“Bucky. Bucky, hey. Wake up; you're having a bad dream. C'mon, Buck. I got you, you're safe. It's okay.”
A gentle voice broke through the haze of panic and blood. It wrapped around him, and he gasped as the metal fell away. He was terrified to look down. He didn't want to look at the horrendous scarring he knew was there. But the voice was still wrapped around him, trailing warmth everywhere it touched. That included the thick, ropey scars that were snarled around what remained of his left shoulder. A tendril ghosted across his jaw and tugged down ever so slightly, and he slowly lowered his gaze, shaking as those repugnant twists and bulges came into his view.
The warmth continued to tug, and he resisted, shaking his head and clamping his jaw shut to prevent himself from vomiting. It guided his head further downward, and he squeezed his eyes shut, feeling frozen wetness slipping down his face. The icy droplets fell and spattered against the damaged tissue on his shoulder...and rolled down...across flesh.
He gasped and his eyes flew open, staring in astonishment at his left arm. It was whole, it was human, it was his. The warmth surrounded him completely, pulling him away from the remaining haze.
He blinked as he found himself in a darkened room, something soft at his back, something smooth and silky tangled around his legs. A warm, calloused hand was on the side of his face, and two baby blue orbs were peering worriedly down at him. The voice that had warmed him and pulled him away from the splatters of crimson and harsh words in languages he wished he didn't understand sounded again in soft crests and falls, caressing his being like he was something worth being saved. He wasn't, he knew, but listening to this musical, tender voice, he could almost believe it.
“Bucky? Buck, are you with me? Hey, you're alright, you're safe and you're okay, you hear me? I've got you, baby. I'm not letting you fall again. You're safe, Buck.”
That voice was his lifeline. It was still trailing warmth across his whole body, trying to ward off the icy numbness that would never, ever leave him again.
Metal whirred and clicked next to him, and he clenched his jaw as fresh tears began to stream down. They were warm.
“Okay, you're awake now, baby. C'mon, now you have to breathe. In, out. Can you hear me, Buck?”
He realized his lungs were screaming for oxygen, and a jagged, wheezing breath tore through his throat. The sting of the sudden air made him cough, and he struggled to stand. The baby blue orbs were still watching him carefully and concernedly. What were they called? He couldn't remember. He hacked again harshly, and the force of it made him press his forehead to something warm and solid. It smelled nice, and it made him feel calmer. The warm hand moved away from his face, and he started to whimper before he felt it on his back, rubbing small, gentle circles. They were spreading warmth in little ripples throughout his body, trying like the musical, beautiful voice to chase away that permanent coldness.
“Hey, there. You're alright. In and out, baby. In and out.” He tried to follow the instructions he was given. He had copious amounts of training in that.
His breathing slowly began to steady, and he realized he was shaking hard. The calm voice was murmuring gentle words to him, and he pressed himself closer. He was beginning to warm up, but that cold pit of ice locked inside his core refused to melt. He felt another hand on the nape of his neck, holding him close. He was thankful for that – right now, this embrace was the only thing keeping together.
He couldn't stop the damn tears that were still streaming down his face. They were soaking into the warmth that he was now recognizing as another man's body. The beautiful, soothing voice must belong to him – he sure as hell wasn't talking to himself; if he was, it would be something along the lines of “You're a fucking monster, you don't deserve your place on this earth.” He vaguely wondered who the man was, to be addressing him in such a tender manner, to be holding him this close.
Eyes, he remembered. The blue orbs are called eyes. Who did the eyes belong to?
“There you go, Buck. I've got you. I've got you and you're safe and I love you. I love you, Bucky.”
Love. What a strange word. This man must be very close to him, to be telling him these strange things. He got the odd feeling he knew this, and that he understood this emotion – or as much as one can understand emotions. They're fickle things; he sometimes wishes they would go away.
“Shhh, you're fine. It's okay to cry, Bucky, I'm not letting you go. Come on back to me, baby.”
Was he fine? He wasn't sure he could define the word. He was still trying to understand who this man was, why he was so close to such a lethal weapon. That's right, he's a weapon, not human. Maybe he'd been human at one time. He wasn't anymore, and he was beginning to think that maybe being a human was a terrible thing. They were flawed; they let emotions touch them and influence them. Then they couldn't carry out their missions.
What was his mission? It had been so long since his handlers had checked in with him. It must be the emotions. They were getting ahold of him again – slowly bringing him back to his terribly flawed human state. The tears were a side effect of the emotion he was currently experiencing – he didn't have a name for it. He didn't like it; it was making it so much more difficult to carry out his mission.
His mission. He'd forgotten it. His handlers would be furious. They would hurt him.
Or – and this thought made his stomach roil – they would put him back in the chair and take away all of his emotions. Did he truly want them to disappear? He tried to remember what it was like not to have them. He found he couldn't. Did they wipe that memory from him too?
He began to panic – yet another thing that made humans flawed; it was so much more efficient and easy to be a weapon – and a pair of arms squeezed around him tighter.
Were these the arms that belonged to the warm hands? They must be; they were just as warm and strong.
The voice came back, settling around him and offering a hand to drag him back. He wasn't sure he wanted to take it. That would bring more emotions. But it would take away his mission, and it would hide him from his handlers.
He hesitantly took the voice's hand and allowed himself to be pulled out of this sea of fear and worry, out of this ocean of emotion he didn't want or even begin to comprehend.
Liquid words rolled over him, lapping at him and slowly milking out the panic and fear and terror, leaving him limp and exhausted.
The tears had stopped. The emotion hadn't. He still felt it coursing through his veins, but it was so much easier to handle than the other one. Other ones? There were more than two, of course there were.
The voice caressed him softly, rising and falling in a steady cadence. It started to melt his insides, making him feel warmer than he could ever remember. But he didn't remember most things, so it was a possibility he'd been this warm before. Maybe he was only ever warm when this strange, comforting man with the tender voice held him like this. If that was true, he never wanted to leave.
Now that he could feel himself again, and the emotion was turning almost...pleasant, he focused on who he was so close to. Was he one of his handlers? He ran through the ones he could recollect, and none of them sounded this beautiful and kind, especially not when they were talking to him. He wasn't Pierce – he'd been told Pierce was dead, and besides, Pierce's voice wasn't pretty to listen to and calming. He wasn't going to believe the man was dead until he found the grave and exhumed the body, examining it until he was positive it was the man who had ordered his memories taken away. The voice certainly wasn't Zola's – he knew Zola had died years ago, and he had a strange way of speaking that didn't even come somewhat close to resembling anything like this man's voice.
Maybe if he looked his protector in the face. Maybe a face would jog his shattered mind.
He tried to lift his head, but it felt like his neck would snap from the weight of it. A word pranced on his tongue, begging to be said aloud, but he couldn't persuade his voice to work. His mouth felt like it had been sewn shut – he shivered as he recalled what that felt like.
He tried to lift his head again, this time managing to lift it a few inches. Struggling to hold it there, he tilted his head up a bit before crumpling again, his head coming to rest on what he had identified as the man's chest. Breathing in time with the soft thud of his protector's heartbeat, he gradually worked up the strength to lift his head again.
He could see lightly tanned flesh above the neckline of the soft reddish hue of a shirt. He could see outlines of well-defined muscle and a barely-there pulse as the heart pumped crimson blood through veins. He could see a strong jaw that was moving as its owner sang softly under his breath. He could see red lips, a large, slightly crooked nose, long brown eyelashes, and those gorgeous eyes that felt like they were searching his heart and mind, and cherishing everything they found. He could see dark brows pulled low, wrinkling his forehead, and the silken blond hair that stuck up every which way from sleep.
The word danced on his tongue even quicker, tickling his lips and begging to be screamed aloud, to announce itself to the world.
The best he could manage was a choked, uncertain whisper. “Steve?”
A name. The name.
A radiant smile shone and spread even more warmth through his body. “Bucky.”
He tucked his nose against the warmth of the man's – Steve's – throat, sighing contentedly. “Steve,” he murmured again, taking comfort in the way it slipped out of his mouth with a faint taste of honey. “Steve.”
“I'm here, Bucky. I'm right here, and I'm not leaving you.” Steve held him tighter, pressing a soft kiss on his head and whispering, “I love you” over and over again.
He surprised himself by mumbling back, “I love you too, Stevie.” Then, “I've come back. I'm home and I'm here.” The words tumbled out, a little broken, a little timid, but there. He didn't think his voice sounded beautiful, but Steve kissed him again like he thought the world of it – and like he thought the world of him. Bucky. That was his name. His name was Bucky. Steve loved his name. Steve loved Bucky.
Bucky was finally warm.