Title: Without You
Summary: Sentinel Steve Rogers went down in 1945 happy and at peace that he could join his Guide in death.
Only he woke up again to learn that he’d slept for nearly seventy years and it was now 2011.
Grieving, furious and utterly lost, he struggles to adapt in a time that isn’t his, without the one person that had always been there. What was he to do when the end of the line had come and gone and he was left standing alone?
Pairings/ Characters: Steve Rogers/James ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Clint Barton/Phil Coulson, Tony Stark/Pepper Potts
Genre: Slash | Sentinel Fusion
Warnings: Hydra, language, violence, torture, grief, character death, past attempted suicide (deliberately downing the plane)
Written For: Rough Trade Little Black Dress – July 2015 Bootcamp
Word Count: 9283
Series: Part 1 of Centuries
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.
Decision made, Steve Rogers allowed himself to relax despite being moments from death. Peggy’s voice was pleading with him, telling him that they could find another way but she didn’t understand. Nobody did because they had never told anyone.
Putting the plane down in the middle of the ocean ensured the protection of thousands of people but it also presented him with the opportunity to let go. The last few days had been absolute agony. He wasn’t even sure how he had survived so long. Since Bucky’s death he’d been looking for a way out seeing as how he hadn’t died with the brunette.
Steve aimed the plane at the vast water and closed his eyes.
His memories of Bucky flashed through his mind in those last few seconds.
The wind blowing through his hair…
He could almost feel Bucky’s arms around his shoulders, a warm breath against his ear.
The sound of his voice…
“I’m with you till the end of the line.”
Steve focused on the picture of Bucky that he had carried with him since the moment that Erskine had approached him and he’d been given a chance. Gazing at the picture, Steve deliberately allowed himself to zone out on the picture of the man that should have been his lifelong partner and Guide.
The impact as the plane hit the water was tremendous. Glass shattered and the plane tore to pieces. Icy water rapidly filled the wreckage and pulled it under.
The blond Sentinel felt nothing as the water claimed both the plane and its pilot. He had one last thought before the darkness overtook him.
I’m coming Bucky.
He was warm.
It took several moments for Steve to register why that thought was confusing him so much. He’d been on the plane over the Atlantic and had put it down in the water. Why then was he waking up?
“This is a bad idea Director. I want it on record that I am protesting this. Captain Rogers served his country and made the ultimate sacrifice. What’s more is that that man is a Sentinel. He doesn’t deserve to be setup like this.”
“Your protest is acknowledged and overruled Coulson. I’m aware that he is a Sentinel but according to the reports he’s so weak that he might as well not be. He also doesn’t have a Guide to help him with his weak gifts.”
“And when this blows up in your face? When Sentinel Rogers realises that he has slept for nearly seventy years and that you lied to him about it, what will you do then?”
Steve stopped listening to the conversation going on somewhere in the building that he was in. Careful not to alert his watchers to the fact that he was awake, the blond struggled not to panic.
He’d slept for close to seventy years.
Dr. Erskine had warned him that the serum might have unforeseen consequences but this? He’d crashed the plane so that he could join Bucky but now… Bucky.
Steve didn’t even try to hold in the tears that began running silently down his face. People would call it a miracle. To crash in the ocean, be frozen for seventy years and still wake up afterwards but Steve didn’t see it that way. He was alive despite his best efforts and Bucky was still dead.
A choked sob escaped from his throat. Unable to hold still any longer, Steve rolled onto his side and curled around his pillow. Harsh, heaving sobs racked his body as the blond cried. His grief – raw and all consuming – overwhelmed him.
Steve wasn’t aware of the fact that he was broadcasting his pain and grief to all those within a ten block radius. People all over the city were brought to their knees with a feeling of crippling loss.
The argument between Coulson and Fury was brought to an abrupt halt as they felt what Captain Rogers was broadcasting. Coulson didn’t even bother consulting Fury. He turned and ran out of the office down towards the room where they had set the Captain up. He’d barely taken three steps before he sensed his Sentinel fall into step beside him.
The bonded pair made all haste to the room and ignored the doctor that protested their sudden intrusion. One look from Coulson and any other protests that the doctor had were silenced.
Barton reached the door first. He didn’t bother being polite. Quite honestly, he silently doubted that the Sentinel within was capable of even noticing their presence at that point. Instead, he flung the door open and ran into the room with his Guide right alongside him.
The sight that greeted them was utterly heartbreaking.
Captain America had always been shown as a big, strong man that radiated calm and safety. At that moment though, Clint doubted that he ever had or ever would see anything so heart wrenching.
Clint and Phil moved to either side of the bed. It was single bed but Steve had curled up and made himself as small as possible while he sobbed. The bonded pair sat down beside him and each laid their hands on him. The blond Sentinel’s grief was overwhelming but their need to help him was strong enough to fight the urge to curl up and bawl.
They didn’t know how long they sat there but eventually Steve became aware that he was no longer alone. Ever the prepared one, Coulson began speaking once he was sure that he had Captain America’s attention.
“My name is Guide Phil Coulson. This is my Sentinel Clint Barton. You’re currently in New York.”
“You said… sleeping for seventy years,” Steve whispered.
Both Phil and Clint cringed.
“You heard that conversation?” Phil took a second to gather himself before continuing and screw Fury’s so called plan. “I am deeply sorry that you had to find out that way, Sentinel Rogers. You crashed your plane in the Atlantic Ocean – saved many lives. We won the war and defeated Hydra. The year is currently two thousand and eleven. You’ve been asleep for nearly seventy years in the ice.” Phil was blunt and to the point. He figured that the man deserved the truth and that if their positions were reversed he’d want the straightforward answers. It didn’t make the devastated look on the blond man’s face easier to bare though.
Steve felt as though he was suffocating, drowning in the depth of his sorrow and something inside him just flipped. It felt almost like a switch flipped off somewhere inside him and everything – all the anger, the grief and heartache began to fade until he all he was left feeling was a welcome numbness.
Clint and Phil felt the change come over Steve and exchanged worried looks. It was practically unheard of but in rare cases of trauma some Sentinels and Guides had actually dulled or turned their emotions completely off. Some never switched back on while the others had their emotions returned after another traumatic event. Either way, it was not going to be pretty.
The couple held an entire conversation in their silence. No matter what happened they would be there for the young man the world knew as Captain America. Phil was surprised by the fact that he wasn’t surprised at how easy it was to switch his allegiance from SHIELD to the Alpha Sentinel so quickly. He knew that both Clint and Natasha were only still with SHIELD because he was.
“First, we need to get you out of here and into an apartment of your own or otherwise if you’d prefer we have a spare room. You’re going to need to be caught up on history and learn about technology. We’re going to have to…”
Clint allowed his Guide’s voice to faded into the background, comforted by its soothing tone. Agent Phil Coulson was a methodical man. He had lists and backup plans for his backup plans. Of course he had a plan for this situation.
Steve meanwhile listened as the Guide was thinking out loud more than actually talking to him but he didn’t mind. He was so hopelessly out of his element he wouldn’t know where to start. Everything that he could sense off the Sentinel and Guide pair told him that he could trust them. That and the fact that he recognised the Guide as the man who had been arguing against trying to set him up.
“If it’s all the same to you, I think that I’d prefer your spare room. At least for the moment until I get my bearings,” Steve whispered.
“Well then, let’s go.” Clint stood up and slid under one of Steve arms helping the Sentinel to stand on his feet. Personally Clint thought it was better that the blond would stay with them and he was sure that Phil agreed. Captain America had been through some serious shit and his little melt down would by no means be the last. It would be better for everybody that he didn’t barricade himself in some tiny little apartment and try to deal with everything on his own.
Coulson walked a step ahead of the two Sentinels removing any and all obstacles in their way. On a good day, there were very few people who were willing to go up against the legendary Agent Coulson. When he was Guide Coulson on a mission, even Director Fury knew better than to get in his way.
“Director, Captain Rogers will be going home with Sentinel Barton and I. We will be working from home for the next two weeks,” Coulson informed Fury rather than requested.
Honestly, there were some days when Fury actually questioned just who was really in charge.
Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim. – Vicki Harrison
Steve spent the next two weeks learning about the future which was now his present. Phil and Clint were a tremendous help. He learned how to operate electronics like a cell phone, a tablet, a microwave and a TV. One thing that Steve could count as lucky was that he was a fast learner and able to adapt quickly.
Learning so much was a great way to distract himself from the gaping wound in his heart. It gave him a few hours where he wasn’t faced with the reality of not having his Guide by his side. Since nobody had mentioned Bucky to him in the two weeks that he’d been awake, Steve came to the conclusion that they had been successful in hiding their relationship from the world.
One of his favourite places was the little garden that Phil and Clint had. Since their apartment was on the ground floor, the couple had a garden with some flowers and even a bench. Every night without fail Steve would sit outside on the bench and stare at the stars. Clint and Phil left him to have his peace and Clint deliberately turned his hearing down so that he didn’t intrude on the soft conversation the blond Sentinel had every evening with the stars.
“The Centre is pushing to meet with Steve,” Phil murmured. The older man was lying sideways on the couch with Clint sprawled over him.
“Pushy fuckers. The man is grieving. Can’t he have some peace?”
Phil ran his hand comfortingly up and down his Sentinel’s back. “I’m with you on that but he’s gonna have to meet them at some point. If Steve were bonded, he would be the new Alpha of North America – he’s just that strong. As it is, I think that having Captain America as such a strong, unbonded Sentinel is making more than a few people nervous.”
Clint snorted. “Yeah and more than a few are casting covetous eyes upon him. He does not need that shit.”
“Mmmm. That too.”
Clint looked up at his Guide. “What? What is it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I know you, mister I always have a plan. What are you not saying?”
Phil sighed. It still surprised him that there was someone who knew him so well. “It might be a good idea to try and find him a Guide. Not right now but sooner rather than later. It would definitely help to anchor him to the here and now.”
Clint frowned. “I suppose but we’re not gonna let anybody push him. It’s gonna have to be on his terms and no one else’s. But how are we gonna bring it up?”
While the couple debated how best to broach the topic, Steve was having his nightly conversation. It wasn’t the stars that he was conversing with though. When they’d been at war, he and Bucky had sat every night under the stars. Even when they’d stayed in towns they’d gone outside before turning in to sit under the stars together. The pair would sit and talk about anything and everything – what they would do when they returned home, things that had occurred over the course of the day, reminiscing over childhood memories.
Since waking up in the future, Steve had kept to their tradition. Every night he sat outside, looked up at the stars and whispered softly to Bucky.
“I miss you, Bucky. Today was just one of those days where everything I did reminded me of you. I hate days like today because they remind me of the one thing I can’t have. I keep turning to show you every new thing I learn only to realise that you’re not there. I don’t know how I’m supposed to carry on without you. You promised ’til the end of the line but I’m the one who is left standing here all alone.”
Several tears ran down his face silently. “Everything is so different now. I bet you’d love it. You enjoyed Stark’s future expo. Unfortunately they still haven’t got flying cars though.” He gave a choked laugh. “I’m trying Buck but it’s really hard. Watching Phil and Clint together, I see what we could have had, what we could have become. I wish we’d bonded before then I could have died with you. But that’s just me being selfish. I know you weren’t ready.”
Steve stared blankly up at the night sky for several minutes before he remembered. “I heard this song today and I thought of you. I remember how much you used to bug me to sing to you so I hope that you can hear me.
Underneath the cold November sky
I’ll wait for you
As the pages of my life roll by
I’ll wait for you
I’m so desperate just to see your face
Meet me in this broken place…”
Clint paused in the doorway as he heard Steve singing softly.
I’m tired of running
and wrestling with these angels
I lay down
my life and I surrender
Hold me now
I need to feel you
Show me how
to make it new again
There’s no one I can run to
And nothing I could ever do
I’m nowhere if I’m here
Listening to the words, he recognised it as a song they’d heard earlier in the day. The words as well as the hurt that Steve was radiating created a lump in the back of his throat. It was a common occurrence over the last two weeks. He and Phil would never get used to it but they had learned to deal with it. The amount of pain that the young man was in was not something that Clint had experience with.
He must have made a noise or something because Steve turned to look at him shortly after finishing his song.
“Hey. I didn’t mean to disturb you. I can come back if you need some time alone,” the archer offered.
Steve shook his head and Clint took that as a positive sign to approach and sit beside the other Sentinel.
“I’m not gonna ask if you’re ok because it’s obvious you’re not and I don’t expect you to be any time soon. I will tell you that Phil and I are here for you, whatever you need.”
“Thanks Clint. The two of you have been amazing.”
Clint resisted the urge to fidget. “There’s… uh… something we thought that you should be aware of. The New York Sentinel and Guide Centre has been trying to see you. Phil has been able to hold them off but I’m not too sure how much longer he can hold them at bay.”
“What do you want?” Steve asked frowning.
“You’re strong, like crazy strong power level wise. My best guess is that they want to official register you and then try and match you up with a Guide.”
“No,” Steve snarled. “I won’t take a Guide. I won’t even agree to meet any Guides.”
Clint held his hands in front of himself to show he wasn’t a threat but it appeared his mouth hadn’t caught on. “Sorry. I didn’t realise it was such a touchy topic. Can I uh… ask why though? Wouldn’t a Guide help you to settle in better.”
Steve turned back to look at the stars. He knew that Clint had no way of knowing the landmine that he had just stepped on. Maybe it would be better if someone knew.
“I don’t have a Guide.”
Clint gaped. “That’s a bit harsh man. Just because you’re out of your time doesn’t mean you don’t have a Guide. Who knows maybe you had to be frozen to be able to meet them now.”
“No. I don’t have a Guide. He’s dead.”
Shocked silence met Steve’s announcement.
Phil had been standing in the doorway watching the two Sentinels talk but at Steve’s statement he moved to stand beside his Sentinel.
The young blond man sighed. “It’s a long story. Perhaps we should move inside where it’s warmer and more comfortable.”
Minutes later the three men were comfortably seated in the living room. Steve focused on the ring on his left hand. It had previously been on a chain under his suit when they had found him. Since then the ring had been relocated to his ring finger on his left hand.
“I never knew my dad. He died while Mom was still pregnant. It was difficult being a single parent and she often worked long hours. I met Bucky when we were kids and from the moment we met we were inseparable.
When the war came, Bucky was drafted. I tried to sign up but was rejected every time. Bucky went to join the 107th and I was approached by Dr Erskine. Those months were the longest we had ever been separated since we met. It felt like a piece of me had gone missing. One thing that Dr Erskine didn’t count on was that the serum awakened my Sentinel side but luckily it was so weak that nobody really took notice of me.
Bucky’s unit was captured while I was touring and I honestly don’t think that there is a force on earth that could have stopped me from going after him. While we’d been apart, Bucky had come online as a Guide. But with the trauma of the experiments that they had conducted on him, he’d suppressed most of his abilities. I knew even before then that Bucky was it for me. He wasn’t in any position to bond though and I would never do anything that would be detrimental to him. It took months for him to stabilise mentally and empathically. And then we had no time alone.
I supposed it might be considered old fashioned now but I wanted our bonding, our first time together to be something special not a quick romp in a tent. I figured we had the rest of our lives together so there was no need to rush. As long as I had Bucky, I could ground my senses on him partially.
And then Bucky… he…” Steve’s voice faded into tears.
“He died,” Phil finished for him.
“And you tried to join your Guide when you crashed the plane,” Clint added softly.
“We didn’t have a complete bond so I didn’t die with him,” Steve cried.
The bonded pair didn’t know how to respond. There wasn’t really anything that they could say. To know that kind of a loss was unimaginable. They could only offer a little comfort and support.
The next week Agents Coulson and Barton were back at SHIELD while Steve became very familiar with the apartment complex’s gym. More specifically its punching bags. When they’d realised that the punching bags didn’t hold up long against a super solider, Coulson had stock piled punching bags for the Captain.
It’s where Fury found him when things went to hell in a hand basket. Steve didn’t realise just how bad the situation was until he was aboard something called the helicarrier and found Phil but no sign of Clint.
“Barton’s been compromised. I can’t even feel him anymore,” Coulson informed him softly at the back of the room.
“But he’s still alive?” Steve asked worriedly.
“Yeah but whatever Loki did to him seems to have completely severed the bond between us.” Coulson sounded calm and controlled but Steve had spent enough time around him and Clint to recognise that the Guide was barely hanging on by a thread.
Steve placed a comforting hand on Phil’s shoulder. “We’ll figure out a way to get him back.”
Hours later, Steve felt his heart stop for a moment when Fury announced that Coulson was down and that the medics had called it. When Clint woke up, he and Natasha silently agreed not to say anything until after the battle.
Sitting with the Avengers eating, Steve dreaded the conversation he knew he had to have.
“It’s a little smashed up but there are beds for everyone in the tower if you want to crash,” Tony offered.
The group was so tired that they all accepted without fuss. It was only when they stepped out of the elevator and into a living room that everything fell apart.
“I’m gonna call Phil so he can get his ass over here.”
Steve and Natasha literally froze.
“What?” Barton demanded noticing their expressions.
Tony, Bruce and Thor sensed that something was wrong and opted to remain silent for the time being but there for silent support if the need arose.
“Clint,” Natasha began and then stopped.
Steve tried to continue. “Phil… he uh…”
The red head took a deep breath and plunged in the deep end. “Coulson’s gone. The medics called it. Loki stabbed him right through the heart.”
Clint shook his head wildly. “No. No, you’re wrong. He’s fine. He has to be fine,” he insisted and dialled his Guide’s number.
“The number you have dialled is unavailable. Please try again later.”
Clint hung up and dialled again with shaking fingers.
“The number you have dialled is unavailable. Please try again later.”
“Clint,” Steve murmured softly.
The archer was close to hyperventilating. “No. He can’t… He promised… No.” Suddenly standing became too much and he sank to the floor. Steve darted forward and caught him so that they were both lowered gently to the ground with Natasha right beside them.
“I wasn’t there,” Clint whispered horrified. “I was supposed to protect my Guide and I wasn’t there.”
“Clint, it wasn’t your fault.” Steve wrapped his arms around his fellow Sentinel. The irony was he could recall Peggy telling him the exact same words after Bucky fell. Clint probably believed him as much as he had believed her. He knew that there were no words that would be of any comfort. This was something that he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy.
Beware of him that is slow to anger; for when it is long coming , it is the stronger when it comes and the longer kept. Abused patience turns to fury – Francis Quarles
“How are you coping with all the new inhabitants?” Pepper asked as she curled up beside her Sentinel in their bed.
Tony set his tablet aside in order to wrap both of his arms around her shoulders. “You know me Pep. It’s a work in progress. At least the Tower is now repaired and everyone has their own space.”
Tony sighed. “It’s only been two months. If Loki hadn’t severed the bond when he did his voodoo mind tricks, Barton would have died with Coulson. I don’t think this is something that you can heal from. If I had to… if you… I can’t imagine a time when it would get better.”
Pepper kissed her Sentinel softly.
“What was that for?” Tony asked softly.
“I’m just proud of how far you’ve come. You’ve grown up,” she teased him.
“Shhh… don’t tell anyone. I’ve got a rep to protect.”
Unimaginable pain seized his body. People in white coats stood around watching him writher and scream but did nothing to help.
“Again. Wipe him,” a cold voice came from behind him and then there was pain again.
Steve shot up in his bed as his scream died on his lips.
“Captain Rogers? Do you required assistance?” the sound of JARVIS’s voice helped ground him in reality.
“No. That’s not necessary,” Steve managed to get out. His throat felt raw as though he’d been screaming for some time. Completely uncoordinated, he managed to stumble into his en suite bathroom and over to the sink to splash some cold water on his face.
Fuck but that dream had been vivid. He had absolutely no idea where it had come from or why it had felt so real. He was by far too rattled to attempt to sleep. Instead he made his way down to the gym that Stark had created to stand up to the various Avengers’ strengths.
Two hours later Steve had worked up quiet a sweat beating the hell out of a specially reinforced punching bag that Tony had designed for him. The vividness of the dream had faded but it still stayed with him. It was like an itch at the back of his mind throughout the day.
Phantom pains plagued him during breakfast. They distracted him during a briefing with Fury that he honestly couldn’t remember a word of afterwards. Even movie night was not exempt. Finally the blond gave up and went to bed early hoping that maybe a good night’s rest would be the cure.
Unimaginable pain seized his body. People in white coats stood around watching him writher and scream but did nothing to help.
“Again. Wipe him,” a cold voice came from behind him and then there was pain again.
Once again Steve bolted upright from his nightmare, sweat cooling on his body as his heart raced.
“Fuck,” he hissed scrubbing his hands over his face.
Based on the previous day’s experience, he wouldn’t be going back to sleep so Steve hauled himself out of bed and into the shower.
Throughout the morning, he was distracted. His team kept giving him worried looks but Steve didn’t know what to tell them. He didn’t even understand what was going on himself. It wasn’t until they were walking out of a meeting in SHIELD’s local office building that Steve was hit with a shocking wake up call.
The Avengers were standing on the second floor when Steve absently glanced down. The second and third floor area that was above the reception area were clear and open so it was very easy for anybody standing on the second or third floor to see the ground floor.
Standing amongst a group of three other men were a man and a woman that Steve recognised. Only he should not have been able to recognise them seeing that he had never before laid eyes on them.
“Clint, that group standing over there by the east wall. Who are they?” Steve’s voice sounded chocked and not anything like his normal tone.
Clint’s eyes swept over the area immediately noticing who the blond was talking about. “That’s a group of scientists that work out of Vancouver. Looks like they’ve come in to make their bi-annual report.”
“So there is no way that I’ve seen them before?” Steve asked desperately.
The archer slowly shook his head, worry and confusion taking over when he got a good look at his leader’s face. By now the rest of the team had noticed that something was wrong and they had begun closing in on their teammates.
“Steve?” Tony prodded hesitantly. The Sentinel was giving off all sorts of weird and freaked out vibes.
“Get me out of here,” Steve managed to whisper but it was enough for the team to spring into action.
The blond didn’t really remember how they managed to get back to the Tower and into the common room.
“JARVIS find me that footage from SHIELD and ID those people,” Tony ordered breaking the silence.
“Of course Sir. Running facial recognition now.”
Nobody else seemed to know what to say and Steve didn’t appear to be altogether present yet. Luckily JARVIS was fast and efficient.
“Sir I have identified the five individuals.”
Tony along with the rest of the Avengers perked up. “Hit me J.”
“The blond man is Dr. Allen Boone, the brunette is Dr. Fred Lawson and the bald man is Dr. Brian Dixon. The woman with the long blonde hair is Dr. Grace Richards and the red head is Dr. Marian Sullivan. They are all based in the SHIELD Vancouver branch.”
Steve suddenly spoke up. “JARVIS, they didn’t have anything to do with me while I was waking up did they?”
“According to the records, all five individuals were present in Vancouver and nowhere near you during that time period,” JARVIS replied immediately.
“Share with the class Capsicle. What’s got you so spooked about them?”
Steve scrubbed his hands over his face before he answered. “I’ve been having these dreams… nightmares… They feel incredibly real. There’s so much pain and people in white coats. Dr. Lawson and Dr. Sullivan were there as well. But how could I know them if I’ve never seen them before today?”
Natasha spoke up for the first time, “There have been cases where individuals experiencing trauma are able to somehow broadcast what they see or feel to another.”
“That’s usually in the case between a Sentinel and their Guide,” Bruce added. “Steve that might mean that whoever this is there’s a strong chance that they’re you-”
“Don’t,” Steve interjected. “Don’t say it. My Guide is dead. Whoever it is, is in need of our help but it’s not my Guide.”
They allowed the subject to drop, none of them wanting to press the issue. But silently they were all thinking that Steve may have gained a new Guide.
Tony stood up and clapped his hands. “Alright boys and girl. Let’s get started. JARVIS?”
“Dig into SHIELD. I wanna know if any agent has so much as changed the brand of tissues that they use recently. We’re done being kept in the dark.”
Natasha and to a lesser extent Clint looked like they wanted to argue but then thought better of it.
“This could take a while so why don’t we get something to eat. I’m starving. Who wants pizza?”
Steve shook his head with a small smile. It seemed no matter the circumstances Tony Stark could still be counted on to be Tony Stark.
“Let your dissent fuel you
Your anger inspire you
Your rage convey you
And your fury strike a chilling fear onto the spines of your enemies.”
– Evan Meekins
“Sir, I believe I have found something,” the sound of JARVIS speaking interrupted the team as they were gathered on the sofas watching a movie to keep themselves distracted.
“Put it up on the screen J,” Tony ordered.
The movie disappeared and was replaced by a picture of a man that Steve recognised. “After World War Two, SHIELD was founded. It was formerly known as the SSR. A number of scientists were taken in for their knowledge. Arnin Zola was a Swiss scientist that was taken prisoner in 1945. He worked for the Red Skull.”
Tony frowned. “I don’t think we need the history lesson JARVIS.”
“Sir, from the information I was able to obtain it would appear that Hydra was aptly named.”
“Cut off one head and two more will take its place,” Steve murmured and then realisation struck him. “JARVIS, no!”
“I’m afraid that you are correct Captain Rogers. For the last seventy years, it would seem that Hydra has been growing from within SHIELD. According to the data forty eight point nine five percent of all SHIELD operatives have been or are currently Hydra.”
Picture after picture flashed across the screen. All of the Avengers recognised some of the faces that they saw.
“Hydra has manipulated the system for their own agenda. Wars have been started, people killed and information traded all to further their cause.” JARVIS actually hesitated before continuing. If an AI was hesitating, it was bad. “Sir… there are files that I’ve found that indicate that Hydra was behind the death of your parents.”
Pictures of a file flickers onto the screen. There was a picture of Howard and Maria Stark with the words terminated stamped across it. Pepper turned and bodily wrapped herself around her Sentinel. Tony’s relationship with his parents had not been the best but at the end of the day they had still been his parents.
“Sir there is one more piece of information that is of the utmost urgency,” JARVIS sounded apologetic at having to unload more on his creator.
“What is it JARVIS?” Pepper asked when it seemed that everybody else was at a loss for words.
“I recovered some documents that were signed off by Alexander Pierce-”
“Wait, are you telling us that Alexander Pierce, our boss’s boss, is Hydra,” Natasha interrupted the AI.
“I regret to inform you that he is indeed Hydra. By all accounts, it would appear that he is the one in charge here within the USA.”
Clint breathed out harshly. “We are so royally fucked.”
“Sentinel Barton, a group of scientists with Pierce’s full approval have been conducting several experiments.” File after file was pulled up on the screen with medical reports and picture taken of the victims that were experimented on. “This is a live feed of their most recent subject.”
The screen changed to a man lying in a hospital bed. Unconscious or sleeping, they weren’t able to tell.
Clint looked at the screen and frozen. It felt as though he had even stopped breathing as he stared at the screen. There in technicolor and close enough that he could see the heart monitor and the rise and fall of his chest was his Guide.
His Guide was alive.
His Guide was alive and somebody had been keeping him hidden.
Fury unlike anything else that he had ever experienced before flooded his body. His Guide had been taken and hidden from him. JARVIS had been talking about experiments. They had performed experiments on his Guide.
From that moment on, they were walking dead men. Clint had been intending on going after them since they were Hydra but now… now every person that was even indirectly involved with covering up his Guide’s death and keeping them apart was going to pay.
Clint’s fury and his need for vengeance was almost visible to the surrounding Avengers. Tony gently set Pepper aside and stood up with the others following his lead. “JARVIS track Guide Coulson at all times. I want a list of every individual involved in this and with Hydra,” he ordered as he strode towards the elevator. Pepper stayed behind in the living room as Clint, Bruce, Natasha, Thor and Steve followed Tony down to his lab.
“JARVIS, activate L.I.G.H.T. Authorization code two zero zero nine Alpha Foxtrot Charlie Tango,” the billionaire authorised as he strode into his lab. The floor to the back on the left rose up to reveal shelving units with a number of various gadgets. It was clearly organised into groupings per hero.
“Bruce, my science bro. There’s not much I could do for Hulk but I thought you’d appreciate these new pants. It won’t rip and tear as you change back and forth.” Tony handed the pants to his fellow scientist before moving onto the next collection.
“I developed new suits for everybody except Thor. The material is comfortable and has easy manoeuvrability. It can withstand heat of up to five hundred degrees. Completely bullet proof and is current resistant so tasers, lightning and electricity will not have very much of an effect. It can withstand enormous friction for those who are superhumanly faster,” Tony gave Steve a small smile. “The suits are light and the material is breathable. As an additional feature the micro fibres are imbedded with a tracking device that will allow as to track anyone wearing the suit down to which isle of the supermarket they are standing in.”
The rest of the Avengers were staring at Tony flabbergasted.
“Tony, you did all this for each of us?” Steve asked awed at the lengths his fellow Sentinel had gone to, to keep the group safe.
“That’s just the outfits. There is also everybody’s weapons that have been upgraded.” The billionaire handed each person their suit before he picked up a couple of boxes and handed a box to each hero including Thor and Bruce. There was a stunned silence once they had each opened their boxes. Nestled in the boxes were a pair of daggers for each of them.
“They’re made of Vibranium.”
“How…” Steve trailed off.
Tony smirked. “It took a fuckton of work let me tell you.”
The genius billionaire had also created and upgraded an assortment of other weapons for each of them. Once they had changed into their new suits and armed themselves the group headed up to the roof. Pepper was standing waiting for them and was startled by the picture that they made.
“You all look armed for war and ready to overthrow a small country.”
“We just might be starting a war but with Hydra,” Steve muttered.
Tony walked to his Guide and gave her a kiss. “You and JARVIS got everything that you need?”
“Of course. We’ll have everything sorted before you get back.”
“That’s my girl.”
“Not to be the bearer of bad news but not all of us can fly Stark,” Natasha suddenly spoke up.
“We’re gonna take the jet.” As Tony spoke what appeared to be an invisibility shield fell to reveal a quinjet.
Natasha chose to sit in the pilot’s seat while the rest of the team filed in and sat down. Once they were in the air, Steve turned to Clint and asked, “Hawkeye, how do you want to do this?”
Barton was confused. “You’re the leader Cap.”
“It’s your Guide that was taken. I can feel the fury and feral drive coming off you. So it’s up to you. Do you want to go in stealthy or loud bangs?”
As much as his every fibre was screaming to rip all those who had a hand in separating him from his Guide, Coulson came first. “Quiet and stealthy. I can’t risk him getting hurt in the crossfire. I might go truly feral,” he cautioned.
“These are the schematics for the building where Agent is being held that JARVIS could get a hold of.” Tony waved his hand at the empty space in front of him as he spoke and thousands of tiny blue lights formed to create a 3D miniature hologram of the building. “If we’re going with stealth then Thor and Bruce are gonna need to wait outside as backup if needed.”
Bruce nodded. “That’s probably for the best. I don’t want to jeopardize Coulson by having Hulk come out for some reason.”
Between the six of them they had managed to come up with a reasonable plan by the time that Natasha put them down near their target. The invisibility shields on the jet had definitely come in handy.
Hydra was using a medical clinic on the outskirts of New York as a front. The Avengers approached the building with grim faces. While it appeared to be empty and abandoned, Clint could tell that there were nearly a hundred if not more people in the building that were standing between him and his Guide.
“Everyone set?” Captain America queried.
The team split up. Thor and Bruce kept watch on the perimeter while Black Widow and Hawkeye went for the one entrance and Iron Man and Captain America went for the other. Widow was careful to stay out of Hawkeye’s way but to still back him up. There was no way she was getting between a Sentinel and his Guide.
The four moved through the building silent as ghosts. The people that did cross their paths were tranqed or put in a choke hold until they passed out. There was no need to kill unless necessary until they could sort out who was willingly working for Hydra and who was being forced.
They moved fast. The underground facility was like a maze and they would have gotten lost a few times if JARVIS hadn’t provided the blueprints. Hawkeye seemed to be moving on some instinctual pull though. Black Widow doubted he was even registering where he was going.
They turned the corner into another corridor and the blond made a sudden beeline towards a closed door further down. Widow knocked out two guards that started down the passage before joining her partner in getting the door open.
The second the door open, the Sentinel was slipping inside. He took three steps into the room and then froze. It was one thing to see it on a screen and have hope. It was an entirely different thing to see his Guide in the flesh before him.
“We need to move,” the red headed soft whisper prompted him into action.
Silently he made his way over to the bed where his Guide was lying peacefully hooked up to a drip of some kind. Widow gently pulled the needle out of Coulson’s arm and sniffed at the substance.
“It’s just a sedative. He’ll be out for an hour or two,” she reassured him.
Hawkeye nodded once. With cautious hands, he slowly pulled the covers off his Guide and then slid his arms under the man. Coulson had lost a lot of weight or maybe it was the adrenaline running through his system but he had no difficulty carrying the sleeping man.
“We have the package,” Widow whispered into her radio as they slipped out the room and made their way out.
“Copy that,” Captain America acknowledged.
Black Widow and Hawkeye had just reached the jet where Thor and Bruce were standing waiting when the sound of Iron Man’s slightly panicked voice came over the radio.
“Cap’s going feral. I repeat Cap’s going feral. We’re bringing in another passenger but I advise everyone to be extremely cautious.”
“What? Tony what the fuck is going on?” Natasha demanded.
“I can’t even… You are never going to believe this. We’ll be there within three minutes.”
Iron Man and Captain America were relieved when they heard Widow’s report.
“Let’s head back.”
Steve was about to follow the billionaire when his attention was diverted. He didn’t even register that his feet were carrying him in a different direction.
“Rogers. Where are you going?” Tony shouted at his teammate.
The blond continued walking as he answered. “There’s something here… something that’s pulling me towards it.”
The brunette’s eyes widened. “Oh fuck no. We do not need to add weird mystical voodoo magical objects to our list of things to deal with today.” He tried to turn them back the way that they had come but it was futile.
“Here,” Steve murmured reaching out to place a hand on a steel door.
“That’s great. Can we go now?” The question was completely ignored. Instead Steve took a few steps back, readjusted his hold on his shield and then threw it at the door. The force with which it the door was so tremendous it sounded like standing next to a thundercloud. The metal door crumbled making it easy for Steve to bend the rest of the door out of his way so that he could enter the room.
The room itself was freezing. Steve had a moment of flashing back to freezing in the ocean before the tugging that he had been following became even more insistent. He had no need for the lights to be turned on but Tony must have thought otherwise because the room suddenly lit up.
It was very sterile. There was a simple metal bed sans mattress and a chair like structure beside it. Only the arm rests had restraints on them and there was a device attached where a person’s head would be.
Tony took the room in with a glance while keeping an eye on his Captain. He was getting a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Finally, Steve’s attention was drawing to the only other thing in the room. It looked almost like a metal tube that was just big enough for a man to fit inside. There were two monitor attached to the side of the tube but there was no hint of what was contained within.
“Steve don-” Tony broke off with a sigh. There was no way he was going to be able to stop the blond’s curiosity currently.
As Steve got closer he slowly allowed his senses to dial up a little. There was something about the tube that was cause every instinct to be screaming at him. He caught the faintest smell of his Guide and almost smiled. Even now it appeared that his Guide was watching over him and guiding him to where he needed to be.
Steve took the last step forward so that he was right in front of the tube. There was a small circular glass window cut into the tube but it seemed to have iced over. Carefully, he reached out and tried to wipe the glass clean. It took a couple of wipes but the glass finally cleared enough to be able to see the contents of the tube.
The blond Sentinel peered inside and went paralysed with shock. His immobilisation only lasted a few seconds and then the fury set in.
Rage unlike any other he had ever experienced in his life consumed him. A red haze filled his vision and only one thought was clear in his mind.
Bucky was inside the tube.
Tony had noticed his companion’s sudden paralysis but was even more startled by the aura that the blond immediately afterwards started broadcasting. The fury was suffocating. He had no idea what Rogers had seen within the tube and honestly didn’t want to know if it could induce such rage in their normally level-headed leader.
When Steve startled growling, actually growling in the back of his throat Tony knew that it was game over.
Making sure that the other Sentinel could see him, the brunette stepped closer to get a better look at the tube. The closer that he got, the more the tube was starting to look something like what a cryogenic tube should look like.
Tony got the shock of his life when he saw that James ‘Bucky’ Barnes was standing frozen in the cryo tube.
“No. Don’t touch anything,” Tony shouted lunging forward to stop Steve from ripping the wires out.
Steve turned to growl at him so the brunette tried a different tact. “Rogers. Steve. That’s your Guide, yes? You need to protect him and keep him safe but to do that, you have to let me get a look at all of this before you start ripping things out.” All he received was another growl. “Rogers. Alpha!” Tony barked out.
The blond finally focused his attention on Tony. “Alpha. If you don’t want to hurt your Guide, you need to let me look at that first.”
At last, Steve gave him a curt nodded showing his understanding and giving permission for Tony to examine the cryo tube.
While he quickly turned the monitors on and scanned through the data, he spoke to JARVIS. “Hey J. Patch me through to Pep on a private channel.”
“Of course, Sir.”
“Hey Pep. Any chance that you’re ready to take over the world now?”
“Why? What happened?” she asked alarmed.
“Hydra’s holding more than one Guide. We just found Bucky Barnes and Steve is about a breath away from declaring war on the entire world,” Tony murmured softly as he initiated the sequence that would defrost Barnes.
“Bring them home Tony. By the time you arrive, I will have control over everything. Will you need the medical centre set up?”
“Probably be best. I have no idea what condition he is going to be in.”
“Alright. Come home safely.”
“Will do Pep.”
“Tony?” Steve spoke for the first time since entering the room.
“And done,” Tony whispered as the cryo tube gave a hissing sound. The door opened slightly and that was all the invitation that Steve needed. He threw the door open and caught Bucky as the unconscious Guide began to tilt forward.
He was utterly gentle as he lifted his Guide into his arms and strode out the room. It was in direct contrast to the murderous look on his face and the dangerous vibes he was giving off.
“Cap’s going feral. I repeat Cap’s going feral. We’re bringing in another passenger but I advise everyone to be extremely cautious,” Tony murmured into his radio to advise their team of the latest development.
“What? Tony what the fuck is going on?” Natasha demanded.
“I can’t even… You are never going to believe this. We’ll be there within three minutes.”
Luckily for everybody involved, it appeared that they had already knocked anybody who would have interfered unconscious already. The way Steve was at that moment, Tony was sure he would have killed anybody that crossed their paths.
The only thing that Steve could focus on was the figure in his arms. Bucky was completely limp and ice cold to touch. But Steve could hear his heart beat. It had sped up as Tony had gotten him out and now it was back to its normal rhythm. So many years apart and his Guide’s heartbeat still sounded exactly the same as the last day they had been together.
Bucky was alive.
His Guide was alive.
The information that they had gone over from Coulson’s files kept spinning round his head. The blond Sentinel didn’t notice the shocked looks on his teammates’ faces when they caught sight of them. He didn’t even register the flight back to Avenger’s Tower.
They had only had Coulson a few months and already there was a long list of experiments that they had conducted on him. He had been separated from Bucky for nearly seventy years. Seventy years. The number of unspeakable horrors that they could have performed on his Guide was enough to make him yearn to kill every member of Hydra and bathe in their blood.
Pepper was standing waiting for the team when they arrived. It was her who managed to steer the blond Sentinel to the Tower’s medical centre. She had ensured that there were only Guides making up the staff standing ready to treat Coulson and Barnes. There was absolutely no reason to push their Sentinels even further over the edge.
Bucky’s examination took hours. They were forced to pause regularly so that Steve could get himself under control. Pepper sat with him the whole time, making sure that he knew that he wasn’t alone, that the entire team was there to support him and now Bucky too.
When the doctor in charge was eventually finished, they put Bucky in the comfiest bed in a room of his own. The bed was big enough for two so that Steve could curl up with his Guide. First, Dr. Park had to make her report.
“First let me say that I have never been more horrified by the results of an exam than I am right now. Those bastards deserve whatever happens to them.
Guide Barnes has somehow been exposed to a version of the super soldier serum causing his injuries to heal quickly.
Sentinel Rogers, if you need me to stop at anytime during me report-”
“I appreciate the sentiment Doctor but I need to hear it all now. I don’t think I could control myself a second time.”
“Very well. Every bone in Guide Barnes’ body has been broken on more than one occasion. It appears that he lost his left arm due to massive trauma. I’m no engineer but I would guess that his metal arm functions a lot better than any prosthetic available on the market.
There is evidence that he has sustained brain damage. From the files that Sentinel Stark obtained, we have learned that they regularly erased his memory with the use of a machine and an electrical current. He has been stabbed, burned, strangled, sliced, diced and endured a number of other tortures.
We also found traces of GS in his system. It’s a Guide suppressant drug. It is only meant to be used on Guides who are injured to protect them and those around them from unintentional backlashes and never for long term use. I can’t say if there will be consequences from the drug. We can only hope that the serum will heal any damage done.
Right now he has a drip in to keep him hydrated. He needs to stay warm and comfortable. It might also help for you to lie beside your Guide, Sentinel Rogers. Give him a familiar and loving face to wake up to.”
In a daze, Steve nodded his head. “Thank you Dr. Park.”
Pepper helped guide the blond to the correct room and then left to find her own Sentinel.
The blond changed into a pair of comfortable pyjamas before slowly and carefully climb into the bed with his Guide. He was careful not to jostle anything as he pulled the brunette into his arms. Comforted by the scent and sound of his Guide, Steve drifted off into the best sleep he had had since he had lost Bucky.
It was hours later that the blond woke up suddenly. He didn’t know what it was that had woken him. He turned his hearing up but didn’t pick up any trace of what could have startled him. He was just about to right the whole thing off when he felt a twitch in the hand that was resting on his chest.
Instantly, Steve’s heart sped up. “Buck? Can you hear me?” he murmured softly to the brunette that was now sprawled across his chest. “Bucky?”
His Guide’s eyes fluttered several times.
“Hey Buck. I’ve got you. You’re safe now. Open your eyes. Can you open your eyes? Please? For me?” Steve continued pleading softly.
The brunette’s eyes fluttered several more time and then slowing drifted open.
Ice blue eyes met dark blue.
“Bucky,” Steve breathed, his voice full of love and relief.
The End… For Now
Author’s Note: The title and the lyrics come from Without You by Ashes Remain