As Natasha, Loki and the rest of their team moved to find another way into the part of the compound Steve was trapped in they kept encountering dead bodies and fight signs everywhere they went.
“Do you think that…?” Natasha inquired pensively as she walked over another bloody body.
“It´s possible that Barnes is remembering?” Loki ended her thought; he had been considering the possibility himself.
“Yes.” Natasha agreed sternly. “There are cleaner ways to kill. He seems to be eliminating everyone he meets with extreme prejudice. This kind of killing … it takes rage. ”
“We can´t be sure of that; after all the meddling Hydra has done with his mind he could´ve just lost it. Either way I would rather get to Steve before he runs into Barnes again.” Loki acknowledged dryly; worryingly.
“I would too.” Natasha admitted sharply. “Don´t you think we should tell Steve?”
“No.” Loki answered firmly nodding his head negatively. “We can´t be sure of anything right now. In his state, bringing his hopes up… it might just end up getting him killed.” He ended grimly. Steve was an emotional wreck even if he refused to let it show. Why add to it?
“Look, stairs!” Natasha motioned everyone to follow her hurryingly.
“Sir, the soldier is eliminating all of our defenses.” The younger man reported unsettled.
“Is the trap set yet?” His commander officer inquired without showing concern at his news.
“Yes Sir, but …” The soldier tried to say something else but was harshly cut off by his superior.
“Tell the pilot to be ready for my sign.” Karavayev severely commanded him. “And make sure the helicopter path is kept clear, soldier. Retrieving the asset is more important than this base or ourselves.”
“Understood Sir.” The soldier answered with compliance immediately as he saluted.
Meanwhile Steve hadn´t found much resistance on his way; only a few straggler soldiers that had somehow escaped Bucky´s wrath crossed his path. He observed quietly the lifeless bodies in his path uncomfortable. Maybe Natasha was right; the man he knew, he wouldn´t … or would he? And after all that Hydra had done to him, shouldn´t that …? He tried to shook the thought off; he hadn´t tried to justify anything like that since the war … maybe the problem was that the war never ended for people like them. The sound of gunshots at the distance snapped him out of his thoughts calling his attention. Immediately he approached to investigate stealthily suddenly emerging into a large high ceiling dome. It looked like the main headquarters of the base.
Bucky was shooting angrily against Novikov and Karavayev who ducked behind a control panel holding their position; waiting.
“Bucky!” Steve called out distracting Bucky, but not before managing to shoot Karavayev´s shoulder.
“No.” Bucky´s eyes widened as if he had seen a ghost. “I killed you!” He spat even more enraged. How dare they tried to steal that memory from him? “What kind of trick is this?” He demanded choleric getting all his attention back to the wounded commander.
Steve’s heart sank; Bucky finally remembered him but he didn’t want to believe it was really him. “It´s not a trick Bucky. It´s really me!” Steve told him closing on him while eeying the enemy forgetting about his apprehensions.
“No.” Bucky screamed vexed taking a step ahead while pointing his gun at him for an instant before thinking it over and swiftly turning it back against Novikov and Karavayev. “I know what I did. I remember the things they did top me … the things that they made me do.” He look at him sideways as he pulled the trigger. “It can´t be you.” The shoot killed Novikov instantly making Steve scowl.
He had to make a choice even if it meant breaking more than one promise or Bucky would never believe him. He would have to gamble all in one move. In his heart he knew that if he was forced to fight Bucky again he would break all the promises anyway. He proceeded to slowly close the gap between Bucky and himself trying not to startle the distressed man unsuccessfully; Bucky turn his gun at him on a second agitated and angry. Steve huffed upset while listening to the beat of his own heart. Without a word he raised his hands in surrender as he dropped his shield which fell down with a loudly clank before rolling a few meters away from him. Taking a deep breath, he looked straight into Bucky´s confused glare as he told him. “It´s really me jerk. I thought you said you remembered me.”
Bucky froze at his words as if the world had shattered on him once more; he couldn´t tell if he was more afraid of believing them, or them being a lie. Taking a tentatively step towards Steve holding his riffle with a tight grip on his shakily hands he asked fearfully. “Punk?”
Steve smiled openly as if the events of the previous hours had never taken place. Slowly he removed his helmet so Bucky could have a better look at him.
“I thought …” Bucky said through misty eyes undecided. He couldn´t understand how it was possible that Steve could be standing right beside him and even less how he didn´t seemed to hate him after … what he had done to him.
“I know.” Steve acknowledged with understanding seeing the guilt reflected in his eyes. Suddenly he noticed Karavayev moving swiftly into the panel and pressing some buttons. He looked around alarmed and barely caught a glimpse of some sort of platform quickly closing on top of Bucky. “Look out!” He screamed as he swiftly pushed Bucky out of the way. Unfortunately for him, he hadn´t been quick enough; he crashed heavily against the energy force field that had trapped him instead of Bucky.
“Steve!” Bucky rushed up instantly to his aid. It was an energy force field he wouldn’t be able to break it. “Get him out.” He demanded resolute and unswerving as he ferociously raised his gun against Karavayev who just smiled maliciously at him while he pushed one more button. “Hail Hydra” He exclaimed just as he shot the panel. He had uttered his final words; Bucky relentlessly drove a bullet through his skull without even flinching. He growled vexed as he took a step towards the panel; it might take him longer but he would eventually figure out how to release Steve. Before he could take a second step a startled gasp made him turn around. There was some kind of gas being pumped into the small prison. Steve watched helpless as the gas started to raise; he had nothing to stop it.
“Steve!” Bucky rushed back alarmed; he looked even more scared than Steve himself. “This can’t be happening; not now.” He thought in despair. He tried shooting both at the top and bottom of the container without any result; the bullets just bounced on it. Desperate he punched the energy field with all his strength using his cybernetic arm; the field didn´t even flickered mocking his efforts. “Why do you always do this sort of things to me?” He leaned into the barrier reproaching Steve defeated.
Steve looked at him pained while he tried to stop himself from coughing while he volunteered an insincere apology; better him than Bucky. He had gone through enough already. “I´m sorry.” The gas had almost filed the case; Bucky kept staring at Steve´s prison trying to figure out a way to get Steve out when the container rocked and trembled for an instant before being forcible pulled up. The blades of a helicopter could be heard at the distance over their heads.
“Bucky!” Steve called out as he fell on his knees unbalanced by the unexpected movement. He coughed painfully bending over; he could feel his consciousness fading away as the sleeping gas began having its effect on him.
“I will find you Stevie. “Bucky screamed at the top of his lungs hoping with all his heart Steve could hear him. “I will find you! Doesn´t matter how long it takes. “ He vowed decided; no power on earth would be able to make him broke that promise. “Just … hold on!” Bucky yelled anguished as he managed to caught a glimpse of Steve as the helicopter carried him away. Steve soon collapsed inside the container unable to resist anymore.
Natasha, Loki and what was left of their team suddenly busted in. They had come up on a different level from them; looking for another route they had found the surveillance center. While going over the cameras trying to locate themselves they had watched aghast as Steve dropped his shield while meeting Bucky again. They dashed down to his rescue, raising more than a little swearing on their way. How could he had done that? After all the promises he had made … they just begged in their heads that they wouldn´t get there too late.
“Where´s Steve?” What did you do to him?” Loki growled crossed while forcibly lifting Bucky by his throat. He had been too distracted watching powerless as Steve was taken away.
“They … have him.” Bucky coarsely answered eyeing Loki angrily before realizing they were his best chance to ever finding Steve; masquerading the fury he felt he told them. “We … have to …get … him … back.”
Loki looked at him closely before letting him go; against of all odds he did remembered Steve. “We will.” He assured him resolute before punching him in the face. He wasn´t the kind of person that forgets easily. “That´s for stabbing him.” He spat angrily.
Bucky smirked wryly regaining his balance. “I guess I deserved that.” He admitted while clecking for blood using the back of his hand smiling wickedly when he found some. “Now, if you are finished …” He was interrupted by a loud explosion that rumble all over the place. “The base is self-destructing.” Bucky informed them more vexed than surprised. “Follow me before we are buried alive.”
Without any complaints except for an exasperated exchange of stares between Loki and Natasha everyone swiftly followed him through the maze of corridors. They had barely made it out when two Quinjets as well as Tony in his armour landed. The structure caved down after them raising a cloud of dust and debris; once it settled Clint asked them grimly. “Where´s Steve?”
“Hydra caught him.” Was Bucky stern reply. Hydra … the word itself burned him.
“You got to be shitting me!” Clint spat in disbelief nodding distraught; of all outcomes. Eeying Bucky cautiously he frantically asked Natasha with some signs “He´s in our side now?”.
“Yes, he´s on our side now.” She admitted out loud; at least for the moment. She had firsthand experience on the subject; brainwashing programming it wasn´t something you could easily erase though deprogramming would have to wait. “How much do you remember?” She asked him with a serious frown.
“All of it.” Bucky grimly told them with a grave look while his mind played over and over Steve’s shocked face as he stabbed him. “We need to get moving and fast.” He remembered other things, not only his life before and during the war, or the assassinations; he remembered how they tortured him … how they made him to comply.
“Do you know where they took Steve?” Tony asked in hope while trying to make sure Loki was still in one piece. Loki just gave him a stern look and then returned his attention to Barnes.
“No.” Bucky regretfully admitted. “ But we need to find him as soon as possible.” They have him, they have him his mind repeated in frenzy; they had his Steve and he knew exactly what that meant.
“Why?” Loki asked acidly. The urgency in Bucky´s tone; his entire demeanor, it all gave him a very bad feeling.
“What does Hydra does to an enemy agent when it isn’t planning to kill him?” He offered them with a furious scowl. Wasn´t it enough then done it to him? Why Steve?
Clint and Natasha stiffed up in realization as they mumbled beneath their breath. “Brainwash” “Torture”
“They are the same.” Bucky agreed heavily. Breaking Steve … he dreaded the though. If they had the time, they would break him or worst; he would die.
Tony gasped alarmed by his revelation. “But … Steve is in no shape … he can´t endure that … not know, not after you …” He stopped abruptly.
“Stabbed him.” Bucky ended his sentence for him vexed. “I know.” He grimly added. Unavertable he had provided Hydra with a tool against him. “How did he … survive?” He inquired laboriously, regretfully.
“I healed him.” Loki volunteered in a stern tone. Bucky may have had stab Steve while brainwashed but that didn´t make it any better in his eyes.
“Thank you.” Bucky bowed his head slightly in gratitude. He wouldn´t forget it.
“I didn´t do it for you.” Loki spat at him annoyed. The arrogance.
“I know.” Bucky agreed while holding Loki´s angry stare. He understood the source of his anger but there was nothing he could do about it so he added. “Either way I´m grateful you did.” He rubbed the spot where Loki had hit him earlier. “Now, I have some ideas of how to find out where they holding him; are you coming?” He volunteered without waiting for their reply as he kept walking towards one of the Quinjets while he reloaded his gun. There wouldn´t be a stone unturned, not one.
“So that’s where he got that from …” Tony grinned almost amused by a not so distant similarity with Steve’s´ attitudes.
“We should´ve know.” Natasha plainly agreed trying hard not to smile. After all they had been best friends most of their lives; it shouldn´t have come as a surprise.