Space was a place of extreme temperatures, blazing flesh-melting heat or deep-freezing cold. The night commanders had been modified for the cold, and Admiral Maria Hill ran the great shield ship that protected them from the extremes they weren't designed to sustain.
"You're not a night commander," Maria reminded Captain Rogers for what felt like only the latest incident in an endless stream of them.
He had the highest known natural tolerance for the cold and had survived accidental cryogenic suspension long enough to emerge in a new era, yet had somehow adapted his supposedly obsolete training and skills to command a full-spectrum team of small craft known as the Avengers, all members born in the modern era and at least third-generation modified by their own description. (Maria privately nursed her doubts about that concerning Romanov, who by Maria's lights was likely second generation. Everyone knew the first gen Widow mod was Admiral Peggy Carter's Dottie Underwood, but Romanov had that shine and polish and the incredible chops that went with previous generations, not the raw fire that still blazed in the rest of Rogers' team.) His team was the best in the field currently, but that was no reason for Rogers to constantly try to get himself killed by going where he wasn't modded to go.
"I'm full-spectrum," he reminded her patiently. The prototype for all the variations they had now. Even Banner's mods had been developed in the legacy of Rogers'. "I can handle it."
She wasn't mother henning him and gave him a pointed look to remind him of that. "It's my duty as commanding officer to remind you to take the appropriate precautions when entering cold space in a skin suit."
"I'll stick to the time limit." He smiled that perfect smile that had made him the subject of so much art and pinups from his first stint as Captain of the first gen team, the Howling Commandos. "I'll be back before you know it."
Maria just shot her lieutenant a different pointed look. She better know every move he made long before he could surprise her.
He surprised her. It wasn't a bad surprise, pulling the first gen night commander, even prototype Bucky Barnes and one-time member of the Howling Commandos out of the wreck of a battle fought three generations before. In fact, it wasn't often she got to officiate over something this massively important and top secret happening with Rogers' team rather than her own shieldship.
She filed the appropriate reports and went down to sickbay to receive his report.
The captain had always excelled at delivering a dispassionate report even while practically climbing out of his own skin with personal emotions and eagerness. Maria didn't know where people got the idea this alley cat in the guise of a stoic lion king was somehow reserved and unapproachable.
"They've confirmed it's him," she said quietly, hands folded behind her back.
He didn't even glance over, which could have stung if she'd been a different sort of woman. But she'd yet to put off her admiral's role, and he hadn't seen Bucky since before his bout as a frozen relic himself.
"I told them it was." There was that alley cat in his voice, an itch of irritation and exasperation, and Maria found herself smiling.
She wiped the smile from her face carefully to preserve her own dispassionate tone and raised an eyebrow at him. "Have you heard of Life Model Decoys?"
Rogers turned to her, alarmed. "Those are just rumors."
"After Fury," her predecessor and the man who'd fished Rogers out of coldspace a decade ago, "you really think the powers that control this military wouldn't jump at such a weapon?"
Rogers frowned but turned back to the window, more willing to acknowledge why she'd quarantined the night commander until full band identification had been complete. "His arm."
"Weaponized," she replied. "They're combing it for any triggers or landmines, remote tracking or detonators. He should be clear in another few hours. Then we're going to let him rest."
His jaw tightened.
She softened, put one hand on his shoulder. "Steve."
He looked over and blinked at her then, his own eyes soft with all the things he was feeling about this. It was different when they took off their roles, especially when they did it in a public place.
"He needs to rest and get used to when he is," she said gently. "There'll be plenty of time before port to catch up again."
Steve sighed deeply. "Yeah."
He made sure Bucky was fine and settled before he returned to their shared quarters. Shieldship command and team commanders weren't actually in the same lines of authority, and they were fully within regs for their quiet, on the down low relationship.
He dropped off flowers in the vase by the door, which Maria eyed dubiously. "Am I going to have to water those?" Maria's plants generally lived less long than her deployed fighters in heavy combat regions.
Steve laughed. "No." He looked appreciatively at the way she'd settled into the bed, a mug of coffee on the nightstand, a padd in her hand with no doubt copious amounts of work, and the lamp on low for his sake.
He took the coffee over her strenuous protests and poured it out in the all-purpose disposal chute, then put the mug in the cleaner. In moments, he'd managed to change for bed and remove her padd to his own bedside drawer and out of her reach.
Maria glared at him.
"You need to rest," he echoed her own words back at her. "A good soldier knows when to get rack time."
"A good commanding officer knows everything going on in her ship."
Steve traced one hand over her shoulder, slipping under the gown, and kissed her on that sensitive spot right behind her ear. "Haven't seen you miss anything yet."
Maria gave up in her usual fashion. Instead of submitting and melting, not that he wasn't a fan of when she did, she put her hands on his body and took command of where they were headed next. He wasn't surprised at all they had the same destination in mind.