14 – 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 James or his bitch; Iris to reappear and do god knows what to me. When my eyelids eventually fluttered open, I was surprised to encounter James 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 might've meant to him. As much as I wanted to convince myself that my James Barnes was alive, whatever was left was hidden beneath years of Russian KGB brainwashing. I knew the Winter Soldier file better than anyone, as I'd been tracking him for years only to find he disappeared right under my nose. I knew this man 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.
"Look, I might be the shiny new toy around here but you're starting to creep me out with the strong, silent type attitude. The James Barnes I –"
He swung his bionic arm out so his tightly clenched fist connected with my nose, 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 the force 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 someth –"
He grabbed a large 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 a number of 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.
James pushed his way through a pair of swinging doors, revealing a handful of armed guards. Their conversation muted to watch as James tugged me up a flight of stairs, disappearing round 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. James 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 that had since been my status to keep my family 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.
Darkness had fallen by the time the door opened again, and I was surprised that it was James standing in the doorway. He didn't say anything as he entered the room, closing the door behind him, while I slowly climbed off the bed.
"You know me?" He probed.
I nodded, 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. "We met a long time ago, on a distant battlefield."
"I don't remember you,"
"Is this some sort of a trick? Part of the so-called torture to get me to confess what I know? If it is, you're doing a poor job of it. I would rather die than give –"
He stomped forward, grabbing me by my shirt as he shoved my roughly back against the wall so my head narrowly missed hitting the window frame but the force still knocked the wind out of me. Stray pieces of brown hair fluttered around my face as I harshly puffed out a breath.
"How do you know me?"
"We were captured together. You were there with me when Johann Schmidt had me strapped down to a table, you watched…protested as Doctor Arnim Zola injected me with his very own super soldier serum."
"1943," I replied as his hands instantly released me. He started shaking his head but I continued to talk. "I met you in Italy, at a makeshift American Army base a couple of months before that. I was stationed there as a nurse, and you were a Sergeant with the 107th infantry. We were…friends, of sorts. You reminded me that despite all the death and carnage around us, there was something worth fighting for, you were my sanity…the light at the end of the tunnel."
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 however; 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.
"My name isn't really Venus; it's Genevieve…Genevieve Renard."
"Genevieve," he whispered staring at me for a long moment. "It sounds familiar,"
"Maybe this will jog your memory." I didn't think about anything as I reached up, pressing my lips softly against his, kissing him sweetly. Upon parting, he curled his metal arm round my waist, keeping me flush against his chest.
"I want to remember." He appeared to be having a moment of clarity.
"What have they done to you?"
"I don't know." He admitted quietly.
"If you can get me out of here, I can get you to my people…they will be able to help you, or at least attempt to figure out what might've happened to you," I gave his hand a light squeeze while the other curled around his neck so we remained standing close together. "I loved you…but I realized it too late. I never got the chance to tell you…"
"That wasn't me,"
"I know. That's what hurts the most." I reluctantly pulled away and turned my back on him, fighting back the tears as I stared up through the window at the moonlit sky. There was so much I wanted to tell him, and make up for the years we might've had together. Apart of me felt guilty for thinking such things as I still thought fondly of Steve every day.
"You're not my mission, Genevieve."
"What?" I turned round with a frown.
"I'll be able to release you tomorrow night." He stated and turned on his heel, marching out of the room, making me jump slightly when the lock was secured once again.