I scope out the labs, search the computers for anything connected to the HYDRA Super Soldier program, but find very little. What I do manage to get my hands on though, I send to Fury. Brock was in a medically educed coma for study, and I told them that I wanted the results. List assures me that the briefing package will be waiting for me as soon as he has it, and I thank him. For now, my job was to finish the case against Marie Siegfried, but it wasn't getting anywhere with Schmidt around. Schmidt held up her innocence in my absence, and so I stood back, with only my wit and my will. I don't give an inch. Brock was alive, I knew the shooter, but I refused to back down in my pursuit of taking Marie down. She'd brought me more suffering than I could fathom, and I wanted nothing less than her blood to spill. Still, a part of me asks what Steve would think of that. She'd caused him some troubles too, but I doubt he'd want for blood like I do. I shake off such thoughts as I prep for the final verdict. The 'court' was just a room, the jury only Schmidt and Pierce, and me the plaintiff. Marie stood alone at her own defense, but the evidence was stacked high against her. Even with Schmidt saying she was with him, there was time for her to have gone after Brock, and the evidence was strong; a gun she was familiar with, her being the only unaccounted for member of the Crew, and on top of that, she had a good motive.
Marie is set for reassignment. Schmidt pulled some strings and is having her transferred to his private sector, run out of some business in New York or DC, and I could not be happier. Marie wasn't going to die, unfortunately, but she wasn't my problem anymore, which made me happy. She would be shipped out immediately, as not to cause any trouble between the ranks. The day I got the news about Marie's reassignment was the day I got Brock's Medical Report.
Subject: Rumlow, Brock
B. Rumlow suffered a heart palpitation that caused him to loose consciousness after sexual intercourse. He sustained some memory loss. Tests run on blood and urine samples reveal an imbalance of regulatory hormones in the brain due to the SUPER SOLDIER serum given to him fifteen days prior.
Asst. Doctor: Faustus
I use my tactical HUD to take a picture of the documents and send that off through private channels to Fury and Coulson back at HQ. Then I go down to the labs to find out more, directly from List and Faustus. There was something about Faustus that I didn't like. He unsettled me, which I hated. He was so quiet, so calculating, but I trusted List wholeheartedly to do right by Brock. Brock is waking up now, but I keep my distance. List does as well, placing his hand on my elbow.
"He's a resilient one." List tells me, "Been through hell these last two weeks. He's stronger than I thought. Even before the serum, he was in peak human condition. High pain tolerance. Good mind. I can see why someone like you would have been attracted to him." He appraises me. "You worry for him still?"
"He nearly killed me when he first came out of that pod." I inform him, "Sorry if I'm a little unenthusiastic about it. I loved him once... I just... I don't know if I'll be able to again. I think I've come to terms with my emotions. We had one more night together, but we saw how it ended. If this is how it's going to be when I'm with him, then I'd just as soon leave him alone. It was foolish of me, and I need to face facts." I look up to List, who nods his understanding.
"I noticed that you and Brock have grown apart. Is it the Captain?"
"He's gone, too. But no... it wasn't." I lie, "I don't think I'm cut out for the romance thing, if I'm honest." List nods again, looking to Brock who slowly wakes up.
"Well, he'll still be... groggy and secured... if you'd like to speak with him about this." List leaves the examination room to me, leaving me the access code to the locks, and giving me one last reassuring pat on the shoulder. Brock stirs, opening his eyes, and immediately struggles against his bindings.
"Brock, please calm down." I manage to say calmly, "You are restrained for your own good. You passed out and we don't need a repeat of what happened with you coming out of the pod."
"What happened, exactly?" Brock asks, looking at me. "I mean..."
"We were spending some time together, Brock... your heart rate was through the roof. And then you passed out and I called the doctors in to help you." I place my hand over his. "Are you feeling alright?"
"No." He replies, biting his lip. "No... I'm not alright." His hazel eyes level with mine, "I remember now... I almost killed you." He whispers, "I don't even want to think about... about what would have happened if you weren't enhanced."
"Let's not talk about that." I say gently, releasing him from his bonds. He rubs his wrists, and I move towards him, allowing him to wrap his arms around me. "You weren't yourself. I don't blame you at all."
"But I was. I looked right at you... but it's like I didn't know you."
"You weren't yourself." I maintain, kissing his cheeks. "I love you so much, Brock Rumlow." I kiss him again, and again, and I taste salt on his lips from the tear that tracked down his face. I wipe it away, placing my hands on his damp cheeks. "I love you, Brock. And I'm sorry... for everything."
"What are you sorry for?" He asks, "I'm the one who hurt you." I shake my head, kissing him once more. If only he knew.
I wake up beside Brock in our old bed, naked. We're both tangled up in the sheets, and I feel a slight pain all over. Emotions ran high last night, and I guess Brock and I got carried away. Flashes of our escapade course through my mind, moments. A touch, a breath, a moan. But never whole scenes. I shake my head and make my way to the shower. Brock doesn't join me, like he would have back when I was still an active member of the Skeleton Crew, when Brock and I led it, thinking HYDRA was right. But now doubt has crept in on me, and I don't want to do their dirty work any longer. I finish up my shower, and send out the signal for my Team to meet me in an hour. I slide on my HYDRA garb, disabling the trackers inside of it with a piece of Tech that Fury gave me, and sit beside Rumlow on the bed. He's breathing quietly, stock still, and I can't bring myself to wake him. Not yet. And I can't make any move before my team gets here to back me up. Now it is a waiting game. I leave my old quarters, walking the halls of the facility for the last time. I run my fingers along the names on each door, recalling all the good times I'd spent here... either with the guys, or just with Brock. I find myself wandering aimlessly until I reach the offices. At the end, Brock and I would spend long nights in the office, the time made bearable only by the presence of the other. I can't stand it. I haul myself up to sit on Brock's desk, feeling the wood beneath my hands. I remember the one night we didn't make it back up to our room and he made love to me on his desk. That memory was tainted when the facts hit me though. Brock had taken Marie on the same desk, a little before he and I spent time here. And that infuriates me. I try to get back to the good memories, but, that sense of duty pulls me back to reality. Everything between Rumlow and I ends today. It has to. For the good of the mission, and for me. And for Steve. Today, last night, was the last time I would wake up with Brock in my bed after a long night together. Last night was truly the last time I would ever be with him, and the realization hurts more than I'd like to say.
I've been staring at it for a long time now. She left it on the dresser before she left, face down. It caught my eye when I shut the top drawer too hard and it toppled onto the carpet, face up. A small gold frame holding a picture. A picture of Brock Rumlow. I love Diana. But I knew that there was a small part of her that probably still loved Brock. Actually, it's probably a really big part. Because she still had his picture, and I knew she didn't want to kill him. I get a call that Diana gave the go-ahead to start the mission at her old HQ. Me, and her guys had been studying the maps and diagrams and the plans of attack relentlessly, and the teams were made up. I would lead the Braddock boys in to take out the main labs, and, hopefully, Diana would track down and apprehend or kill Brock Rumlow. Rollins would lead a secondary team that would hopefully corner Pierce and arrest him, then both teams would meet up on the middle floor and get Schmidt. Diana said that we had a new player that she knew little about, but she thought we could handle her. She also said she would try and keep Schmidt and 'Sin' occupied long enough to let the two teams get to them, and we would take them out. To take down HYDRA, we had to cut off the leading heads. Marie had already been moved off the HQ, so she wasn't a concern.
I'm putting my Shield on my back when I feel a strong hand on my arm. It's Bucky. He looks at me and nods slightly, walking on beside me.
"Buck, are you sure you want to come?" I ask. He nods, eyes set.
"I'm glad she's happy with you, Steve. I am." Bucky says quietly, "But I still love her. And if she's going after Crossbones, then I want in. She doesn't need to face those demons alone."
"Alright." I reply, placing my hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Buck. But... I've loved her... since the start. And when she... came to me... I..."
"Don't apologize, Steve. She's an amazing woman. And like I said, I'm glad she's happy with you. She has a legitimate future with you. I couldn't even touch her without hurting her." He shakes his head, eyes changing from hard to saddened, and I feel suddenly guilty for having caused his grief. "When do we leave?" He asks.
We're on our way to the drop zone and Steve has his hand on my shoulder.
"Hey, are you sure you want to do this?" He asks. I nod, tightening my shoulder holster for my gun and checking the maps one last time. Diana would be waiting, she told us, in her quarters to make her next move, which would be to work her way down to the labs and kill Brock Rumlow. Steve told her that I would be backing her up, and she didn't say anything about it. I don't know if she's mad about that, worried, or otherwise, but I knew this would be a hard mission for all of us. Steve wouldn't be able to back Diana like he would want to, and I would be with her. I loved her, and I was going to have to help her kill the man she once loved more than she loved me. I should be happy about it, but I know it will hurt her, so I can't be. I can't be happy about it. The HYDRA base comes in to view. Jack Rollins is at the controls and he gets us in without a hitch. We break off into our teams, Steve with the three Braddocks, me flying solo to find Diana, and Rollins leading Batroc, Natasha and Clint, as well as a few SHIELD Agents who volunteered for the mission. Among them, Agent 13, Sharon Carter. She was a specialist, and we were glad to have her. Clint Barton also volunteered, and he brought up the rear, bow at the ready.
"Men," Steve calls out, "We have our mission. Now let's finish it. Come Hell or high water-,"
"I'll see you on the other side." I chant with the others. We give each other nods, and break off. We enter the hangar with little resistance, and I dive in to the vents before HYDRA units move in. I snake my way through the vents until I reach Diana's room, kick out the grate, and drop down into the room, silently. I hear the click of a gun and I wheel around to see Brock, holding his forearm against Diana's throat, and a gun to the side of her head.
"I'm shocked, really." Says Brock. I narrow my eyes, he wouldn't. "Shocked that it's you and not Rogers here to save her." Diana has her nails embedded in his skin, she's drawn blood, but the man holding her doesn't seem to care. There is a hollowness in his eyes, and I hate it. I didn't know Brock well, but he never had the gleam in his eye like he has now, it's dark, angry, and vengeful. I keep my hand at my hip, waiting to draw my knife. "Yeah I already heard the radio chatter that the Captain was here... I just thought maybe it was you. But here you are... So tell me what you're willing to do to save her."
"Anything." I reply honestly. Brock smirks, then pulls his mask down over his face. A death grin greets me.
"Turn around, drop your weapons, and give yourself over to HYDRA." Brock demands. I move, turning slowly so I can keep him in my peripheral vision as long as possible. His eyes are trained on me, and I slowly reach back to the Skorpion SMG on my back, and as it drops, I see Diana spring in to action. She smacks her skull into Brock's face, whips around and takes his gun from his hand as easily as breathing. In the time I saw her move, I'd turned, grabbed by SMG from midair, and now stand with it, also trained on Brock. The man smirks under his mask, raising his hands and backing up a step, when I hear a shot go off. Diana cries out, dropping to one knee, pivoting on her good leg to fire a round at her assailant. Another woman cries out in pain but she stands. Wild red hair flies around her pale face and Diana has her pistol out of her thigh holster, one trained on Brock, the other on the woman who could only be Sin. Sin cocks one hip out to the side and has an absolutely insane grin plastered on her rouged lips. I keep an eye on Rumlow and when Diana notices this, her focus shifts to Sin.
"You chose the wrong side, Diana." Brock snarls. Diana bites her lip, shaking her head once.
"No." She says confidently, "You did." Just then, gunfire sounds from above and Brock leaps around me before I can move. He and Sin beeline for the upper levels, losing Diana and I as we pursue.
"Are you alright?" I demand. She turns her head only slightly to look at me, nodding firmly once. I nod back and we run for the upper level, where we find Schmidt and Pierce holding position behind a hoard of HYDRA agents. Diana leaps over a railing, free falling a good fifteen feet before rolling to end up on one knee, right beside her men. She aims lethally, putting down men as she clears the way for her heavy hitters. Steve and Brian are back-to-back, Steve with his Shield, Brian with fists that come faster than I can see. Diana stands with James and Clay, covering Steve and Brian.
"What's the status?" I ask into the communicator. Steve's voice crackles in.
"We cleared the Labs and got the intel we needed, now we just need to get to Schmidt and Pierce." Steve replies.
"What about Rollins and the others?" Asks Diana.
"On their way. They entered at the roof and are fighting through this same mess." Steve replies, smashing in the skull of an agent with his shield. Diana looks up at me.
"I think they've got things here, let's go help Rollins." She says. I nod, tossing her a clip of 5.7mm ammo. She catches it, and gives me a thankful look. I don't carry anything in that caliber, but I grabbed the clip for her... in case she needed it. I wanted to look after her, even if she didn't love me anymore. "Come on. If Rollins is up against this kind of stuff, he'll need the extra muscle." She's bleeding pretty badly from her bullet wound, but I doubt she feels much due to the adrenaline. Still, I want to do something about it. She runs, taking a limping step every few paces, but she's strong. I follow closely, watching as she discards her current empty magazine in her pistol and puts in the spare clip I'd given her. We work our way up, almost too easily. We meet a little resistance, but nothing we can't handle. We snake up to the main living floor for Pierce. Diana said she'd only been there once, and very briefly. It seemed pretty basic though, so Diana wasn't worried. Jack, Batroc, Barton and Romanoff are returning fire on HYDRA agents, all of them swarming around Pierce when we make it to the top. Diana throws down a smoke bomb and dives through the agents. I hear five shots go off quickly, then another six. Two shots go off from a different firearm, then nine more from the Five Seven. When the smoke clears, Diana has Alexander Pierce at gunpoint, I note, not her gun, and there are nineteen dead agents at her feet. Alexander Pierce has a bullet wound in his leg, similar to that of Diana. He tells his men to lower their weapons.
"Pierce," Diana says, "Call off the assault on my men and ask Schmidt to come to HQ." She demands. The older man nods slowly, reaching for his phone. He hits a button, and calmly speaks in to the phone.
"Mr. Schmidt," He says, "There is a situation regarding the new Super Soldiers that we need to discuss. I think it better if we do it in person." I hear mumbling on the other end of the line. Pierce won't warn Schmidt, he cares about his own life too much to risk taking a lethal bullet to save an 'ally'. Diana would have in a heart beat, but Pierce and Diana are two very different people. The HYDRA Agents are being disarmed by the team sent to take this floor and Diana looks to Pierce.
"He's coming?" Diana asks. Pierce nods.
"Are you going to kill me, Miss Calhoun?" He asks. Diana clears her throat, but Pierce looks her boldly in the eye.
"No." She says calmly, pushing him down into his swiveling office chair. She leans over him, eyes flashing dangerously. "Tell me what the fuck you did to Brock." She presses the barrel of the pistol in her hand to his thigh.
"I didn't do anything." Pierce says, "Doctor Faustus however..."
"He rewrote Brock's mind. He doesn't remember almost killing you because Doctor Faustus told him to forget. Now we can use it as a means to... manipulate." He smirks. The door crashes inward and Brock is standing there with Sin, who is bleeding from her leg where Diana shot her, and from a few small cuts on her arms and face. "Mr. Bones," Pierce says, "Doctor Faustus says Remember." Brock goes rigid immediately, clutching the sides of his head and screaming. His eyes roll up into the back of his head and he moans, dropping to his knees. "Mr. Bones, Doctor Faustus says Obey." Suddenly, the man snaps to attention and Pierce smirks again. "Kill them." He orders. He points at me and Diana, and Brock immediately leaps for us. Diana dives away, grabbing him by his mask and ripping it back, flipping him onto his back. He regains his feet, pulling away, his mask pulled off. Diana flings the mask away, staring deep into Brock's hollow eyes. He's not the same man she knew. Diana aims a shot at him, but he somehow manages to dodge it. Sin runs in, tackling Diana to the ground. The woman is much smaller than Diana though, and only knocks her off balance. Diana shoots Sin in the foot, causing her to cry out loudly. Brock rises, coming up as Diana has her back turned. His hand shoots out but my bullet is through his palm before he can lay a hand on her. He ignores the blood, punching Diana in the stomach. She absorbs the blow in her abdominals, and she looks to me. Brock bears down on her, striking faster than a man his size should be able to, and she dodges as best she can. She kicks at Brock's legs, taking him down. I jump in, planting a knee on his chest and punch him in the face with my metal arm. His head snaps to the side but he doesn't go down. He gets his legs between us and kicks me in the chest, launching me back. He is up and he moves in. He grabs me by the throat and throws me down this time, his fist connecting with my face. Before the second hit can come, I throw my arms up between us, blocking my face. Instead he aims for my stomach, knocking the air out of me. Diana jumps on his back and locks her arms around his neck. She has one elbow hooked around his neck, the other hand against the back of his head.
"I'm sorry." She whispers, twisting as hard as she can. He rolls with her though, twisting with what should have broken his neck, and flipping her on to the floor. Diana leaps aside and fires her gun, catching him in the side. He strikes at her, but she dodges him. He was just too big to be faster than Diana, a true super soldier. She dives behind him, jumps up, and knees him in the back of the head. She hooks her leg around his neck in the same move, and executes a perfect scissor take down. She sets Brock off balance, and with one good twist of her body, she's able to put Brock on the floor. Sin has regained her feet, and she throws her knives with deathly accuracy. One of them plants itself in Diana's arm. She rips it out, throwing it back at Sin. It finds its mark between her ribs. As Diana continues to fight, her wounded arm slows her. She manages to wound Brock a few more times, ending their fight with a hard kick to the head, that probably would have killed a normal man. She turns her sights on Pierce and I focus on Sin, who has retreated to lick her wounds. Diana puts a bullet in Pierce's arm, apprehends him, and forces him in to a chair. Her wounds have stopped bleeding. Pierce holds pressure on his arm. We hear a helicopter landing. Jack and Batroc did their jobs, disabling the alarms, and the gunfire was nearly gone. Diana looks at Crossbones, who is on the floor, bleeding pretty badly from his side and his hand. She points to him.
"I have a plan." She says, striking Pierce in the back of the head with the butt of her pistol. He slumps, and she hastily wraps his wounds to stop the bleeding, and then looks back to me. "Get him in a chair and tie his arms. Jack, Batroc, you two stay. All SHIELD Agents make yourselves scarce and make sure nobody interferes with this floor until I give the signal. Bucky... follow my lead."
The helicopter rotors shut off and Johann Schmidt enters Pierce's office from the roof access. He doesn't even start at the sight of all the bodies.
"Herr Schmidt," I say, "The situation has been handled. Mr. Pierce called you here so he could have his new Agent kill you."
"Crossbones." Is all Pierce says, "And yet, you. Sergeant Major, you bring me the Winter Soldier."
"No." I reply, "He was here trying to break in. But we've spoken and he wants to aid me." I explain, "So long as he knows that I'm his handler." Schmidt narrows his eyes. I don't give an inch. I bore holes in his head with my eyes as we stare at each other. "It's good you're here now. Safer here than out there."
"What happened, exactly?" He demands.
"Crossbones," I let the name roll off my tongue, it tastes bitter. "Wanted to overthrow this operation. He's not right, Mr. Schmidt... and I was here, saw what was going on. Mr. Bones, and your daughter Sin tried to-," As I speak, I tap on my communicator and the door flies open seconds after. "Kill you." I chuckle, "And I decided that it sounded like a good idea... actually... it's been a good idea since... oh I don't know... you ordered a hit on my best friend." I put a bullet in Schmidt's midsection and look at my team. Cap and Brian stand at the front, Steve with his shield, Brian hovering a few inches from the floor. Behind him are the other Braddock boys, flanked by Jack and Batroc. Everyone floods the room and I look at Steve. He steps up, and I give him a kiss before glaring at Schmidt. He glares right back.
"I knew I should have had you killed." He snarls. Brock groans, eyes popping open and he immediately struggles against his binds. Bucky punches him in the face, his head snaps to the side, and he's out again. I don't like seeing it, it hurts, but I know that this is how it has to be now. Brock is the enemy. I whistle once and point at Schmidt. Brian and Steve move to him and secure his arms behind his back. The injured Schmidt struggles, but can't break out of the hold. Steve is a super soldier, equally as strong as Schmidt, and Brian is in another league entirely. Pierce is still out like a light in his chair, and Brock is being watched carefully by Bucky.
"I'm shocked that you didn't know what I had planned." I say, trying to sound bored. "Jack, call in clean-up... Steve, Bucky, handle Rumlow. Clint, Batroc, please escort Mr. Pierce. Nat, you and I will grab Sin. We're loading them up and putting them away. For good." I look to Steve, who nods, and releases Schmidt to Brian. Steve and Bucky handle Brock together, each one taking an arm.
We transport the three personally to the Raft, and we are welcomed back at SHIELD as heroes. We all have wounds to lick, and I am in the med wing as soon as I get back to the Triskelion, getting my leg and arm looked at. I'm given a clean bill of health, as well as the okay to remain on heavy duty. I thank the doctor there, and head to see Steve, who had escaped the day without too many cuts. He's waiting for me just outside the door. I fall in to his arms, my body exhausted now that the day has run its course.
"Steve..." I croak. He smiles, holding me close.
"You did so well today." He says, rubbing my back. "The guys want to celebrate. They said something about... Stella Artois?"
"Oh no." I say sarcastically. "Come on, let's go get cleaned up, and I'll invite you to meet Miss Stella." I tease, poking him in the ribs. He chuckles and we head up to his, now our, room. The shower is quick, sensual, and I enjoy every second of it. Steve takes care washing my cuts, which are already well on their way to healing. When we get out, we both go for similar outfits: jeans, blue, comfortable tee shirt, and boots. I throw on my leather jacket and pull back my hair, Steve combs his down. I look at him, smile and we head down to the commons floor, hand in hand. We just took down the people at the top of SHIELD's list, so we deserve the night for celebration. Steve pulls me aside before we can enter the commons and the noise of the already celebrating Crew.
"I'm moving to Avengers Tower tomorrow." Steve says, "And Fury gave me the go-ahead while you were in the med wing... to ask if you wanted to come and help us train the new recruits." I nod eagerly, gripping his hand tighter.
"Yes." I say, smiling. "I would love to."
"Great. We leave tomorrow... but we're not in a rush to go. Your guys can come too, operate out of the Tower like STRIKE did from here." I nod eagerly.
"As long as we can stay the Skeleton Crew... the name is kind of stuck." I chuckle. Steve kisses me, and we walk in to the commons. A beer is in my hand immediately, and I raise up a toast. "To friends." I call out, "To loved ones." I look up to Steve. "And for taking out the big guns at HYDRA."
"Ooh rah!" My men yell.
"It's been a helluva journey, boys." I tell them, downing half my beer on the first sip. "I love you guys."
"We'd have followed you to hell and back." Jack says, placing a hand on my shoulder. "Come hell or high water-,"
"I'll see you on the other side." We all finish. We toast again, and start a night of war stories and drinking. I have an uneasy feeling in my gut, though, and I excuse myself after one beer. I tell them that I'm tired, my wounds are starting to get to me, and nobody questions me. They know me well enough to know not to. Steve insists that he's tired too, and follows me as I leave the celebration behind. I'm drained, emotionally, and physically, and I think it's all catching up to me now that the adrenaline has gone down. Now, I just want to curl up beside Steve and fall asleep, and that's exactly what we do.