Winter dragged Steve Roger’s waterlogged body out of the Potomac and dropped it on the muddy bank.
Inside Winter’s mind, Barnes continued to chant, “Don’t kill Steve, don’t kill Steve.”
“ Yes ”, Winter agreed again. “ No kill Steve .”
He wasn’t sure why he couldn’t kill Steve, but the message was clear: Steve was not prey; Steve was kin.
Pity. Steve looked very juicy and delicious, even with lungs full of dirty river water.
“Run,” Barnes said inside him, overwhelming waves of fear and panic rippling through to Winter. “Run fast. Hide.”
Don’t kill Steve. Run fast. Hide. Keep Barnes safe. Winter could do these things.
* * *
“ Hungry ,” Winter thought. “ Feed me .”
“Hide,” Barnes said. “Hide. Safety.”
The things shuffling past Winter on the streets were made of meat. Why did Barnes not understand this?
“Let me be in charge,” Barnes said.
“ Are you well enough? ” Winter asked Barnes.
Winter snarled at one of the things that bumped into him.
MADE OF MEAT .
Barnes sent Winter a wave of irritation, rather than terror, and Winter smiled, which made a passing thing cry in fear. Barnes was feeling better, if he was grumpy.
“For fuck’s sake,” Barnes swore at Winter. “Let me navigate and I will get you food.”
* * *
The building where Steve lived had shit security. Barnes slid across the rooftops in the darkness, dropped onto the roof and lowered himself down to Steve’s living room window. Even the so-called agent living next to Steve’s apartment was useless, not even a decent perimeter on the premises.
Did no one fucking care?
At least the windows Winter had previously shot out had been replaced.
A flick and a wiggle, and the living room window slid open. Steve’s team were so incompetent, they hadn’t even replaced the windows with bullet-proof glass.
Barnes dropped silently into the living room and listened carefully. The fridge hummed. The power outlets in the room hissed faintly with current. Air moved through the central vents. He could hear the agent next door having a conversation, or perhaps half a conversation on the phone.
A quick check for trip wires and infrared sensors seemed prudent, because someone else might have gotten there ahead of Barnes and improved the security. The fight on the freeway had shown that at least one person in Steve’s team had brains and cunning. The Russian.
Front door had a basic cam on it, set to photograph anyone who walked through. Basic, basic, basic. Hallway to bedrooms had a sensor pad, possibly set to Steve’s weight. Barnes bypassed that.
Fridge. What did Steve have to eat? Barnes had to feed Winter.
Eggs. Steve had two cartons of eggs. Steve wouldn’t remember how many eggs he’d left in the first carton by the time he came home from the hospital, so Barnes could safely eat most of the carton.
He dropped an egg into his mouth, crunched and swallowed it, then a second, then several more.
Gatorade. Steve had a case of Gatorade in the fridge, so Barnes took two, and poured one down his throat in long gulps.
The body would thank him for the protein and fluid hit.
Protein powder? Oh yes, a giant drum of it in the cupboard. Barnes scooped powder into the empty Gatorade container until it was a quarter full, topped it up from the kitchen faucet and shook. Goopy protein goodness, just what he needed to heal and rejuvenate.
Barnes shoved the Gatorade bottle into a pocket. Time to set some surveillance of his own and move. He’d stayed still for too long.
* * *
After Steve had made Sam and Nat leave (“No, really, I’ll be fine, I just need to shower and sleep in my own bed without nurses watching me snore,”), Steve stood in his kitchen, hands on the counter.
He could see fine speckles of powder on the counter surface, a pale yellow dust like pollen.
Steve had not left yellow powder on this counter.
Poison seemed unlikely. Accidental trace transfer was a more reasonable explanation.
A check of the fridge didn’t show anything suspicious. The kitchen cupboards looked the same as always.
Protein powder! The 22 pound tub, on the bottom shelf.
Steve lifted the tub out of the cupboard and opened it. The fine yellow powder looked exactly the same as the dust on his counter. He tried to remember how much had been in the tub when he’d made a post-run drink a few days ago, before everything had gone wrong. He wanted to believe the level had been higher.
Had someone had broken into his apartment while he’d been in hospital and made themselves one or more protein drinks?
Bucky. Bucky had been there.
* * *
The faint scuff of boots on carpet woke Steve, sliding him from dreamless sleep into cautious wakefulness as the air currents in his bedroom shifted.
He could hear another heartbeat in the room and the window slowly closing. Creak of tac gear, faint whir of servo motors, whiff of sweat and gun oil.
“Hey,” Steve said quietly. “I’m not armed. You can come on in.”
“ No lights ,” a voice said, down low at the foot of Steve’s bed.
“Sure,” Steve agreed. “I’m going to roll over and sit up, okay?”
The bed creaked and sheets rustled as Steve moved. In the gloom, someone — the Winter Soldier, definitely not Bucky — crouched across the room. No weapons in his hands, but a sliver of light from the hall caught the barrel of the Derringer in his thigh holster.
Steve was intimately acquainted with the Winter Soldier’s weapons, having been shot or stabbed by most them recently. His thigh, gut and shoulder all still ached.
The Winter Soldier turned his hands over, showing they were empty, and Steve nodded.
“Appreciated,” Steve said.
“Are you healing ?” the Winter Soldier asked.
“Mostly better,” Steve said. “Thank you for pulling me out of the river.”
The Winter Soldier’s hair hung across his face, stopping Steve from getting a read on his expressions, but he nodded.
“Do you need anything?” Steve asked. “Can I help?”
“Hungry ,” the Winter Soldier said, his voice sounding desperate and raw. “ Help .”
“I have food,” Steve says, rolling across the bed, only wincing a bit as his stomach wound pulled. “I’ll make you a meal.”
In the kitchen, Steve switched on the light and opened the fridge. He pulled out a full carton of eggs and a slab of ham, and looked over his shoulder at the Winter Soldier.
The Winter Soldier was standing in the shadows of the hallway, carefully avoiding the motion sensor pad outside Steve’s bedroom. In the light from the kitchen he looked rough. Dirty and tired and worn out.
“Do you want to shower while I cook?” Steve asked.
The Winter Soldier stared blankly at Steve for uncomfortable seconds, then said, “ Shower. ”
Steve pointed at the bathroom. “In there. Use anything you want. Clean towels in the cupboard. I’ll put some clothes on the bed for you.”
The Winter Soldier nodded, just the once, then began to unholster his weaponry carefully onto the stand by the front door, until a neat row of guns, clips and knives were laid out.
The Winter Soldier paused at the entrance to the kitchen, where the light was brightest, and for a moment Steve thought he could see Bucky in the Winter Soldier’s eyes. Then he was gone into the bathroom, the door closed.
Steve switched on the coffee machine, cut all of the block of ham into slabs and set it frying in a pan, then went into his bedroom.
He pulled on a t-shirt for himself, because frying anything in just pyjama bottoms sucked, even with serum-assisted healing. He then laid out underwear, socks, a t-shirt and sweats on his bed for the Winter Soldier.
The shower stopped with a clunk about when Steve lifted the chunks of fried ham out of the pan. He set the plate of ham, carton of orange juice and a loaf of bread on the table, ready to start frying eggs for when the Winter Soldier had dressed.
Except that it was Bucky who strolled out of the bathroom and into the kitchen a minute later wearing only a towel, wet hair bundled into a knot on the back of his head and his beard gone. He smelled of toothpaste and soap, rather than sweat and fear.
“Fuck, this smells great,” Bucky said, sitting down at the table. “I’m starving. Starving!”
Bucky. Not some sullen killer wearing Bucky’s skin.
Steve smiled at Bucky, who was spearing two pieces of ham at once, and Bucky creased his eyes back at Steve. This moment was worth the gunshot wounds, the beating, the fall into the river, everything.
“How many eggs?” Steve asked, because he had no idea what else to say.
“All of them,” Bucky said.
Steve took Bucky at his word, and set about cracking a dozen eggs into the sizzling fat in the frying pan.
When Steve looked back over his shoulder, Bucky was gulping orange juice from the carton and the ham was gone.
“Eggs are nearly done,” Steve said, turning back to the pan. Fuck, it hurt looking at Bucky sitting at his table wearing only a towel around his hips, a ring of thick scarring around his left shoulder where the metal arm connected.
Steve hacked the mess of eggs apart in the pan, then carried the pan over to the table and lifted the sections on to Bucky’s plate.
He sat down opposite Bucky with a mug of coffee, while Bucky pretty much poured the eggs off the plate and into his mouth.
Steve knew about serum metabolisms and being hungry, but this was Thor levels of eating. He was impressed.
When the plate was empty, Bucky leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“Do you need more?” Steve asked. “I can make more?”
Bucky shook his head. “Good for the moment. Thanks.”
They sat in silence for a little while, but Bucky didn’t look stressed or haunted, like he had before he’d showered, so Steve didn’t think he needed to rush anything. Maybe digesting that amount of food was hard work.
“Hey?” Bucky said, and Steve raised his eyebrows.
“I came to let you know I have to go away and hide.”
“Okay,” Steve said. “Yeah. People are looking for you. You need to get away.”
Bucky nodded. “Hydra and SHIELD are coming for me. I’ve got to get somewhere safe.”
“We’ll get them all,” Steve said. “Eventually. But yeah, I understand.
Bucky shrugged, the movement of his left shoulder and arm unsettling without clothing covering it. “There’s more. I have a creature inside me. I have to work out how to live with him out of cryo-freeze.”
“Is it the creature who is the Winter Soldier?” Steve asked.
Bucky paused, and Steve knew the look. It was the same as when the team were simultaneously talking on ear pieces and maintaining other conversations. Bucky was listening to another voice, but Steve couldn’t see an earpiece in either of his ears.
“Kind of,” Bucky said. “But they made him do those things, same as they made me. We were both prisoners.”
Steve nodded. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t have to make sense. He only needed to listen to Bucky and reassure him.
“The creature kept me alive,” Bucky continued. “When I couldn’t keep going, he did.”
What could Steve possibly say to that?
“Then I’m glad you have him,” Steve said. “And you should both be free and safe.”
Bucky looked relieved, as though something Steve had said had taken a burden off him.
“Anything I have that you need or want, you can take,” Steve said. “Even if I’m not here. Anything.”
Bucky’s face shifted, as though his memories had left him, and his voice was flat and hard when he said, “ Protein. More protein .”
Steve got out the tub of protein powder.
Bucky left a few minutes later, wearing some of Steve’s clothes under his kevlar armor, and carrying the tub of protein powder plus all the money Steve had in the apartment.
After he’d gone, Steve surveyed the mess in the bathroom. Grit, engine grease and hair in the shower. Beard stubble in the sink. Dirty underwear and socks on the floor. Steve’s toothbrush and razor abandoned on the counter.
None of the mess or the lack of sleep mattered because Bucky had climbed through Steve’s window and for a brief period of time had been able to talk with Steve.
Steve restocked the next day, because if Bucky ever came back, he wanted to be able to offer more than too-big t-shirts and $72 in cash.
* * *
Sam notice, when he dropped in for a visit that was probably also a wellness check. Fair enough, Steve was still reeling from the ramifications of Bucky being alive and from being shot several times.
“Hey,” Sam said. “You shouldn’t just leave money sitting around like that on your kitchen counter. There’s gotta be a few hundred there.”
“Why not?” Steve asked. “I’m Captain America. Anyone with the nerve to break into my apartment should consider that they have earned the cash.”
Sam huffed at Steve. “Captain America with a GSW to the gut. Put the damned cash away.”
Steve shrugged at Sam and left the cash out in plain sight, in case Bucky came back.
* * *
The condo was in an unfinished block, at second fit stage. Barnes had cased the outside, with the Under Liquidation signs and the Seized Property notices, and Winter had broken in. No power or heat, but the water was on.
Barnes missed the power a bit and made do with a 10W solar panel on the balcony to charge his burner phone. Winter didn’t care, as long as they could both stay hydrated. Winter was a thirsty fucker.
Barnes made up another bottle of protein powder mix and gulped it down. Feeding Winter was a problem too.
Outside, the sun was setting over suburban Maryland. Barnes wanted, in a hot twisty way inside his belly, to go back to Steve’s apartment that night. He wanted to find out how much of “anything you want” he could get away with before Steve pushed him away or punched him.
Barnes thudded his head back against the cinder block wall. Stay where he was. Jerk off. Then break into somewhere that had meat for Winter. Much better idea.
Winter chittered in his mind, woken perhaps by the idea of feeding.
“Barnes ,” Winter said. “ You have chosen your mate wisely. I approve of Steve .”
“Um, good, thanks,” Barnes says. “That’s convenient, at least.”
“He is strong and a good provider. He will bear you healthy spawn and raise them well .”
Barnes put down the bottle of protein slush before he crushed it accidentally with his left hand.
“Young humans. Are they not called spawn? ”
“Children,” Barnes said. “Young humans are called children.”
“He will bear you many healthy children. ”
“Um, that’s not anatomically possible,” Barnes said. “For a start. And that’s not why I, um, like Steve.”
“No? ” Winter asked. “ No children? Is he metabolically incompatible? ”
“Sort of,” Barnes said.
“Then why do you think about ejaculating your seed inside Steve so often? ” Winter asked.
Barnes stared blankly at the empty shell of a condo and the corner of evening sky visible through the window in what was supposed to be a kitchen and waited out the panic.
“For recreational purposes,” Barnes said, once the white noise in his brain had stopped and he could form words.
“A hobby! ” Winter said, with a clear tone of comprehension. “ You need a hobby, now we aren’t killing people or in cryo-hibernation all the time. Ejaculating in Steve would be a suitable hobby .”
“Yeah,” Barnes agreed, because why not?
“Barnes ,” Winter said, after a pause.
“If Steve is metabolically incompatible with your seed, perhaps I could place cysts in him instead, and he could hatch my young? ”
White noise. Again.
Once the waves of buzzing and nausea had passed, Barnes said, “We should chat with Steve about this first. It’s rude to place cysts in someone without permission.”
“And dangerous. Steve is very strong and could actively resist my attempts to sporulate inside him, so I will require his cooperation, ” Winter said.
“How about neither of us attempt any kind of reproductive activity with Steve without Steve’s say-so?”
“Agreed, ” Winter said. “ Finish that drink. I want kidneys tonight. Find me kidneys .
* * *
The quiet pad of footsteps in the hall woke Steve. The steps paused at his bedroom door then continued on to the bathroom.
The click of the bathroom light and the repeated quiet thunk of weaponry on tiles dropped Steve out of high alert. There weren’t a lot of options for heavily-armed people who would break into his apartment at 3am to shower.
Bucky had come back again.
The shower clunked on and ran for a couple of minutes, then switched off again. Steve lay in bed, listening to Bucky brush his teeth and whistle tunelessly while he shaved. Time dissonance pulled at Steve, making him feel like he was back in their shitty apartment in Brooklyn. Bucky would get ready for work, shaving with water warmed up in the kettle, then combing his hair back off his face. Soon, Bucky would put his head around the bedroom door and ask Steve if he wanted a coffee with the water left in the kettle.
The bedroom door opened, and Bucky stood in the doorway, lit from behind by the bathroom light. Bucky had tied his hair back with one of the hair bands Steve had left in the bathroom cupboard. There was a towel slung around his hips.
“Hi,” Bucky said.
“Hi,” Steve said. “Do you want something to eat?”
“Nah, ate before I got here.” Bucky walked over the bed and kept moving, climbing on to it on his hands and knees. “Wanted to find out if you meant it when you said I could have anything I wanted.”
Bucky’s metal arm gleamed in the darkness, moisture from the shower glistening on the edge of each metal plate. Steve guessed getting it dry was a significant effort. He should buy Bucky a hairdryer for the arm.
“Meant it,” Steve said. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t give you.”
“Dangerous offer to make,” Bucky said.
Steve shook his head.
“Not if it’s you.”
Anything Bucky could do to Steve, including killing him, would be nothing compared to the feeling of losing Bucky because Steve had denied him something.
“I disabled the bugs in your apartment,” Bucky said. “Hope that’s okay.”
“Sure,” Steve said. “I assumed some of them were yours, so I left them alone.”
“I only bugged your bedroom,” Bucky said. “Think the others are from the Russian and maybe Stark Industries.”
“Have you listened?” Steve asked.
Steve had known, at a gut level, that Bucky had been listening to him jerking off. It had made him loud and messy.
“Yeah. It’s helped. I remember,” Bucky said, his face hidden in the darkness. “I think I remember climbing into your bed. Touching you. Is that right?”
“It was our bed,” Steve said, pushing the bedding down on the other side of the bed, so Bucky could get in if he wanted. “In the apartment on Montague street. We lived there in 1941.”
The towel dropped from Bucky’s hips as he crawled up the bed. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “I touched you too.”
“I can’t tell if I dream or if I remember,” Bucky said. “My dreams…"
Bucky was close, kneeling over Steve, smelling clean and cool, and Steve touched his chest where moisture still clung to the curled hair.
“Anything you dreamed of, we probably did,” Steve said. “We were so young and we knew we were going to die in the war.”
“Did I fuck you?” Bucky asked. “My memory is all patchy there.”
“You did,” Steve said. “Really slowly, so the bed didn’t creak, and with one hand over my mouth to keep me quiet, because the people in the next apartment could hear everything. I’d fuck you too, when my lungs were good enough.”
“Steve,” Bucky said. “I’m gonna…”
Bucky’s mouth was hard and urgent on Steve’s, all teeth and tongue. Steve took it and kissed back just as hard, trying to bridge across too much war and time and ice, because those young men who fucked and loved in the apartment on Montague street had both died a long time ago.
Bucky moaned into Steve’s mouth and shoved and kicked the bedding completely off the bed. He was heavy when he lowered himself over Steve, solid and real.
Steve was hard. He’d been hard ever since the shower had hummed. Bucky’s hand, his improbable metal hand, pushed Steve’s pyjama pants down, and Steve kicked them off, fabric ripping.
They ground against each other, rough and sharp, all skin and acute angles and Bucky’s metal arm. Steve could taste blood in his mouth, from tooth on lip, and Bucky bit at Steve’s neck, hard.
It was the hottest thing that had happened to Steve since the first time Bucky had jerked him off behind the fire escape at the back of Bucky’s mom’s apartment. Bucky had bitten him that time too.
Bucky licked at the bite mark, dragging his rough tongue over the torn skin with the hungriest fucking sound, and Steve was seconds from coming.
“Fuck,” Bucky said. “I can’t remember what to do next.”
Whatever Hydra had done to Bucky, removing his memories of how to get it on seemed the worst right at that moment.
“Gotcha,” Steve said, flipping them over with a crack from the bed frame that warned of imminent structural failure. “I’ll drive.”
Steve headed down the bed and lowered himself next to Bucky’s gorgeous hard cock. First touch of Steve’s hand and Bucky whimpered. First lick, Bucky moaned. Steve took Bucky’s cock into his mouth, planning on sucking the head slowly to warm them both up. Bucky froze for a moment, then shoved his cock all the way into Steve’s mouth with a guttural growl that Steve had never heard Bucky, or any human, make before.
Steve was deeply grateful for the serum, because gagging wasn’t an issue, and neither was holding his breath. If Bucky needed to fuck Steve’s face as hard as he could, Steve was there for that.
Bucky grabbed Steve’s hips and dragged him closer, then fucking devoured Steve’s cock in a bewildering mess of teeth and tongue that made Steve want toscream it was so good.
They could do this, tear each other apart a little, if it made things better.
Steve rubbed a finger in the spit dribbling out of his mouth with each jab of Bucky’s cock, and pushed it against Bucky’s ass. Bucky opened, easy and smooth, letting his finger in, and Bucky rocked into Steve’s mouth, cock down Steve’s throat, then back on to Steve’s finger with a roar muffled by Steve’s dick.
Bucky pushed a finger, cool and wet, against Steve’s ass, in and up, and Steve shuddered. It felt weird and strange, and fuck, Bucky’s finger was doing something inside him, changing shape, pushing and twisting.
So fucking good.
Steve curled his fingers, found Bucky’s prostate and shoved hard, the way Bucky had always liked it. Bucky shook and thrashed, his cock twitching in Steve’s throat and mouth as he came.
So much come. Steve pulled his mouth back, swallowing, trying to hold Bucky steady with his free hand clamped around Bucky’s thigh, and Bucky kept coming, watery and rusty-tasting and fucking everywhere.
Something weird happened inside Steve’s ass, setting his whole body on fire. Steve jerked as sparks arced up his spine and his vision blurred. It felt like he slipped his skin, floating disconnected from his body for endless seconds as he hovered on the edge of coming, then his orgasm slammed into him and ripped through his body in waves of excruciating pleasure.
He lay on the bed, too stunned to do more than whimper, as Bucky carefully licked his cock and balls clean. Then Bucky’s tongue was on Steve’s neck and face, dragging over stubble and under his chin, and then in his mouth, until the mess and come was gone.
Steve lifted his hand and pushed the loose strands of Bucky’s hair off his face. “That was amazing,” Steve managed. “What did you do to me? Have you got some amazing built-in thing in your metal arm?”
Bucky didn’t smile back, and Steve wondered for a moment if even mentioning the cyber-arm was out of bounds. Bucky’s eyes were flat and strange.
“Hello, Steve ,” Bucky said. “ I’m Winter. We have not formally met. ”
Winter slid his tongue around his lips slowly, chasing any moisture that was left on his own face.
Oh, shit. To go directly from coming to Bucky not coping made sense, but it fucking hurt to see.
“Hi Winter,” Steve said carefully. “Pleased to meet you.”
“I like you ,” Winter said. “I want to eat you .”
Winter paused, head cocked slightly.
“Lick you. I want you lick you, ” Winter corrected. “Your touch is not unpleasant .”
“Good,” Steve said. “Tell me if it is, and I’ll stop."
“I now understand why Barnes often thinks about ejaculating inside you, ” Winter said. “ I too will now be able to have the same thoughts. ”
Steve had no idea what to say. They were so far off any conversation he had ever heard that all he could do was be polite and hope the assassin whose hair he was petting didn’t take offence.
“Okay,” Steve said. “I also am fond of thinking about ejaculating in Bucky. Now I have met you, I will be able to include you in my thoughts.”
Winter looked as pleased as an expressionless killer could and licked a long wet stripe up Steve’s face.
“Do you have any kidneys I can eat? ” Winter asked.
“Only kidneys in the apartment are the ones we are using,” Steve said. “I do have lard, proper lard, like we used to have when we were kids. Would you like that instead?”
“Yes ,” Winter said.
Winter kissed Steve before he left, teeth, lips and tongue mashed against Steve’s mouth, and it was weird and hot.
He took the money Steve had left out, two pounds of pasture-raised organic lard Steve had bought from a farmers’ market, and underwear that fit him this time.
The bathroom was less of a mess when Steve went to shower. Less dirt and hair in the shower, less stubble in the sink. And Bucky had found the new toothbrush Steve had left out on the counter for him.
Steve flicked the shower on as hot as it would go and leaned against the sink while he waited for the water to warm up. He felt wrecked, physically and emotionally, after the sex and meeting Winter properly. Bucky was in both better and worse shape than Steve had thought. Good enough to know to come to Steve for help more than once, but messed-up enough inside that he needed Winter.
Steam filled the bathroom, and Steve opened the sliding door to the shower. When he glanced at shower screen, Bucky had written a note on the glass, now visible in the condensation.
Be careful what you give Winter permission to do to you.
Steve flicked the shower off again and went to find his phone. He needed to take a photo of the message and he really needed to talk to an expert about what was going on in Bucky’s head.
* * *
The Starbucks was crowded and loud at lunchtime, the mix of voices, recorded music and the screech of chair legs on the tiled floor resonating off the walls.
Natasha slid into the seat beside Steve in the booth.
“Private enough?” Natasha asked.
“More than my place, which is bugged,” Steve said, pointedly.
Natasha shrugged and sipped her coffee, keeping her face down and partially hidden by her hat.
“Sorry about that. We weren’t sure that you were safe at home.”
“I’m safe. Don’t put them back,” Steve said.
“You know I can’t promise that,” Natasha said. “But you can keep crushing them. What did you need to talk to me privately about?”
“Confidential,” Steve said, and Natasha nodded. “I need help understanding someone’s mindframe and I think that you have the best insight into their experience.”
Natasha stared at Steve, eyes sharp.
“You’ve had contact?”
Natasha swore in Russian.
“How is he?” she asked.
Steve hesitated. “Fragmented. Some is him. Memory problems, twitchy as anything, scared. But him.”
Was his coffee stirred enough? He could stir it more.
“But he’s got another name, another personality. Completely different. I think they talk to each other, in his head.”
He expected Natasha to nod, talk about aural hallucinations, disassociation, trauma. “Death with a pulse, only way hotter?” she asked instead. Steve blinked, and nodded. “I knew him by his Russian name, but it’d be Winter in English.”
“Yeah? How do you know him?”
“When I was a student, he was a combat trainer. He doesn’t remember me now, but I’ve never forgotten him. He shot me later too. He’ll kill you, Steve.”
“I think he likes me,” Steve said.
Natasha shook her head. “Not possible. Winter is a machine.”
Steve pulled out his phone, unlocked it and showed Natasha the photo of the message on the shower glass.
“What does this mean?” Steve asked.
Natasha frowned in concentration. “This is confusing. The Winter I knew would not respect your autonomy in the way this message implies.”
“Bucky says that Winter was a prisoner too,” Steve said, his voice dropped to a whisper so Natasha had to lean forward to hear. “That they were both compelled. Can you find out anything?”
Natasha took Steve’s hand. “We were all compelled. None of us were free.”
“How do I help him? Both of them?” Steve asked.
“Care for them, as much as they’ll let you. Try not to be assassinated in your sleep. I’ll find out more,” Natasha said.
“Who will you ask?”
Natasha smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “We’re in Washington DC — home to the second largest population of former KGB agents in the world. I’m going to drink a lot of vodka and also try not to be assassinated.”
* * *
Two days later, in the food court of a mall, Natasha slid into a seat beside Steve with an electrolyte replacement drink in her hand. She groaned and pushed her sunglasses on more securely.
“Hangover?” Steve asked, and Natasha nodded.
“Dying,” Natasha said. “But I have a file and stories, and I’ve not heard these stories before.”
Steve pushed his plate of apple pie and cream across to Natasha, because she had clearly suffered greatly on his behalf. He took the manilla folder she slid across to him and put it in his pack.
“From a contact in Kiev,” Natasha said. “This is the official version of the Soldier program. Brainwashing. Cryo-freezing. Torture. What you’d expect if Hydra and the KGB collaborated, even accidentally.”
“Ugh. No one shot you?” Steve asked, while Natasha tentatively ate a bite of pie.
“Not successfully,” she said. “No, this is vile.” She pushed the plate back to him.
She considered Steve for a moment. “The stories all sound batshit to me, but what would I know, I’m just a former KGB assassin, right?”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “And I’m just a supersoldier who was frozen for 70 years.”
“Seriously, this is more weird than anything so far. Are you ready for this?”
Steve nodded. “One of my friends is a god, an actual deity. I’ve become accustomed to weirdness.”
Natasha gulped electrolyte fluid, wiped her mouth and leaned closer to Steve. “I drank with Revmir whose father had worked on the Soviet space program, long time ago. Revmir is not young, you understand?”
“My sort of old?” Steve asked.
“Maybe not quite that old. Revmir said his Papa died in the space program. Fair enough, everyone involved in the Soviet Kosmicheskaya program died. The rockets blew up all the time, killed the engineers and technicians as well. Family got looked after, children got careers with the KGB. Eh.”
“Like SHIELD did for families,” Steve said, and Natasha nodded.
“Like SHIELD did, yes. So, just before Papa Revmir got blown up by an exploding ICBM in the Nedelin catastrophe, he worked on Sputnik-2. It was the first mission to send animals into space for a comet flyby, and bring them back alive. Belka and Strelka were the two dogs on the mission. I don’t think the mice and rats got names.”
“When was this?” Steve asked.
“1960,” Natasha said. “You were deep in the ice, so no reason you would know. I only know the dogs’ names because they’re fucking Soviet heroes.”
Steve suspected Natasha was still drunk. She’d never said so much at one time to him before. Apparently Soviet aerospace history was her weakness.
“Dogs?” Steve prompted because Natasha had ground to a halt, looking pale.
“Revmir said his Mama said his Papa said that mission was a complete mess, and the result was hushed up. The dogs came back berserk, like they had rabies, and it spread through the facility staff. Death after death, all messy and gory.”
“But not Papa?”
“Papa locked himself in a control room until a rescue crew arrived. He went home to tell Mama stories of a weird black goo that had invaded the dogs. It moved from person to person, either killing them instantly or living in them long enough to eat other people then move on.”
“Aliens?” Steve asked, because after the Battle of New York, it was much easier to think that.
“One alien. Finally subdued by freezing the host it was in at the time. Good thing about Russia. It’s easy to freeze things, just open the doors.”
“That’s…” Steve said, then shook his head, and Natasha nodded.
“Then I had breakfast this morning with someone whose name I’m not even going to whisper to you,” Natasha said. “And they knew about this too. Said that later someone particularly evil had the smart idea of putting the alien into a body that would be able to survive the experience.”
“Someone who’d had the serum,” Steve said, with a heavy feeling of dread.
“So they put a frozen alien-plus-current-host into a sealed room with an asset called The American and let everyone reach room temperature. The alien jumped hosts and then ate the old one. I believe there’s security footage.”
Steve felt sick. He was going to be sick.
“Then I went home and got very drunk,” Natasha said. “You need to get drunk too.”
Steve pushed the pie away from himself.
“What do I do?” he asked Natasha.
“I have no fucking idea,” Natasha said.
Steve looked at Natasha, and she stared back at him..
“I never imagined when he said he had a monster inside him, it was the literal truth.”
“I recommend vodka,” Natasha said. “Lots of it. Russians invented vodka for exactly this kind of mess.” She patted his arm. “I’m going away for a while, to kill some people. Stay safe, okay?”
Steve covered her hand with his. “I’ll try.”
He was going to to try vodka, too. It hadn’t worked before, but maybe he just hadn’t drunk enough of it.
* * *
Steve woke, adrenaline pumping, when someone touched his foot.
“Relax ,” the voice said.
Flat. Hard. That was Winter’s voice.
Winter was good to be able get into Steve’s apartment without any noise.
The hand slid up his leg, underneath the blankets, pushing up Steve’s pajamas.
“I’m hungry ,” Winter said.
“I have food for you,” Steve said. “Kidneys, livers, tripe.”
Winter chirped. “Good. But not that sort of hungry. Want you .”
A slither of movement, and Winter was over him on the bed, on hands and knees, pinning him down.
“Want to,” Winter said. “Want to climb inside you all the way. Feel all of you. Been in Barnes’ memories, want real Steve now. ”
Bucky’s warning was heavy in Steve’s mind. Steve was confident he could get Winter off him if he wanted to, and that Winter would ask first — was actually asking first, and probably as nicely as he knew how.
What Steve didn’t know was how he felt about fucking Winter, now he knew Winter was an alien occupying Bucky’s body.
(This was a lie. Steve’s body thought Winter was fucking hot, and had given Steve a rock hard dick just to get the message across. Steve’s brain was still a tiny bit freaked out.)
Winter licked Steve’s face, up his neck and across his cheek. “Tasty ,” Winter whispered. “Gimme more .”
“Okay,” Steve said. “But!”
Winter paused, partway through pulling his tactical vest off. At least he’d left his weapons elsewhere in the apartment, right? Steve had already been stabbed and shot by Winter enough.
“Mouths and hands only,” Steve said. “No fucking.”
Winter gave a jerk of a nod. “Agree to compromise .”
Winter flung his tac gear off, and Steve kicked the blankets down and yanked his pyjama pants off. Seconds later, Winter was back on top of Steve, crouching over his chest, leaning forward with hands braced against the wall above Steve’s bed.
The slippery head of Winter’s cock pushed against Steve’s palate, until Steve got the angles right and Winter’s cock eased further back into Steve’s mouth. Steve cupped Winter’s balls and slid his fingers back.
Winter’s ass was lubed up and easy to slide fingers into. One or both of Winter and Bucky had been doing something earlier. Steve pushed two fingers into Winter’s ass and curled them.
Winter grabbed the back of Steve’s head with his metal hand, improving the angles, and fucked into Steve’s mouth hard.
It was rough and messy and dangerous, like every goodbad dirty dream Steve had ever had. Steve just needed to hang on, keep his teeth out of the way, and not come his brains out just yet.
Winter’s cock widened, filling Steve’s mouth, and Winter growled ecstatically.
Steve gagged and choked as Winter flooded his mouth with come, his own cock twitched one too many times and he groaned as he began to come as well.
A flash, too fast to track, and Winter was kneeling over Steve, sucking and licking his cock, making Steve shudder and gasp.
“More ?” Winter asked, looking up at Steve, and Steve nodded. Steve could definitely go another round and Winter was still hard and leaking.
“Hey,” Steve said, because he was never the smartest after an orgasm. “Can you do tentacles or something?”
Winter grinned at Steve, and fuck, those were not human teeth Steve could see. And they were far too close to his dick. And that was not Bucky’s tongue.
“Will make you feel good, Steve,” Winter said. “Take care of your penis .”
That long luscious tongue wrapped around Steve’s cock, cradling it, stroking it, and something warm and soft pushed against Steve’s ass.
Steve spread his legs, opening himself up, and fell into the delirious sensations of the slide and tug on his cock and the gentle ease of pressure on his ass.
The thing in his ass slid and grew, curving around, and it was fucking perfect.
He could reach Winter’s cock, if he shifted sideways, so he spat in his hand and began to slide his fingers in time with the strokes on his body.
Slower, less frantic, lower risk of the repair job Steve had done on the bed failing. Utterly and astonishingly pleasurable, in a way he didn’t know his body could feel.
The pressure in Steve’s ass grew and he felt something sinuous slide up his spinal cord, rippling and shivering. He got it this time, he fucking got it. This was Winter, inside his body all the way up his spine to his neck, shimmering into his brain. He couldn’t hear Winter thinking, only feel wave after wave of pleasure spreading out from his cock, dissolving him.
He disintegrated, each throb of climax excruciatingly pleasurable, the pauses between endless floating clouds of bliss. Winter was everywhere, sucking his cock, stroking his face, kissing him, coming over him.
Coming down, Steve felt better than he had in decades, maybe since he’d had the serum. Winter was sprawled across him, head tucked under Steve’s chin, human arms around him, while something warm and slippery caressed his leg.
Steve stroked Winter’s hair and rubbed his scalp gently, and Winter relaxed against Steve even further.
“Hey?” Steve asked. “Who have I got here?”
“Mmm, Buck,” Bucky said. “Can’t move.”
“Me neither,” Steve said. “So you felt that too?”
“All of it,” Bucky said. “Winter took me with him the whole way.”
The thing on his leg curled tighter, in an almost-hug.
“Is there a way I can talk with both of you at once?” Steve asked. “Or do you have to tag in and out?”
Bucky was still, in the way that Steve recognised as him having an interior conversation with Winter.
“There is,” Bucky said. “But you will see Winter as he is. Winter has concerns about that.”
Steve considered. “I know Winter has black tentacle things, a long tongue and lots of teeth. Is there anything else?”
“Winter is beautiful,” Bucky said. “You should know that.”
Steve pulled his fingers gently through Bucky’s hair. “Yeah, I’ve worked that out.”
“How do you know about Winter?” Bucky said.
“Hmm. I asked Natasha--”
“Yeah, the Russian. I asked Natasha to find out what she could about what had been done to you. She gave me a file, which I can show you, on the Soldier program. And she found some stories from people who knew about Winter coming here on a Sputnik with some dogs.”
“Winter wants to know if it worries you,” Bucky said. “Before he shows himself.”
Steve touched Bucky’s cheek, feeling the warmth of his skin, the prickle of his stubble, the pulse of life in his body. “I read the Soldier files. What you both endured. If it had been just Bucky going through that, Bucky would have shattered. I don’t care that Winter has tentacles and really, really likes offal. I don’t care that the pair of you are an assassin. Winter brought you here. I owe Winter an unpayable debt of gratitude for keeping you safe.”
Bucky was quiet, possibly for more internal dialogue, then he said, “Okay.”
Bucky’s body moved subtly, weight shifting, and in the half-dark of the room, another head appeared over Steve, on a long neck coming out of Bucky’s back.
Steve clamped down his adrenaline response, keeping his heart rate down and breathing even.
Winter’s eyes gleamed, huge and white, and his teeth glistened with saliva.
“Hello, Steve,” Winter said. His voice was deeper than Bucky’s.
Bucky turned his head so he could see Winter, and Steve could feel him smiling.
“Hey, lovely,” Bucky said.
“Hello, Winter,” Steve said, and Winter lowered his head and licked Steve’s mouth, wetly.
Weirdest three-way ever. One day, Steve would tell Tony, just to piss Tony off.
“Great sex,” Steve told Winter.
“Thank you, ” Winter said. “ I have been practising on Bucky. Pleasingly, your anatomies are congruent. ”
“Can I touch you?” Steve asked.
Winter rumbled and lowered his head to Steve’s chest, beside Bucky’s. Steve stroked carefully across Winter’s head and into the back where his neck was a mesh of strands, and Winter purred, Bucky’s breathing lengthening out with it.
Winter felt warm and soft to the touch, his flesh giving under Steve’s fingers, feeling a little like petting a loaf of dough on its second rise. It was clear Winter liked the feeling, shifting his head so Steve could reach different places, and leaving a trail of drool on Steve’s chest.
Bucky lifted his head and kissed Steve’s lips and the happiness was a warmth that spread through his body.
“Dawn will be soon,” Bucky said, reluctantly. “We should leave.”
“Time for offal ?” Winter asked.
“If you’re quick,” Bucky said. “You eat while I read the Soldier file?”
“Won’t splash ,” Winter said.
With the kitchen light on, Steve could see Winter clearly. Pearlescent eyes, glistening teeth, dark green skin marbled with white.
Bucky was right; Winter was beautiful.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to cook these?” Steve asked, putting the platter of raw offal in front of Winter.
“Not cooked ,” Winter said firmly, manifesting more neck to form a solid gullet. “Juicy is good .”
Bucky shrugged at Steve and turned slightly to keep the Soldier file further away from Winter chewing on raw liver.
“Is this new information to you?” Steve asked, as Bucky turned the pages slowly.
“Some,” Bucky said. “Names and dates.”
“Names are good ,” Winter said, strands of kidney caught between his teeth. “We can kill names. ”
“Natasha, the Russian, has gone away, presumably to do that,” Steve said.
“Excellent ,” Winter said. “Will the Russian kill them hard? ”
Winter leaned forward and bit into a kidney, then flipped it into the air and caught it in his mouth, splashing mess around.
“You trained her in combat,” Steve said. “She will kill them thoroughly.”
“And sooner than we can,” Bucky said, then he looked up at Steve. “Our passport won’t be ready until next week. We’ll have to leave then.”
Forged passports took time and money. Steve had been able to provide enough money, apparently, and the time had slipped away.
“Okay,” Steve said, trying to breathe through the tightness in his chest.. “I’m thinking of moving back to New York. Will you still be able to find me if you come back into the country and don’t have a way of contacting me?”
Winter licked a bloody tongue around his mouth. “You are our mate, Steve. We will be able to find you anywhere .”
Steve wasn’t sure how to process that statement. Later. He would deal with that later.
“Where are you thinking of going?” Steve asked Bucky.
“Somewhere without a state-sponsored surveillance system and with a lot of slaughterhouses,” Bucky said. “I need somewhere to hide from Hydra and Winter needs unlimited livers.”
Winter had eaten all the offal and was licking the blood off the platter. “We must get strong and healthy, Steve. We both have wounds to repair. ”
“I’m going to miss you both,” Steve said.
“When we are rebuilt and healed, we will return to negotiate spawning with you ,” Winter said. “Barnes, we must leave now or we will be caught in traffic .”
When they had gone, out of the bedroom window in the first light of the new day, Steve took out his laptop and opened his personal email.
Help , he typed to Natasha. I think I just accidentally married both of them, and now they want to settle down and have a family .
Natasha wouldn’t get the email until she was back from wherever she’d gone, but hopefully it would entertain her, and that would be enough of a thank you to her for whatever it was she was doing.
* * *
“Scraps again?” Barnes’ shift manager asked, as Barnes hefted the two sealed buckets of off-cuts across the slaughterhouse gravel parking lot.
“Scraps,” Barnes agreed. “For the dogs.”
The shift manager, a mountain of a man called Iacob, pulled out the keys to his Dacia 1300. “If you ever have a litter, I’d be interested in a pup.”
“Pup? ” Winter asked internally, which was a pleasant change from a ten hour monologue extolling the virtues of tripe throughout Barnes’ shift.
“I’m not breeding at the moment,” Barnes said, putting one bucket down beside his battered ‘80s XR100 and working on strapping the other bucket on. “Still working on training the beasts.”
“Sensible. Don’t mate them too early, it’s not good for them,” Iacob said. “See you tomorrow.”
Barnes strapped on the other bucket, then reached for his helmet.
“Please be quiet while I’m riding,” Barnes said. “It’s been a long shift.”
Winter grumbled, but didn’t argue.
It rained, of course, because it was evening rush hour and nothing made Bucharest traffic more feral than wet stuff falling from the sky. Adding two large buckets of guts to Barnes' clown car of a bike did not improve its handling, so maybe it was a good thing that he never got out of third gear.
Barnes had wanted somewhere safe, somewhere boring. Somewhere without shadows and history, and fucking Hydra trying to kill him. He’d found it in the repetition of manual labor and the gritty fumes of Bucharest traffic. Every day was the same, and that was perfect.
Winter poked carefully at Barnes’ mind while they idled behind a truck at a set of traffic lights, interrupting Barnes’ musings on bike repair.
“Hmm?” Barnes asked. He could feel Winter’s hunger coiled around his spine, but the buckets of bits from the slaughterhouse would fix that. “Hang on, we’re nearly home.”
“When can we visit Steve? ” Winter asked.
Barnes sighed, both mentally and out loud.
“Didn’t we talk about this yesterday?” Barnes asked.
“Last Friday, ” Winter said.
The truck lurched forward, finally, and Barnes eased the clutch in and let the bike move. They were moving.
“Same answers as then,” Barnes said. “We are completely hidden here. No one has found us. We’re safe. As soon as we move, we become visible, and we have to go back to fighting Hydra and SHIELD goons.”
Winter pouted. There was no other way to describe the emotion.
“I miss him too,” Barnes said, pulling out to overtake the truck, weaving around a taxi and a bus. “A lot.”
“We could eat the goons, ” Winter said. “I would like that. ”
“Ungrateful brat,” Barnes said. “Do I not bring you home fresh cow constantly?”
“If I can’t have Steve, can I have pig instead? ” Winter asked. “For a change? ”
Barnes turned down the alley behind his apartment block and pulled his bike under the fire escape, partially out of the rain. He was deeply glad to be home.
“That’s manipulative,” Barnes said to Winter. “Now carry the damned buckets up the stairs for me.”
Winter grumbled, but picked up the buckets after Barnes untied them.
“Shower? ” Winter asked, when Barnes unlocked the door to his apartment.
“Shower,” Barnes agreed.
It was best if Winter ate in the bathtub, for clean-up, and Barnes needed to wash a day of slaughterhouse out of his pores anyway.
After, Barnes sat at the kitchen table, eating his plate of ghiveci, while Winter kept up a low level of complaining about Barnes’ habit of eating vegetables.
“You’re fed, you’re clean,” Barnes said. “Let me have my own dinner.”
“Entertain me? ” Winter said.
Barnes opened the shitty second hand netbook he’d bought a few weeks earlier. “What do you want? More hair metal on YouTube? Episodes of Seinfeld?”
The wifi signal was jacked off the next apartment block over and Barnes ran a decent VPN, so he didn’t mind some web browsing. No email, no banking, nothing with logins, nothing personal. Winter might want to eat more Hydra, but Barnes was done with fear, panic and white noise in his brain.
Barnes concentrated on eating his meal and screened out Winter’s browsing of the worst music the ‘80s had to offer.
Winter twitched, bringing Barnes back from contemplating what he would cook for dinner the next day. On the netbook screen, the New York skyline was shadowed by clouds, and weird ships were pouring out of a vortex above the city.
“Winter? What are you watching?” Barnes asked.
“Local news ,” Winter said.
He was. The chyron was in Romanian.
“Those are Chitauri ships, ” Winter said. “This is bad. ”
“For us personally, or for the world?” Barnes asked, reaching for the keyboard.
“For the world. Any takeover plans us Klyntar have are nothing compared to how Chitauri operate. ”
Barnes loaded the CNN homepage.
The news was indeed bad, with a rapidly rising death toll and reports of the Air Force scrambling bombers. The news footage being streamed showed superheroes, fucking superheroes, going one-on-one with the Chitauri invasion force.
“Steve is there? ” Winter said, and Barnes nodded.
“Haven’t seen him yet, but he inevitably is.”
“We have to go there ,” Winter said. “We must secure his safety. It is imperative. ”
“Air space will be closed,” Barnes said. “It will take days, weeks, to get there by ship.”
Winter coiled a long arm around Bucky’s shoulders and nuzzled his face against Barnes’. “Then we will watch together ,” Winter said. “Steve is our mate .”
Barnes kissed the side of Winter’s face. “If this doesn’t end in disaster, then we will go to him. I’m sorry for refusing for so long.”
Winter licked Barnes gently. “It could be worse than Chitauri ,” he said. “It could be my own people, come to take me away. ”
* * *
“Jarvis?” Steve asked his brand new, empty kitchen in the just rebuilt Avengers Tower.
“Yes, Captain,” Jarvis replied. “How may I assist?”
“I have a question. If I have a visitor, how do I add them to the approved security list so they can get into the building?”
“Let me know their identity, Captain, and I will permit them to enter,” Jarvis said.
Steve opened his very empty, very new fridge. “What if they don’t like to use doors and elevators?”
“I require more information, Captain,” Jarvis said. “How will they enter the building? From the helipad?”
“They’re a break and enter sort of person,” Steve said, moving on to opening kitchen cupboards, which contained a pleasing collection of plates, pans and bowls. “They like to climb in through windows."
“I see,” Jarvis said. “I can approve their discreet entry to your suite of rooms from the exterior of the building, as well as by more conventional means.”
“Thanks,” Steve said. “Their identity is James Buchanan Barnes, but they call themselves Winter sometimes.”
“Noted,” Jarvis said.
“Can we keep this confidential?” Steve asked. “I’d rather the others didn’t know.”
“Of course,” Jarvis replied. “Your visitors are entirely a private matter. May I assist with anything else, Captain?”
Steve opened the freezer beside his fridge. “Yes. How do I bulk order tripe?”
* * *
The gym in Avengers Tower was impressive. Steve approved. The weights section, on an actually adequately sprung floor, was robust enough to take Steve or Thor lifting. The firing range was equipped to deal with multiple ranged weapon options. This afternoon, it was Natasha trying out the range with her silenced Glock.
Steve was doing weighted chin-ups, trying to pull some of the lingering soreness out of his back muscles from being slammed repeatedly against the kitchen counter by Winter the night before. The bruises were gone, but tendons and ligaments took coaxing to heal.
Yeah, Bucky and Winter. Back again. It had been too long.
Tony, who Steve suspected mostly used the gym for testing new equipment on the team, sat down on the bench opposite Steve and waited for Steve to count off reps.
“Thirty eight, thirty nine, forty,” Steve grunted, and lowered himself and the weight down.
“So, hey, Cap,” Tony started. “Good work, not breaking the chin up bar by the way. Knew we could engineer it robustly enough eventually.”
“Thanks, Tony,” Steve said, wiping his face on his towel.
“So, I was checking the security logs this morning, because that’s what I do in this place, and do you know what I saw?”
Steve stopped wiping the sweat off his neck and raised an eyebrow at Tony.
“Nothing,” Tony said. “For about thirty seconds, just before 1am, and again for twenty seconds after 4am.”
Steve played poker with the team. He could stone cold bluff with the rest of them.
“Aren’t you supposed to see nothing?” Steve asked.
“Thing is,” Tony said, unsettlingly calmly. “Thing is, I’m supposed to be able to see something all the time. Like the camera feed from the outside of the building and the positive signals from the seals on your windows. And I didn’t, for those few seconds. Why, Cap? Why did you ask Jarvis to turn off my security system?”
Dammit. Steve had hoped Tony hadn’t cared that much about building security.
Natasha stopped popping away at her targets, holstered her Glock and wandered over, eyebrows raised.
“Security breach?” Natasha asked. “What the fuck happened?”
“I had a visitor last night,” Steve said. “That’s all.”
Tony stared at Steve. “Between 1am and 4am? Who didn’t want to use the elevator?”
Natasha’s mouth started wobbling, as though she was trying not to laugh, and she said, “Was this a booty call, Steve?”
Steve didn’t know exactly what a booty call was, but he could figure out the context from how wide Tony’s eyes were.
“Noooooo,” Tony said. “Not possible.”
Steve crossed his arms. “Private visitor. Not anyone you know.”
Natasha curled her hand in front of her mouth, but Steve could still see her cheeks creasing with her smile. “C’mon, Tony,” she said. “It’s okay for Steve to have friends other than us.”
Tony jabbed Steve in a bicep. “Why didn’t you just let Private Visitor in? Why did they fucking scale my building and break into my window?”
“Because,” Steve said. “Because my visitor has always been more of a back door entry sort of person.”
Tony squawked with glee and then said, “I’m leaving before I fucking die. Nat, darling, please explain to Cap what he just said.”
Steve turned to Natasha and said, “What?” because Natasha was biting the side of her hand to muffle her giggles.
“I can’t,” Natasha called out to Tony’s retreating back, which was shaking with laughter. “He’s so innocent.”
When the gym door slid shut behind Tony, Natasha patted Steve on the shoulder. “I know you’re not innocent,” she said, grinning reassuringly. “And I’m certain that your late night visitor fucks you through the mattress. But please google back door entry some time soon, okay?”
“Okay,” Steve said.
“I’m going to go back to shooting lots of targets,” Natasha said. “And definitely not thinking about you banging people who look like death but far hotter.”
“What?” Steve said, to Natasha’s back.
“Like a screen door,” she called over her shoulder, pulling on her ear protectors again.
* * *
Bucky moaned into Steve’s mouth, his cock sliding against Steve’s, and Steve pulled him closer, twining their legs together.
Winter slid into their kiss, a thin frond of flesh around both of their mouths, and settled over Steve’s back.
A push and shiver, and Winter was in Steve’s spinal cord, in his mind almost.
“Spawn? ” Winter asked in a whisper.
“Not this time,” Steve said, against Bucky’s mouth.
He could feel the weight of Winter’s satisfaction, and the whisper of “Next time?” In his mind.
“Winter, don’t harass him,” Bucky said, with a double echo inside Steve’s head.
“Come for me ,” Winter said, and a slender tentacle wriggled between their bodies to find their cocks.
They would, eventually, but at that moment Steve just wanted to feel the pleasure coming off Winter and Bucky through the connection, to relish the touch of their minds now that they had all worked out how to do this.
Winter was everywhere, wriggling across Steve’s skin, kissing them both, licking Bucky, and all the feelings were spiraling together.
Steve’s phone rang again. Steve ignored it, again. He wasn’t stopping for anyone. Didn’t matter how big the mess was, the rest of the Avengers could go fight without him that night.
“Phone?” Bucky asked, and Steve shook his head slightly and went back to biting Bucky’s neck.
A klaxon sounded in the room and Steve could see an orange light flashing through his eyelids.
“Ugh,” Bucky said, pulling back a little. “Why do you have an alarm in your room?”
“I don’t,” Steve said, unwinding himself enough to sit up. “Jarvis? What?”
“Apologies, Captain, but Mr Stark insisted I contact you,” Jarvis said. “We are at Defcon 2 and escalating.”
“Put Tony on,” Steve said, beginning to disentangle himself from Winter.
“Cap.” Tony’s voice came through Jarvis’s intercom.. “Stop fucking Private Visitor. We have an alien spaceship directly above the tower and it is not here on a goodwill visit. Warning shots exchanged.”
“Chitauri?” Steve asked, reaching for his boxers.
“Fuck no,” Tony said, and Steve could hear how shaken he was. “Single ship, no portal.”
“Visual ,” Winter called out.
“Well hello, Back Door Man,” Tony said. “Visual on screen.”
The screen on the wall across from Steve’s bed flicked on and displayed an image of the underside of a bulbous, gray spaceship hovering above the tower. There were energy weapons crackling and sparking.
“Helipad now. Hope your midnight booty call can fight,” Tony said, and the connection went dead while Steve was pulling up his jumpsuit.
“They’re here for me, ” Winter said. “This is a forced extraction. ”
“No,” Bucky said, pulling on his trousers and sliding knives into sheathes. “Don’t go.”
“Will not leave Barnes and mate ,” Winter said. “Will never be a prisoner again .”
Less than a minute later, Bucky and Steve bolted out of the elevator onto the 81st floor, running for the emergency armory and helipad, Bucky still clipping together his tac vest.
Tony, partially suited-up, was handing out additional weaponry to Clint, Natasha and Sam.
Tony blinked at Bucky, and said, “You are not who I was expecting,” as he handed Bucky an earpiece comm.
“Steve, get a gas welder. I will get weaponry ,” Winter said.
“Welder is under the workbench,” Tony said, and Steve knelt down under the bullet press and pulled out the oxy acetylene tanks and welding torch, along with a mask.
“How high up is the ship?” Steve asked.
“500 yards,” Tony said. “Hovering.”
Winter reached across Natasha and retrieved a SAW machine gun. “The Russian ,” Winter said to her. “A good person. Thank you .”
“You’re welcome, Winter,” Natasha said, adding grenades to her belt.
Winter lifted down a Galil MAR rifle and clipped it on his back, then added a pack of grenades to his chest straps.
“Got enough guns?” Tony asked. “For your two hands?”
“No ,” Winter said. “ Chitauri blaster! ” He lifted down a Chitauri weapon that Tony kept as a reminder of the attack on New York. “Now I do .”
Sam shot a look at Steve in between checking his Steyers and clips.
Steve was in for some pointed conversations when this was done, obviously. He grinned wryly, and ran for the Quinjet.
Sam and Tony swooped off, highly mobile air support as the Quinjet lifted with Winter Natasha and Steve in the cargo bay and Clint at the cockpit controls. Winter grabbed hold of Steve’s jumpsuit with the hand that also held the Chitauri blaster, and pulled him in a kiss.
Mine ,” Winter said, and Steve could hear Winter inside his head.
“Okay, kids,” Clint said over their earpieces. “Less sucking face, more sorting this out before the Air Force scrambles a nuke again.”
The Quinjet swung wide suddenly, dodging a crackle of an energy weapon, and Sam swore over the earpiece.
“Get us within jumping distance ,” Winter said.
“I’m not going to be able to get close enough to that thing,” Clint said, as the Quinjet pitched and then rolled to dodge another energy crackle.
“100 yards sideways. 400 yards down ,” Winter said. “Plus or minus prevailing wind. ”
“That I can do,” Clint said and the Quinjet rose sharply.
Winter manifested fully, subsuming Bucky’s body, so he filled the cargo ramp at the back of the Quinjet.
Natasha swore in Russian. Winter rumbled in amusement inside Steve’s head and made extra arms to hold his rifle and machine gun as well.
“Ready? ” Winter asked. Steve grabbed the welding mask and hefted the oxyacetylene tanks.
Winter wound a solid tentacle around Steve’s middle and licked Steve’s face.
“Well, there’s a thing,” Natasha said, both eyebrows raised and a hand on her Glock.
“400 yards downwind and closing, angle of 30’, killing speed now,” Clint called out. “Door opening.”
Winter threw himself and Steve out of the back of the Quinjet in a huge bound, hurtling toward the spaceship below.
Steve could see Tony’s repulsor beams firing as he ducked and wove around the ship. Over his earpiece, Tony shouted, “Holy Giger! What the fuck jumped out of the jet?!”
“Me ,” Winter shouted over the wind noise, as he and Steve thudded into the top of the spaceship and Winter grabbed on hard with big, sticky pads, absorbing their momentum.
Winter picked Steve up and deposited him next to a bulge in the spaceship surface. “Cut that ,” Winter said.
Steve set the tanks down and knelt over them to hold them in place, and Winter stood over the top of him, firing at what Steve guessed were the defence mechanisms of the ship.
The space ship thrashed around, and Winter threw a black web of flesh over Steve, gluing him to the ship safely. “Got you ,” Winter said in Steve’s mind.
Around them, energy weapons crackled and the Quinjet artillery struck the spaceship.
“Incoming Air Force F-15s,” Tony called out. “I’ll get them to back off while we’ve got a team unprotected.”
“Very protected ,” Winter said, firing both a rifle and a machine gun at the same time.
The welding jet lit at first go and Steve opened the gauges on the tanks all the way. He aimed the lit torch at the bulge in front of him.
“Lower ,” Winter said, so Steve dropped the point of the beam down the bulge.
The ship rippled underneath them in response, but Steve was held in place by Winter.
“Hatch opening on other side,” Clint called out. “You’ve got incoming, Cap and Facehugger.”
The surface Steve was blasting with the gas welder bubbled and hissed, and it stank of flesh and mold.
“Winter? Is the ship alive?” Steve asked.
“It is a biological entity ,” Winter said, firing the machine gun.
“Fuck,” Tony said over the comm. “Thing coming out of the hatch, kids.”
Winter felt implacable in Steve’s mind, and underneath that, Bucky was gleeful.
“Buck?” Steve asked.
“Fighting aliens on a spaceship, Steve,” Bucky said.
Steve chuckled and shifted the torch, changing the angle of the flame. “Winter? How thick is the shell of the ship?”
“Thin ,” Winter said. “Inches, not feet. ”
The Chitauri blaster fired and Tony whooped over the com. “Go, Cthulhu!”
The ship surface punctured with a foul-smelling whoosh around the gas welder jet.
“Flame out ,” Winter said in Steve’s head. “Gas in hole .”
“This is a Bucky idea, isn’t it?” Steve asked, killing the flame, jamming the gas welder jet into the hole, and opening the regulators up again.
“Sure is,” Bucky said, inside Steve’s head. “Accelerant, then grenade. Tried and proven technique.”
Steve touched his ear. “Clint? How far up are we now?” The ship squirmed under him.
“1000 yards, Cap,” Clint says. “Air shouldn’t be thinning yet.”
“I was more thinking of getting down,” Steve said.
Winter whoomped the Chitauri blaster. “I will catch you .”
“32 feet per second squared is not our friend,” Steve said. “Tank is close to empty. Let’s do this.”
“Everyone ,” Winter said. “Nothing can reach the ground unscorched. Burn it all .”
“I’ll let the ground crew know,” Tony said. “Let’s set fire to everything.”
Steve pulled the gas torch out, yanked out the pin on a grenade and stuffed it in the hole, then Bucky’s metal arm stuck out of Winter’s side and smashed the hole closed. Winter grabbed Steve around the waist and they jumped together.
Air roared past as they picked up speed, then they jerked as Winter did something to slow their descent. Above them, the ship exploded in a disgusting shower of alien meat gobs of partially-incinerated goo.
Winter squealed, out loud and in Steve’s head, and Bucky cried out too, then suddenly Steve was in freefall, tumbling out of control. He caught a brief glimpse of Winter also spinning in the air, some kind of mesh above him on fire, and Tony yelled “Steve!” over the comm.
The army had thrown Steve out of planes, and he’d jumped out of the Quinjet plenty of times, but fuck, New York was a horrible surface to land on.
Into arch position, roll left for Avengers Tower. Don’t land on the street. He had seconds, bare seconds, to get some forward distance covered.
Bucky was shouting in Steve’s head, calling his name over and over, and Tony was screaming into the comm, but none of it mattered with that much metal and glass roaring up at him at terminal velocity.
“This is gonna hurt,” Steve said, and he grabbed his knees and hit Avengers Tower.
* * *
Winter slammed into the outside of the building, bounced, and then stuck. Barnes was sobbing inside Winter as he scrambled towards the shattered window and wall where Steve had made a hole the building.
Inside, the fire suppression system was spraying foam and CO2 everywhere, making a mess.
“Tony ,” Winter called out. “Turn off the fire system, at least until I confirm there’s a fire. ”
“Done,” Tony said, and the spray stopped. “I’ve called my private EMS, but they’ll take some time to get there. It’s a shit show here at street level. Let me know if you need an air evac.”
Steve had crashed into a workshop of some kind and kept on going through an interior glass wall and into a room full of electrical machinery.
Winter found Steve crumpled in a corner, bleeding profusely, all of his limbs at impossible angles.
But with a heartbeat.
“Signs of life ,” Winter announced. “Handing this comm to Barnes. ”
A person ran into the room, also speaking into a comm, but not on the same system as the main team.
“In the server room, Tony,” the person said. “Mobilizing tower resources.”
Winter picked Steve up carefully and laid him out flat on the floor to make healing easier, then bent over and slid from Barnes’ body into Steve’s.
Winter started with the cardiovascular system, plugging the big leaks, while keeping Steve’s lungs inflating and deflating manually. Core oxygenation secured, he moved to brain circulation, pulled some clots out of the way and dissolved bone shards. Brain perfused, he could think about straightening bones.
Steve’s body worked with Winter, even more strongly than Barnes’ did. Winter was impressed. Clots dissolved. Wounds sealed and flesh knitted. Swelling minimized. Blood volume…
Blood volume was an issue. Barnes could assist.
“Steve needs IV fluids,” Barnes said. “Can we do that?”
“Of course,” the new person in the room said. “Will his skin take an IV this time? We’ve had issues in the past.”
“I will make it ,” Winter told Barnes.
“Update?” the Russian asked over comms. Winter heard it double, through Steve’s ears and through Barnes’ mind.
“First aid is underway,” Barnes said. “Bleeding is stopped. We’re about to top up fluids. Steve is unconscious.”
“Left elbow ,” Winter said, using Steve’s body to speak. A new voice was very strange, after Barnes’ voice for so long.
The person assisting squeaked in surprise, and then said, “Okay.”
Winter held the healing back on the inside of the left elbow and a machine punctured into a vein, threading a line in and beginning to infuse saline.
“Faster ,” Winter said, through Steve.
The fluid rushed in. Winter spread it around, holding capillaries open, diving into Steve’s kidneys to check for lacerations, then cruising through the rest of his organs, confirming metabolic functions were preserved.
“Winter?” Barnes asked. “How’s Steve’s brain?”
“Minor bleeds. A membrane tear. All resolving. Steve will be unconscious while this repair happens, ” Winter said.
Another person ran into the room. Sam, the man with the wings.
“Former Air Force pararescue here. Do we need CPR?” Sam said. “Whoa, there’s black goo all over Steve.”
“It’s okay, Sam,” Barnes said. “That’s Winter. Winter is a symbiote, and is healing Steve.”
“O-kay, then. We should still check his neck vertebrae,” Sam asked.
“Excellent advice, Sam ,” Winter said. “Contusions and fractures identified. Effecting repairs .”
More people ran into the room, crunching the broken glass.
“How we doing?” Tony asked over the comm. “EMS are still ten minutes away.”
The first person into the room, who was operating the machine giving fluids to Steve, said, “Vitals stable. Cancel the EMS call. We’re in good, um, hands here.”
Winter felt Barnes touch Steve. “Hey, Steve, you’re going to be okay,” Barnes said.
Steve’s consciousness stirred, flickering and waking.
“Could everyone step back, Steve is waking up, ” Winter announced. “He will have a headache for a while. ”
“Dim lights,” the helpful person said, and the room darkened as everyone shuffled backwards.
“This is strange, right?” someone at the back of the room said, and another person said, “Ah ha.”
Steve groaned, and started to shift his legs.
“Stay still ,” Winter whispered inside him. “Your bones are still healing .”
“Winter?” Steve asked.
“Right with you, ” Winter said, letting Steve feel how relieved Winter was Steve was healing. “Rest a little more, then we will move you. ”
“Can we start clearing a way out of the room for a gurney?” Barnes asked.
Barnes was awesome. Thought of everything.
“Yeah,” Steve said, agreeing with Winter.
“How do you feel?” the helpful person asked Steve.
Steve started cautiously moving his limbs, and Winter allowed it. “Hey, Pepper. Like I fell out of the sky and now have an alien inside me?”
Barnes took Steve’s hand. “You keep Winter safe for a bit longer, okay? Let Winter heal you. I’m planning on going to the bathroom by myself for the first time in more than fifty years in a little while.”
“Now you’re being weird,” Pepper said, but she sounded pleased.
Steve closed his eyes. “Sorry, Tony,” he rasped. “I broke your tower.”
“I think my tower broke you, so we’ll call it even,” Tony said over the comm. “I’m going to leave the rest of the cleanup to the ground crew and come in now, see what kind of mess Rogers has made of my server room. Jarvis is not impressed.”
* * *
Two hours later, Steve had showered with help from Winter, and was in clean sweats. Winter had fed from the freezer in Steve’s apartment, a process which Steve had been intrigued to observe from the inside, having previously only seen it from across the table. It felt rather like watching porn that wasn’t his thing; he could see someone else was really enjoying the process, but his own body was not interested.
Winter kept sending Steve feelings, waves of affection and care, all gentle enough that Steve wasn’t completely distracted by them, but still warm and blissful.
Bucky had had this, through imprisonment and torture. Winter had been there.
“Bucky was there for me too ,” Winter whispered.
The couch in the main living area was deep and comfortable, and Steve sunk into it gratefully while the team bustled around putting together food.
Tony sat down next to Steve, working on a laptop computer. Natasha was in the kitchen area, supervising Clint assembling platters of food, while Sam lined up drinks and plates for the team. Bucky was showering (“Finally alone,” he said) in Steve’s apartment.
“Temporary seal is on the breached windows,” Tony said. “We’re airtight again. I’ve gone over the available footage with Jarvis, now Jarvis has rebooted properly after the Steve Incident. We're happy we’ve burned all of the bits of alien goo. We survived, but only just.”
Tony looked as wrecked as the side of his building had been.
Steve patted Tony’s arm and Tony looked at Steve’s hand dubiously. “Is that you or Winterbooty?”
“Me,” Steve said. “Winter is digesting his meal, I think. He was pretty drained from healing me.”
“How the fuck does this work?” Tony asked. “You, the ultimate Mr Nice Guy, hooked up with everyone’s second favorite Soviet assassin and a black slime alien?”
Natasha waved from the stool at the counter. “Glad I’m still favorite.”
“Maybe I’m not so nice after all?” Steve suggested. “Maybe I’m here for the really weird threesome sex?”
Tony went pale.
Winter stirred in Steve’s mind, and said, “Yeah? ”
“Think about it, Tony,” Steve continued. “I get Bucky--because it’s always been Bucky--and tentacles. I can’t think of anything else I could ever want.”
Tony said, “Fuck you, Rogers.”
Winter manifested a head out of Steve’s shoulder. It must be a change for Winter to get to use a left shoulder. It was certainly a change for Steve to have an extra head on a long twining neck there.
“Mine ,” Winter told Tony. “No fuck Steve .”
“Metaphorically only,” Tony managed, and he did not sound okay. “Never, ever going to touch either of your boys. Got it.”
Pepper walked out of the elevator and into the living area carrying a stack of pizzas. “Oh my,” she said, staring at Steve and Winter. “This is unexpected.”
“Bucky will take Winter back in a bit,” Steve said to Pepper. “Winter is still running healing diagnostics on me.”
“Right,” Pepper said. “Okay. Does Winter eat pizza?”
“Meatlovers ,” Winter called out.
Natasha came over and sat on the other side of Steve. She held out a chunk of ham. Winter lifted it carefully off her palm with his teeth, then ran the tip of his tongue over her hand.
“Thank you, Russian, ” Winter said.
“I know we just wiped out an invasion party of symbiotes,” Natasha said. “So this is kind of a ridiculous question. But if I wanted a symbiote of my own, could I have one?”
Winter wound his neck around Steve, to lean his head close to Natasha. “Serum? ” Winter asked quietly.
“A version of it,” Natasha said. “Not as much as Steve and Bucky, but I’ve had some juice.”
“Will consider, ” Winter said. “When Steve carries my spawn, we will be looking for a host for the spawn to bond to .”
“No spawn,” Steve said. He sounded tired. He knew he sounded tired. He had just fallen into a building, his head still hurt, and Winter was discussing spawning with Natasha. “We’ve had this talk before.”
Winter flickered his tongue against Natasha’s neck. “Delicious. Very strong and healthy. Good choice. ”
Natasha grinned smugly. “Symbiote approved,” she said.
Bucky, thank fuck, walked into the living area and sat down opposite Steve.
“Wow, first time I’ve seen Winter from this angle,” Bucky said, popping the top off the beer he had collected from Sam. He was wearing a pair of Steve’s sweats, which were too large, and was still damp from the shower. Damned fine.
Winter purred agreement and did something indecent inside Steve’s groin, stirring his cock. Steve sat up straighter and rearranged his knees and Bucky grinned and lifted a beer at him. Apparently Winter did that to Bucky too.
“And this as well ,” Winter whispered inside Steve’s head, making a wriggling feeling in Steve’s ass.
“Hi,” Natasha said to Bucky. “Winter licked me. I’m either food or family now.”
“You can still talk, so I’m going with family,” Bucky said.
“I am collecting Russian assassins, ” Winter announced. “Where can I get more? ”
“Washington DC?” Steve suggested.
Sam put beers on the coffee table in front of Tony, Steve and Natasha. “Beer, Winter?” Sam asked.
“No thank you, Sam, ” Winter replied. “I am in fluid homeostasis at present. When I do consume alcohol recreationally, I choose Bloody Marys, because it annoys Barnes. ”
Bucky nodded. “Terrible drink. Terrible reason to drink it. Just drink blood, if that’s what you want.”
Tony must have recovered from his minor meltdown, because he said, “Surely we have Russian assassins here too? We have the UN headquarters, and enough mobsters to keep the economy liquid.”
“Technically I’m not Russian,” Bucky pointed out. “US born, and my current identity is Romanian.”
“Want me to get you a visa?” Tony asked. “You could live here, see if you wanted to join the crew?”
“YES! ” Winter shouted. “I want to! ”
Clint tossed a chunk of salami across the room and Winter arched up and snapped it out of the air.
“Got the table manners to be one of us,” Clint said. “And sharp reflexes.”
Steve and Bucky shared a long stare and Steve tried to ignore Winter shouting gleefully in his head.
“Bucky?” Steve asked. “What do you think?”
Bucky nodded. “Winter wants to be here and I think it’s time I came home.”
Tony leaned back on the couch looking pleased. “Excellent. Bring on the Hydra attacks. It’s time we cleaned up the last of those bastards.”
“I will eat them, ” Winter said. “All of the Hydra agents .”
“Okay,” Natasha said. “No more difficult questions about body disposal. I approve.”
“And I just arranged installation of the large incinerator,” Pepper called out from the kitchen. “That was a waste of effort.”
“Not cooked. Raw ,” Winter insisted. “Stop ruining food by cooking it. ”
Steve stood up and walked over to Bucky, ignoring the twinges from his newly healed bones. He held out his hands to Bucky, and then pulled Bucky up and into his arms. Winter wound thick bands around the two of them as they hugged, holding them close.
“That’s sweet,” Sam said.
Then Bucky kissed Steve, and Winter stuck his tongue into the kiss as well.
“Still sweet?” Tony asked Sam.
“Strangely compelling,” Sam said. “But not sweet, no.”
Steve rested his forehead against Bucky’s, and Winter nuzzled against their faces contentedly. He could feel both of them, burning bright through him. It was time for them to work out how to be together. Time for Bucky and Winter to come home.