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Winter Kitty

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While in Romania, Bucky was gifted a tiny abandoned kitten; having never taken care of such a young creature, he was quite lost. He spent a lot of time at the little shop that sells pet food, trying out different kinds of milk for her and finding out what kind of toys she likes and after he shows up a few times someone asks what he’s named the cat.

Bucky is at a total loss, what does one name a cat? He wonders. I’ve never named a cat. I just didn’t want the kitten to die. The worker points out that the cat is pure white and a long-hair, like snow, and maybe the cat should be named winter for the season Bucky found her in. Bucky smiles a little at this, there’s no way (is there?) that this young boy working in the pet shop could know the double meaning. In the end, he decides he likes the incongruity and names her Iarnă.

He raises her by hand, bottle feeding her daily, and she sleeps next to him every night since it’s a cold winter. As she starts gathering her strength, she starts demanding to go everywhere with Bucky, and Bucky, having no real reference for the behavior of cats sees nothing out of the ordinary about that. He just holds out his hand for her and she’ll hop in it, climb up his arm, and perch on his shoulder. Since it’s a metal arm, he never notices the tiny razor sharp little claws, and they never bother him. Even after she’s grown bigger than his hand, she still refuses to let him go anywhere without her, always a fixture, sitting on his shoulder (except when he goes to the market; she will always find some way to cause a ruckus and steal some fish, which Bucky always laughs about and pays for, but the people at the market don’t really mind because she’s a sweet cat and people like him; he’s quiet and keeps his head down, and will always buy food for someone’s kid even if it means he goes hungry). Since she was the runt, and the cold stunted her growth, she remains the size of a large kitten, even when full grown.

After about a year, Bucky’s pretty certain he can communicate with this tiny being, that she understands when he talks to her, and listens, and she speaks to him. When he goes back to his apartment on that day, knowing Steve would be in there, he tells Iarnă to go and hide and he’ll be soon on the other roof. Bucky always knew they’d come for him, so he’d planned for this, and since she went everywhere with him, he’d planned for her, too. No one really notices a small white ball of fluff tucking herself into his satchel, or crawling under the seats in the car with Steve and Sam (Iarnă finds Sam to be a great curiosity; a flying person! What a wondrous creature! She’s less impressed with T’challa though, but that will change). No one notices a little ball of fur skulking about the basement, trying to figure out how to break through the power cords, to help Bucky escape. No one (sadly, including Bucky, which scares little Iarnă more than she can say) notices a puffy ball of cat follow Bucky up the stairs and hop into the helicopter behind him. Steve finally notices her when she tries valiantly to tug her person up out of the water and has the presence of mind to think to himself ‘A cat? In the water? What?’ Steve also notices the little cat refuses to let him take Bucky anywhere without her and how mad she is when he and Sam secure Bucky’s arm into an industrial press. She yowls at them, sitting in the press and chewing on Bucky’s arm. She eventually gives up – these two-legged beasts don’t seem to be as smart as hers is – and curls up on his shoulder, taking a nap until he wakes up and explains in people-language how mean they’re being to her person.

Bucky has no real idea how to explain Iarnă to Steve (or Sam, who’s rather snarky to him, but Bucky doesn’t really blame him, after all, there was that time Bucky destroyed Sam’s car with his bare hands. Also, that time he pushed Sam off that helicarrier. Oh, and he did grab Sam by his face and throw him across a room. So, yeah, Bucky can’t really blame Sam for that), so he says she’s his cat. Iarnă huffs a little and licks her tail; she’s not his, he’s hers, come on now (she is, however, greatly relieved to see Bucky is noticing her again, that was scary and she hopes it doesn’t happen again; it gets Bucky in trouble and she doesn’t like that). Bucky does notice Steve smile a little when he tells him what her name is. Well what the translation is anyway. That makes him feel a little better.

Wanda, Clint, and Scott are also greatly amused by this little cat who goes everywhere with Bucky and take turns petting her while they get their gear on. Bucky tells Iarnă where they’re going and sends her ahead so she doesn’t get hurt. She meets Natasha at the Quinjet, but isn’t sure if Nat is friend or foe, so she licks Nat’s hand and scurries under the jet to hide and wait. Upon reflection, she hopes Nat is a friend because Nat smells like a nice person and Iarnă thinks Bucky needs more nice people in his life. Iarnă is alarmed when Steve (friend) and Bucky show up and they start to leave without the other friends; Bucky seems very distraught so she just curls up on his shoulder and purrs in his ear while they make the slow trek across the desolate landscape to Siberia. Bucky has told Iarnă about this Siberia place before, and she did not like the sound of it one bit. When they land she notices how cold it is and hopes they don’t have to stay here long; she hates being cold, and Bucky hates being cold. She huffs a little and trots along behind them so she doesn’t accidentally get shot.

There’s a very tense moment where Steve and Tony (maybe-friend) are watching something on a screen and it turns Tony from maybe-friend to definitely-not-friend in a split second and Tony (not-friend) tries to literally murder Bucky. Iarnă is not happy about this and manages to find the occasion to scratch his face a few times before Tony takes Bucky and flies off with him. She tries telling Steve that he needs to get Bucky even though she’s sure he doesn’t understand. At least he gets her meaning though, and she watches Steve go after Bucky to help him. Iarnă manages to hop halfway up the launch-bay before everyone comes tumbling down again; she huffs in frustration and hops back down, landing by Bucky before he grabs Steve’s shield.

Bucky scritches behind her ear, telling her quietly that she has to stay there.

Iarnă makes a face at him but nods her assent and tries not to watch what happens next. She does get another scratch or two in on Tony’s face right after he kicks Bucky in his face, Tony sends her flying into a wall and she hurts her little paw. Afterward she sits on Bucky, plaintively mewing and licking his face, hoping he gets back up. Steve is able to finally stop Tony (absolutely-not-friend) and helps Bucky up and the two of them start helping Bucky out of the horrible place. Iarnă is very concerned about her person, he seems badly hurt, and her own paw hurts. Tony yells at them while they are leaving so Iarnă waves her hurt paw at him, hissing at him; Steve drops his shield. Iarnă doesn’t like that so she runs over to Tony and scratches his face one last time and pees on him. It’s the least she can do for Bucky.

When they get back in the snow, T’challa (maybe-friend) is there, loading Zemo onto his plane and explains he knows what happened; he offers them all sanctuary. Steve tells T’challa that they need to find out what happened to all the others and will go from there. Iarnă overhears Steve tell T’challa he has to rescue his other friends; Iarnă goes with them and Steve is very glad for her help when they find Wanda. Poor Wanda is very sad and upset (they were very horrible to her and Iarnă took the occasion to do much scratching and peeing there, too) so Iarnă stayed in her lap, purring, for many days while Wanda got better.

After liberating Scott, Clint, Sam, and Wanda, and being joined by Nat (friends), Steve takes Bucky and Iarnă to Wakanda, so Bucky can be safe from everyone who’s looking for him. T’challa (friend) tells them that his sister, Shuri (friend), can help Bucky (and Iarnă, whose paw is still broken and painful), so they agree that Bucky will stay and Steve will go back with the others, leaving Bucky with the Wakandans.

Tony had to go back home to Pepper, smelling like cat pee; she will never let him live this down. Pepper even tells Peter Parker, much to Tony’s chagrin. One day, Tony gets a picture message of a dirty cat-box from Deadpool that says “I found your twin”. It took Deadpool literally a half hour to send that message because he was laughing so hard. Rhodey saw the message and laughed about it, calling him “Tony Stank” all over again. When Tony and Peter meet the Guardians, Peter even tells them about it, and it’s the only time any of them ever see Dr Strange smile.

Iarnă is sad to learn that Bucky has to go sleep before Shuri can help him, and it turned out that she had broken her leg and they had to remove it so she now has a cool bionic leg and paw, just like Bucky’s. It’s even her left paw, too. She thinks that’s smashing. She sits on Bucky’s shoulder with him while he waits to go into cryo, chewing on his hair a little. After he goes to sleep, T’challa says she can stick around for she’s a very well behaved, if mischievous cat, so she becomes a fixture around the lab for a time.
Shuri takes a shine to the little cat, always tinkering with Iarnă’s paw when she needs inspiration, like she tells her brother “just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved,” and Iarnă loves that. She loves running around Shuri’s lab, sitting on her lap, batting at the computer screen when she wants Shuri to see something. Iarnă spends most of her time in the lab, sleeping by Bucky’s cryo-pod at nights, sometimes she will visit the other scientists too who are always excited to be visited by her; they’ve taken to calling her Busika, which means Winter in their language.
Finally, one morning Shuri tells Iarnă that she believes she can cure Bucky of the programming in him that made him not recognize her and scared her and she is quite grateful to Shuri that she now has her person back. Bucky spends some time in the country, getting his bearings, getting used to the strange and wonderous place, always with Iarnă on his shoulder. He tells her she’s even more of a nuisance now that she has a thumb and that he’s going to have to talk to Shuri about that and Iarnă huffs but she knows Bucky is teasing her and would never do that.

Not soon after they arrived in Wakanda, a stranger arrives too, a stranger claiming to be part of the royal family, claiming a right to the throne. Iarnă hides under T’challa’s seat in the royal room, listening to this, and though she wants to run out and scratch this man on his face, she is truly terrified of him and is very scared about what is going to happen next.

Iarnă’s worries turn out to be justified, for the stranger, who calls himself ‘Killmonger’ (making Iarnă’s hackles rise at the mere the sound of it) challenges T’challa to battle. Shuri pulls Bucky and Iarnă aside, telling them that there is an old woman at the edge of the forest who herds goats, and gives Bucky his weapon, telling him he needs to protect her. Bucky notices that Iarnă wants to stay, and he knows she can take care of herself, so he lets her stay behind so she can tell him the story later. She knows where Bucky will be and if it becomes too scary she’ll go there too.

Iarnă watches the battle between Killmonger (not-friend) and T’challa, worried, watches in terror as T’challa falls into the mist of the waterfall, watches Shuri, Ramonda, and Nakia run back into the caves, and Okoye standing with the dora milaje, no one moving to save their king. She sees the Wakandans accept their new leader, this man who calls himself “Killmonger” and she decides it’s up to her now and jumps into the waterfall.

Iarnă is able to wake T’challa just enough so that he can rise to the surface and she is able to drag him along with her paw (her thumb comes in very hand here, and she’s never had one before, so she loves it) to the shore where he loses consciousness again and she cannot wake him. She runs down the shore for what seems like hours, finally smelling human and fish and assumes she will find some fishermen who will help her – and she does. She’s quite proud of herself, finding these people, guiding them to her king (she has accepted T’challa as hers, and will never accept the other one) and watching them pull him to the safety of the Jabari. The Jabari tribe is a new and not altogether unpleasant experience for her; they live in the cold but let her hide in piles of furs so she can stay warm. She’s as much of a mystery to them as they are to her and she sometimes finds herself locked in a staring contest with M’baku which only breaks when someone comes to see him.

Iarnă (who also is called Busika by these warm people who live in the freezing cold – they call her that for the endless winter that lives in the mountains, and M’baku is certain she approves of the name because she will prance a little and fluff her tail when she is called that) spends her time looking for fish, staring at M’baku, napping in furs, and standing vigil for T’challa. She’s unsure what will happen, she is worried because T’challa will not wake up, she doesn’t know if she can make it back to the lowlands, and she doesn’t even know if the new king will let Bucky stay. That thought terrifies her but she cannot communicate this to M’baku or any of the other Jabari and she doesn’t want to leave T’challa in any case.

On the way back from a fishing expedition, Iarnă smells familiar people and realizes it is Shuri, Ramonda, and Nakia, also an unfamiliar person but he smells like a friend for he is with her friends, and she makes her way through the snow to find them. When she appears in the swirling snow, Shuri can’t help but smile, and Iarnă can’t help but feel smug and quite proud of herself. The Jabari come to them and lead them to the throne room, and then to T’challa, and Iarnă knows things are finally about to go right.
Except they almost go wrong and she watches sadly as war nearly tears Wakandan from Wakandan and all she wants is for them to stop fighting for it had been so peaceful before the man called Killmonger showed up. She joins T’challa in his fight on the mag train platform and is quite satisfied when she gets the chance to pee on Killmonger, again proud of herself.

It shocks her a little when she sees T’challa lift up Killmonger and take him to the surface, but listening to them speak, she understands what T’challa does, that Wakanda has much to offer the world, not just those being oppressed, but everyone. They have the technology and the will to make peace, where other peoples and countries do not, and she’s very proud of her king for offering solace to Erik in his last moments. She climbs on his shoulder and licks his face once before he pulls the spear from himself, taking his own life.
T’challa takes Iarnă back with him so they can rebuild, and after Iarnă determines all her favorite people are ok she heads off to the forest so she can be with her person.
Shuri comes to visit several weeks later; she sees the children sitting in the tree and asks where Bucky is. They point toward the barn while laughing and Shuri thinks this is because they find the idea of a white super soldier caring for goats to be funny and heads that way. Bucky comes running out, shutting the door behind him, telling Shuri everything is fine and there’s no need to worry about anything.

Iarnă starts squeezing in and out from under the barn door, dropping little wooden toys at Shuri’s feet, and when Shuri leans down to look Bucky tries to grab them away so Iarnă starts running around with the toys, batting them in Shuri’s direction. Shuri manages to pick up a little wooden circle, finding it to be a carving that resembles Captain America’s shield. Bucky keeps trying to pick up all the toys while Iarnă squeezes back under the barn door; Shuri follows inside and she finds the goats, all of them wearing hand-knitted pajamas and sweaters, all resembling Avengers’ uniforms, and doesn’t know what to say to this.

Bucky comes back in, glaring at Iarnă, who calmly licks her tail, not at all bothered by him glaring at her. Shuri tells Bucky she thinks that something may have gone wrong and he should come back to the lab but Bucky sighs and tells her that in Romania he’d met a nice old woman who taught him how to knit and he would help her knit sweaters for her cats for the winter. How, he says to Shuri, pointing at Iarnă, do you think I ended up with her?

Shuri shakes her head a little, saying she should get going, saying she’s glad to see Busika was none the worse for wear from her adventure. Bucky, who has been learning their language from the woman whose goats he was caring for, smiles at the name before asking what she means by ‘adventure’ since Iarnă never told him that part. Shuri looks to Iarnă who is shaking her head and brandishing her bionic claws a little so Shuri just laughs nervously, again saying it’s nothing and needs to go.

As Shuri is leaving, the old woman comes toddling out on her cane, asking why Shuri would send a crazy white person who makes pajamas and sweaters for her goats. Shuri smiles and says he’s there for her protection and she takes issue with this, saying she’s protected herself for nearly 100 years and can still do so but what about the goats? Shuri laughs, then the woman laughs, and Shuri heads home.

Nearly two years pass and Bucky and Iarnă remain at the edge of the forest, taking care of the goats and the children and the woman; Iarnă keeps helping him make wood carvings and knit sweaters and pajamas for the goats because Bucky finds doing so calming and meditative. The woman also teaches him how to cook and continues giving him language lessons. Every now and then they would head to the city and spend a few days. Iarnă would run around the palace and the lab, visiting her friends, paying respects to her king, and causing ruckuses in the market (she’d missed doing that). Bucky finds the whole place fascinating: so much technology and so much wonder and so many nice people and he is very thankful T’challa let him stay.

T’challa comes to their little village one day with Okoye and the king’s guard, bringing a large case with them, inside a new arm for Bucky. Bucky and Iarnă both know what this means, that war is coming again. Neither of them are keen to do it but at the same time neither of them are not willing to not defend their new home, and indeed the whole planet.

Iarnă stays in the lab with Shuri and Wanda (she’s very glad to see Wanda again, and very glad to see Wanda is doing better, and very glad to see Wanda has someone she loves; Wanda is also very glad to see Iarnă and holds and pets her absently while Shuri works on Vision) because Bucky explained to her it would be too intense for her on the field and she might get squished, that she would do better to protect Shuri and the lab. She made a valiant effort to save Shuri and Vision from the alien that came to take Vision, scratching and peeing on him, and chases them outside but is unable to keep up. She runs back to the lab when the thunder and lightning start, helping Shuri, helping the scientists. When it seems they have won, she leaves again because she is scared Bucky is hurt and she needs to find her person to make sure he is ok. She arrives in time to see Bucky fade into dust and sits there, looking around for her person, mewing at Steve, asking where Bucky is. Steve kneels next to her in the place Bucky had just been standing, and they all watch as other friends, including her king, also fade to dust. Iarnă doesn’t know what to do and tries to get Steve’s attention but he is too lost in his own thoughts. Oh god, he says, looking at Vision’s broken and lifeless body. A walking, talking raccoon makes his way to the clearing where they all stare at each other, not knowing what to make of what had happened. The raccoon walks toward Iarnă, reaches down, and pats her gently on her head, offering to care for her while they figure out what to do next.