hesitantly. Satisfied that Bruce wasn't going to have a panic attack, Steve felt himself drift into an exhausted sleep.
When the door to their room opened, Steve was slightly surprised to see a different face behind a mask. Amid Steve's muted moans and Bruce's protests, Steve was drug out of the room and taken on through the cold pale facility. It took was seemed like hours to reach their destination, a gray gym-like room filled with machines. He was led stumbling to a treadmill and shoved onto it. While he braced himself to keep from falling, a pair of cuffs suddenly wrapped around his wrists, pulling his arms down with their weight. Not half as strong as usual, Steve gingerly pulled at the new restraint, looking at the mask-man quizzically. "You will run on this machine until we say otherwise," the man instructed as some sort of tech came up and attached little sticky square things that Steve thought might be some kind of monitors. The mask-man started the treadmill without warning, and Steve took his chance and jumped, running back towards the door. He got about ten feet from the treadmill before a pulse jumped through his body and sent him sprawling. Steve couldn't think through the blinding pain, could stop his body from jerking as if possessed. The scream he heard seemed to come from everywhere, and it was an eon before the pain subsided.
"The cuffs placed on you will give you an electric shock of about five hundred volts should you try to escape from this room or refuse the test. Should refusal continue, the shock capacity will be lifted higher." The man's words were short and clipped, the voice dull and monotonous.
They were going to force him to run? He'd been sitting bound in a chair for – what he considered, anyway – a month!
"You…expect me to run….when I've…been….sitting in a chair…for…a month?" it took far longer for his mouth to form and communicate the words than he would have liked, but at least he could still move. The reply was short and cruel. "Yes, Mr. Rogers, we do."
A/N: ahaha evil me, a/n on top and bottom. but guys, i love hearing from you; i also likes critiques. if you ever see a typo or a plot-hole or something, please tell me! these are all un-beta'd so i'm bound to miss something, and on that note, a beta...haha, i wouldn't ask anyone to deal with me
until the next chapter,
in which there is ever more pain and suffering, but our poor boys get a ray of hope at last.