It’s not that he hates the cold or anything. Shit, it’s not even that he particularly likes being warm, either. He’s got this thing about layers, now, after. Well, just after. If he’s drunk enough, he’ll maybe admit it’s sort of about the arm, but mostly it’s got to do with liking sleeves and scarves, but never sweaters, because they’re bulky and baggy and awkward and never fit right, which makes them a bitch to fight in. And the way his life works? There is always going to be a fight. It’s just a question of how long he can go before it happens. Days like this, when it’s nippy and windy and everyone sensible is staying indoors and drinking steaming mugs of whatever-the-hell, he even sort of welcomes the fight when it comes, the chance to move, get his blood flowing in his veins, work up a sweat.
So it’s not that he minds the cold, per se. It’s just that with cold comes winter, and him and winter? It’s gotten a little old. He wouldn’t mind it so much, he thinks, if he ever actually got to see spring, or summer, or even just the tiniest glimpse of, say, late October, before the snow really starts to pile up and there’s still a tiny hint of blue to the sky.
But in winter he was born, and in winter he will stay, it seems. And it fits, he guesses, what with the name and all, because really, who’s going to be scared of a ghost in the bright sunshine of July? Who’s going to be looking over their shoulders every moment when all around them are children out of school, eating ice cream and drinking lemonade and running in the grass? Who would honestly be afraid of the Winter Soldier in summer, so far away from the chilling, eerie mists of November, or the dark, frozen night sky of December, or the biting, whistling wind of January?
He thinks maybe he remembers spring, remembers pale green and pink and yellow, remembers warm breezes across his face. But there’s so much of his memory that he can’t be certain of, and he honestly can’t count the number of years since he’s seen the world in anything buy shades of dirty grey: muddied, slushy snow dripping cold onto sheets of ice, iron clouds scudding across the slate-grey sky. Even the cold itself has started to feel grey, the feel of his breath freezing in his chest, the fingers of his one hand going numb at the tips, and it’s all gotten so normal that he barely feels it anymore.
He’s trudging through the snow now, kicking hard, iced-over clumps out of his way as he stalks down narrow, empty streets. It’s late, the feeble street lamps casting little puddles of light onto the ice on the street. He turns the corner, grateful when the buildings cut off the wind, because even though the cold doesn’t bother him, the hissing and whistling in his ears is annoying, and he never remembers to wear a hat that’ll cover his ears.
He’s nearly there, and he’s starting to feel his face go numb, can’t quite feel the end of his nose anymore, and he’s certain his face is all red; he looks down, frowning, crosses his eyes to try to see, but then he can’t see and he comes close to slamming his own face into a door.
Uncrossing his eyes, he looks up, smiling when he realises that his feet have made the last few steps toward his destination without him. He frees a hand from the depths of his pockets and raises it, knocking twice and stepping back half a step. A shadow crosses the door, and then it’s opening, and he feels his smile grow wider.
“You look like an ice cube,” Natasha says, one eyebrow rising, and he realises belatedly that he’s covered in snow, and his nose must be practically glowing, and he’s wearing about fifteen layers under his coat, but she’s smiling back at him.
“What can I say,” he says, stepping closer, “this is Russia. It’s always cold in Russia.”
“Cold, is it?” she asks, smirking, and she steps back slightly as he keeps moving forward until he’s almost at the door, but never actually through it, never, until she lets him, because that’s the way they’ve always done this and sometimes he’s a sucker for tradition.
“Well then,” she says, reaching out a hand to tangle in the knot of his scarf and pull him closer. “Let’s see if we can’t get you warmed up.”
Her lips against his are like fire, all heat and softness and pressure, pulling him closer, across the threshold and inside where it’s warm and comfortable and cozy. But those lips are still pressed against his, so he lets himself be guided forward, never opening his eyes as her hands move over his chest, pulling his scarf loose before sliding up to his shoulders and pushing off his heavy coat, leaving it lying in a heap on the floor.
She pulls away as they reach the hallway, smiling impishly as she takes his hand and pulls him forward towards her bedroom. She kisses him again once they reach the door, pressing him back until his back hits the frame, and her warm fingers worm their way underneath his shirt, rucking it up higher and higher before she shoves him towards the bed.
He sits down hard, pulling his shirt off as he does, and suddenly she’s leaning over him, long legs pressed against his thighs as she straddles him, crowds in close, forcing his head back and up so he can kiss her. Her hair falls in a curtain around his face, and her breath fans across his face, warm and tickling as she kisses him again, sweetly, pressing her body tightly against his.
She pushes him onto his back, bending low to suck bruises across his ribs, and he shivers, grinning stupidly, and thinks, maybe there’s something to this after all.
“Feeling warmer?” she asks, mouthing the words over the curve of his hipbone, and he shivers again, feeling goosebumbps rising on his arms, and she smirks. “You’re still shaking, there, hotshot.”
And he laughs, he has to, because this is why he loves her, the wit and the warmth and the knowledge that she’s not just another shade of grey, not with her bright hair and brighter eyes, not with her laugh and her smirk and the smiles, the tiny ones that he suspects are just for him.
“I’m just glad you let me come in from the cold,” he tells her, and there it is, that smile, slow and sweet like honey, and he thinks he can almost taste it on her lips when he kisses her. He reaches up with his good hand, fingers tangling in her hair to hold her there, his other hand settling low on her waist, pressing light and careful because he’s not always sure of his strength, but she always presses back so he figures it’s okay.
She smiles into the kiss, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, soft and warm and all around him, fire-red hair and spring green eyes and peach pale skin, and just like that—
—just like that, it’s summer.