CHAPTER FOURTEEN – Salt in Our Wounds

I must have dozed off at some point, unable to keep my eyes open any longer after spending what felt like hours staring at the door, waiting for Bucky or his bitch; Iris to reappear and do god knows what to me. When my eyelids eventually fluttered open, I was surprised to encounter Bucky standing before me.

I inwardly groaned, shifting in my seat to prop myself straight against the back of the chair. "What do you want?"

He didn't flinch at the scorn in my tone, merely frowned at me, letting the silence of the room enfold us. I couldn't quite read his expression; it almost appeared as if he was studying me, trying to remember who I was and what I meant to him. As much as I wanted to convince myself that my Bucky Barnes was alive, whatever was left was hidden beneath years of Russian KGB brainwashing. I knew the Winter Soldier file better than anyone. I'd been tracking him for years only to find he always disappeared right under my nose in various locations around the world. I knew this soldier was devoted to one cause, and that was whatever his government told him to do. This man before me was as mechanical as the arm they'd attached to his left shoulder.

"You're beginning to creep me out with the strong, silent type attit –"

He swung his bionic arm out, his tightly clenched fist connecting with my nose before I could appropriately brace myself. The force knocked me off the chair. A short cry parted my lips as I landed hard against the concrete floor. It'd been many years since anyone had been able to disarm me with a single punch, but I assumed the power was something as similar as being hit by a freight train.

"Christ…" I muttered rolling onto my back and staring up at him. "Do you feel better now?"

He reached for my arm, effortlessly hauling me onto my feet.

"What happened to you?" I whispered ignoring the wet, hot blood I felt oozing from my nose to stare at him as the pieces of the puzzle began to merge in my head. "I wasn't the only one Zola experimented on, was I? He did something to you while we were at the base…is that how you survived the fall –"

"Shut up!"

He grabbed the Gerber Mark combat knife from the sheath attached to his hip, instantly silencing the questions lingering on my tongue. He bent down to cut the rope around my ankles before doing the same with the rope binding my hands. He firmly held onto my arm, keeping me at his side as we walked out of the room. He led me along a corridor, passing several unmarked closed doors. Everything was painted an uncomforting off-white with the odd direction sign hanging from the ceiling. If I had to speculate my location, I would've thought it was an abandoned hospital – the confirmation didn't soothe my apprehension as I remembered Iris' taunt to harvest my organs.

Bucky pushed his way through a pair of swinging doors, revealing a handful of armed guards. Their conversation muted to watch as Bucky tugged me up a flight of stairs, disappearing around a corner and into another corridor.

"Where are you taking me? What are you going to do to me?"

He stopped abruptly before a closed door, glancing at me as he opened it, revealing the room. There was a small, made up double bed squished in one corner and a toilet bowl positioned on the opposite wall. Between the two was a single barred window, allowing sunlight to stream in and make me squint after being held in near darkness for so long. Bucky roughly pushed me in and closed the door behind me without a word. I stood motionless, listening as a secure bolt was locked in place. I'd traded one cell for another.

I searched the room top to bottom and found nothing of use to aid in an escape. They'd obviously cleared it out before hand, not wanting to give me any excuse to fight back or escape – they wanted me isolated. I sat down on the edge of the bed, reaching for the nearest pillow so I could strip off the slipcover. I ripped the material into equal strips and then held a piece to my broken nose.

For the first time, in a long time, I felt truly alone. Usually I kept my emotions at bay by immersing myself in work, because of my solid work ethic there was constantly a new mission waiting for me.

After being captured by HYDRA in late 1943, the Army listed me as MIA and ever since that had been my official status. It kept my family and friends protected – not that it mattered much these days as they'd all, apart from my younger sister passed on. I may have lost my blood relatives, but the Starks and the Carter's always welcomed me. Howard, Peggy, and I remained in touch over the long years, even when they stopped fighting wars and ventured into other projects, we were family. I would've given anything to be with them right now or at least find a way to break through Bucky's mind-altering awareness. I'd found the missing part of my life, and he didn't know me.

-x-

Darkness had fallen by the time the door opened again, revealing Bucky. He didn't say anything as he entered the room, closing the door behind him.

"You know me?" He probed.

I nodded slowly climbing off the bed, licking my lips as I steadied myself. I'd let him have the first punch as a freebie, but I wouldn't be caught off guard again, even if it cost me my life I would go down swinging.

"I don't know you."

"From what I know you've been programmed for one cause. Destruction."

He stomped forward, grabbing me by my arms, shoving me roughly back against the wall so my head narrowly missed hitting the window frame. The force still knocked the wind out of me though. Stray pieces of brown hair fluttered around my face as I harshly puffed out a breath.

"How do you know me?"

"I told you before, we met in Italy."

"In 1943?"

"World War Two, you were with the 107th and I was a nurse."

"I made you a promise?"

"Yes," I replied as his hands instantly released me. He started shaking his head but I continued to talk knowing how fragile the fragments of memories could be. The slightest feeling of familiarity could trigger the Russians conditioning to falter, allowing Bucky some clarity. "We were captured by HYDRA and experimented on. I was injected with a version of super-soldier serum but we didn't know that at the time. We were held together with other allied soldiers, you told me you loved me while we were there, that you wanted to marry me."

He looked up at me, a torment of emotion brewing within his blue eyes. I reached for his hand, making him step away from me. He didn't remove his hand from my grasp. I walked right up to him, raising my other hand to his face, tracing the handsome features that hadn't aged in the long years we'd been parted.

"Venus –"

"My name is Genevieve Renard."

"I don't remember."

"If we leave we can figure it out, together. I know people –"

"No!" He violently ripped his hand from mine, backing up towards the door. "Don't play games with me!"

"I was like you once. I had no control over my body or mind, I was ordered to kill people…brutally. I didn't care about anything but the mission they gave me. But I got free…you found me. My memories came back in time. The same could happen to you if you let me help you."

I swallowed the lump rapidly forming in my throat. I didn't want to appear weak before him, just hearing his voice had thrown me off my game. I couldn't think straight; my mind was flooded with memories of our short time together and the dreams I wish we could've made come true.

"I don't think I can go through losing you again, Bucky," I admitted miserably. "As dramatic as it sounds, I don't know if I can survive the heartbreak again."

"That wasn't me."

"I know. That's what hurts me the most."

"You're not my mission, Venus. I'll be back tomorrow night. Be ready," he stated and turned on his heel, marching out of the room, making me jump slightly when the lock was secured once again.

Nothing was resolved and I didn't know what to expect if he kept his word and showed up again.