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On the Wings of Winter

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1942
Tønsberg, German-occupied Norway

The cold Arctic wind howled around the building, sneaking in through the cracks and chilling the man’s fingers and toes. He shivered and cursed in quiet Norwegian. The weather was less than auspicious and he really wanted to be somewhere else. He moved to the kitchen in the hope that a hot drink would settle his restlessness. His blue fire lizard flitted across the room to drape itself across his shoulders.

Outside, the wind was scouring the snow banks and throwing flurries into the face of the approaching team. The conditions covered the noise of their approach. A tall man, dressed in a thick, black leather military uniform sat astride a red dragon. The dragon was surrounded by two units of ground troops. They marched in step towards the lone building. Upon reaching the door, the man dismounted to stand by his dragon’s foreleg. He made several hand gestures and the men fanned out, some taking firing positions and the rest readying themselves to move in.

‘On my mark,’ the leader barked in sharp German.

‘Yes, General Schmdit,’ the troops replied, lifting their arms in salute.

Inside, the man started as his little fire lizard leapt from his shoulders with an alarmed shriek. The man received an impression of great danger and many people from the terrified creature.

‘Shh,’ the man whispered. ‘Hush, Valkyrie. Go hide, they mustn’t find you. Bad enough that they have found this place at all. Stay safe, little one; these people will hurt you if they find you.’

The fire lizard nuzzled his face and flew off to find a safe nook to hide in. Her master gave a determined nod, looking one last time toward a large mural of the world tree, Yggdrasil, carved into the wall before turning to face the door and whatever lay beyond it.

Seconds later, the door blew inwards on a gout of flame. The man held his ground as the red dragon began stalking towards him, hunched low to the ground. The beast was easily as large as a standard Bronze but with none of the characteristic muscle mass. This dragon was oddly angular, with skin that looked to have been stretched directly over bone. Its wings, when it flared them in a terrifying threat display, were almost translucent. The man shuddered.

Schmidt strode forward out of the shadow of one wing, his soldiers fanning out behind him.

‘Where is it?’ he barked.

‘I do not understand,’ the man said, never faltering. ‘What are you looking for?’

The dragon bellowed a challenge that left the roof shaking.
‘The cube. You have it. Either you give it to me now, or I’ll kill you and take it. Which shall it be, my friend?’ Schmidt said, a nasty smile on his face.

‘You will never find it,’ the man said, all pretenses gone. ‘It is somewhere safe, where the likes of you will never be able to reach it.’ His eyes left the terrible form of the dragon long enough to flit to the mural, ensuring that it was as he had left it. His fire lizard gave a weak cry from her hiding spot, far too close for his comfort.

Schmidt flicked his fingers and the man screamed as he was engulfed in dragon fire. He collapsed to the ground and Schmidt stepped over his burning remains, moving towards the mural. A blue blur came hurtling towards him, letting out a high pitched scream. Schmidt swatted it aside and carried on, allowing his men to deal with the nuisance.

He inspected the mural carefully, eyes roaming over the whirling branches of Yggdrasil until he found what he was looking for. Jörmungandr, winding through the roots of Yggdrasil, with one eye showing as a knot of wood that sat strangely amidst the rest of the carving. He pressed it, and smiled when he heard a click as the wood gave way under his fingers.

His troops looked on as the mural slowly slid apart to reveal the treasure hidden behind. A glowing blue cube, almost icy in appearance, sat on a podium. Schmidt’s smile grew wider, almost manic, as he reached in to take the relic, satisfied that he finally had his prize. Behind him, the red dragon roared their triumph.


1942
Brooklyn, New York

Bucky groaned as he closed the door behind him, his work day finally over. Steve was in the kitchen, cooking angrily. Bucky hadn’t even known that was possible until he’d watched Steve cook. Steve could do just about everything angrily.

‘You alright in there?’ Bucky asked, his exhaustion disappearing in the face of Steve being his stubborn self. ‘Those potatoes do somethin’, or did they just look at ya funny?’

‘You’re lookin’ at me funny,’ Steve grumbled nonsensically. He thumped the knife through the potato, narrowly missed his finger and then whirled around to face Bucky. ‘It happened again,’ he growled.

Bucky sighed, nudging Steve out of the way to take over the preparation of the potatoes.

‘You’re lucky you ain’t been caught lying yet,’ he said, glaring down at the potatoes himself. It was just like Steve to get everyone around him riled up too. Bucky refused to hack at them the way Steve had though, so he took his time, trying not to let his feelings bleed through his hands and into the knife while he cut. ‘You really that desperate to go die in some ditch in Europe? You’re risking a lot, lying on your enlistment forms, and for what? I know how strongly you feel about this, doll, but do you ever think about how it’ll be for me hearing you got your dumb ass killed so far from home? You gonna leave me here all alone without even a body to bury?’

Steve scowled at the side of Bucky’s head. ‘You still plannin’ to sit on your backside at home and let other folks die for us?’ he asked. He shook his head. ‘I’m not gonna stop trying, so save your breath and finish the potatoes. Here, gimme the cabbage over,’ he held out his hand for Bucky to hand him the vegetable. He took it and used his hold to reel Bucky in and planted a gentle kiss on his lips. ‘I can’t stand by an’ do nothing. You know that, Buck. But I will be careful. Promise,’ he murmured.

Bucky sighed again, pulling Steve in for a hug. ‘I just don’t wanna die. And I don’t wanna serve an army that’d spit on my grave if they knew I loved you. They don’t want my kind, why should I go running to sign up?’

Steve snuggled into Bucky’s shoulder and sighed. ‘I know. I just think that this is bigger than us. We ain’t gotta tell anyone we’re queer after all. We all gotta do our part, Buck. I’m scared too, y’know, but I gotta do what’s right.’

‘I know,’ Bucky said, dropping a kiss on the top of Steve’s head. ‘I just don’t know if we can really say serving a country that’s doin’ what ours is is the right thing. You heard what’s happening out West with the relocations. I don’t like it one bit when they’re tellin’ us we’re freein’ people over there, but they’re lockin’ people up over here. It ain’t right, and I don’t wanna be part of it.’

‘You think I like it? But just because that’s wrong doesn’t mean helping the folks in Europe’s wrong too. I don’t like the idea of anyone bein’ locked up. Way I see it, the fastest way to help them out West is to hurry up and end the war. They need soldiers for that. There ain’t nothin’ we can do for those people here, least not without getting ourselves locked up along with them. We can help the folks in Europe though. I gotta do what I can, Buck, even if it ain’t much.’

‘You keep lyin’ to recruiters and you’ll end up locked up either way,’ Bucky said, turning back to the potatoes. ‘I just… Don’t go getting yourself in trouble over this. We need people here at home to keep things working right too. Can’t just leave it all up to the bigwigs in Washington, or the whole damn country’ll fall apart while everyone else is off fighting the Nazis.’

‘I promise I’ll be careful,’ Steve said, nuzzling into Bucky’s neck. He dropped a series of small kisses there. ‘Wouldn’t want you to be deprived of my pretty face after all,’ he teased.

Bucky laughed. ‘Well, maybe your pretty face can get working on dinner before we both starve,’ he suggested, shrugging Steve off to nudge him toward the rest of the vegetables.

Steve stuck his tongue out but did as he was told. He began chopping the cabbage with much less aggression than he had shown the potatoes earlier.