Fear of Falling
a Captain America fanfic
Notes: Winter Soldier spoilers.
The HYDRA base is burning, its horrors cleansed by consuming flame. Bucky leans hard against Steve, staggering half a step behind. This place is like the pit of hell, a den of torment for hundreds of souls. Only Steve would walk in here, fearless, and look the devil in the eye. Only Steve would walk willing into the jaws of death, like the musician bringing his beloved out of the underworld.
A slender bridge lies between death and salvation, and they have no choice but to cross. Steve sends Bucky ahead, and Bucky swallows but obeys. It is a long way down. He treads with care, legs shaking, an inferno roaring at his feet. Iron creaks and sags. He stumbles to the other side, as girders buckle and collapse into the void.
Steve stands on the far side of a broken bridge, a chasm of fire between them. He says, "Get out of here!" and Bucky answers, "Not without you."
He clutches the rail like he will never let go. Steve can read him like an open book. Resolve pools in his eyes, and he takes swift strides back. The gap is impossibly wide. If it were Bucky, he is not sure he would have the courage to jump.
But Steve comes running--
--and takes a leap of faith.
The train rattles and sways along every turn of track. Bucky clings to its side with all his might, gripping a thin metal bar that bends slowly under his weight. He is betting against the implacable laws of physics. The alpine wind whips past, bitter cold stinging his skin. Nothing below him but snow and ice and a thousand feet of mountainside. He tries not to look down, and then he does.
"Hang on!" a voice calls. "Grab my hand." And Steve is there, breathless and pale, leaning out to the limit of safe, and then beyond. He reaches out for Bucky, who is clawing at the bar.
It falls away, and he falls away, and he falls for a very long time.
The Winter Soldier turns his head as the man falls past him, through the broken deck of the helicarrier. No time for anything, just one last look, and he is gone.
His words echo like heartbeats. Your name is James Buchanan Barnes. I'm not going to fight you. You're my friend.
He crawls to his feet, assailed by a vertigo that has nothing to do with the death spiral of a doomed ship. Memory flashes like fire. The man has cracked open the door in his mind, and he fears to step inside, fears to fall down that endless gravity well. Instead of dreamless sleep in ice, he could wake every night howling in the dark. There is blood on his knuckles, blood on his teeth, blood under every nail.
The dying helicarrier lurches to one side, guts torn open, fire spewing from its belly, nothing left of its lethal grace but spitting wires and grinding metal. The deck tilts madly.
A voice in his head screams, Get out of here! and another one answers, Not without you.
Hundreds of feet below, in the swollen river, a man is sinking.
Bucky runs to the edge--
- fin -