Actions

Work Header

Dick Magic: The Sequel to Mirror of Life

Chapter Text

“You’re out of your depth kid.” Those were some shitty last words, Veronica Rumlow thought, as countless tons of Triskelion rubble fell around her. It pinned her down no matter how she struggled. Helicarrier fuel sprayed over the wreckage and she thought she might suffocate from the fumes. But that was far too merciful a fate and she burned.

In the twilight before awakening, she heard the familiar beep of a medical monitor. She hated hospitals. Hospitals meant that someone had fucked up. And from the pain that seared her body in agony, that fuck up appeared to be herself this time.

She gagged on the intubation tube and the steady beeping rapidly sped up. She tried to open her eyes, but something covered them. Veronica thrashed against her restraints until something cool flooded into her veins.

As she sank back down into blackness, a voice said in wonder, “She shouldn’t even be breathing on her own.”

 

Her eyes were still bandaged and smeared with ointment, and her intubation prevented her from speaking, but she listened as she struggled to not gag on the tubing. Eventually she could tell the difference between the voices that clucked their tongues and took samples from her. “Remarkable. Simply remarkable. Subject 23.”

It wasn’t reassuring.

 

They took out the tubing. Veronica licked her dry lips, the corners were cracked and cautiously tested her bonds. They didn’t give and seemed to be made for a much larger person. Maybe they thought she was dangerous. Well, they were right about that.

Maybe she was in prison and they were making sure she could be whole for her execution. They still executed people for treason, didn’t they?

“Did— Janice survive? What about Alexa Pierce? What happened to SHIELD? Am I in custody? I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m innocent. Please.” Her voice was barely a whisper.

The voices refused to answer her. They didn’t even call her by her name. “Subject 23. Elevated stress hormone levels. Increase dosage by 10 cc. Rotate to prevent bedsores.” They changed her bandages and lubricated her skin grafts, after increasing her sedation and rotating her position. She was receiving excellent medical care, she thought dimly.

“I am Agent Veronica Rumlow and I demand my right to counsel!” Her voice was sloppy, humiliatingly ragged. She heard footsteps as they walked away. The bandages sopped up her tears.

 

Days and nights blended together. She had no idea how long she had been held captive. Ronnie started to look forward to the random tests that they would perform upon her, they broke up the monotony of her existence. Some of the tests were painful and invasive, but it was a welcome distraction from the loneliness.

“Please. Please. Please. Just talk to me,” she begged as someone changed her catheter. “I’ll tell you anything. Anything you want. Just name it.”

Silence, as always. And then the cruelest thing that Veronica Rumlow, master of coercion tactics and interrogation, had ever experienced happened. A pat. A light pat on her hand by gloved fingers. A momentary human interaction that wasn’t clinical or cold. Her shoulders heaved with great uncontrollable sobs. The clinician walked away leaving Veronica with a clean catheter and the bitter memory of compassion.   

 

I’m always cleaning up your messes, Ronnie.

“Janice?” Ronnie whispered. “You’re not really here.”

Of course not. But you kept begging for someone to talk to and I’m here to help out. It was pretty pathetic. You look like shit, Ronnie.

She couldn’t help it, she started to smile. It took a moment, her face couldn’t quite remember how to form a smile. “Well you try looking gorgeous after a fucking building falls on your head.”

We fucked up. Didn’t we Ronnie? We were so close to changing everything. The whole world is gonna look for us, try to put us away in prison.

“You know what, Jan? I think I’d take prison over this.” Ronnie sniffled, she could barely feed the nasogastric tube that fed her. “I’m glad you’re here.”

I’m not here. But I get what you’re sayin’. Don’t get all soppy on me. You’ll turn all red and blotchy like you usually do when you cry.

“I don’t cry.” Ronnie protested.

Bullshit. You sob like a baby during sad movies or at puppy videos or after too much tequila. Cried your eyes out when that asshole you dated in Basic dumped you. You cried for me at my parents’ funeral. I know. I was there. I handed you the tissues every time. I’ve always been there for you Ronnie.

“Fine. I’m a liar.” The soothing sound of Janice’s voice in her brain calmed Ronnie. “I’m going crazy and I’m a liar.”

We both are. That’s why we were so good together, right?

 

It was easier with Janice there. She’d tell stories that Ronnie had heard at least a hundred times before, but somehow they seemed fresh and exciting. And when the stories ran out, Janice would sing to her. Fragments of songs and when she couldn’t remember the words she’d make them up.

Well, well. Here comes Dumbass and Doctor Dumbass.

Ronnie smirked, Janice had heard their footsteps before she did.

“Subject 23. Near complete recovery from injuries. Slight residual erythema and scar tissue formation. Muscle tone exceptional. Disassociation within normal parameters for trauma.”

Listen to that. You’re cured. Time to bust out of this joint.

“Subject 24. Close to viability. At this rapid rate, a few more weeks. We’ll harvest stem cells post-procedure. Divide up the samples and distribute them to the satellite clinics for cloning.”

Wait, who is Subject 24? Janice sounded worried.

“Who is Subject 24?” Ronnie asked, not expecting an answer. She didn’t get one. “Is there someone else here with me?”

Someone laughed, a short snuffle of derision as they left the room and Ronnie caught her lower lip in her teeth. She chewed on it, the pain was one of the only things she could control.

I know, I know. Janice said soothingly. We’ll get these bastards. You believe in me, right? Ronnie nodded. Trust me. I’ll burn this whole place down, wanna hear how I’d do it? Janice started talking about fuses, plastique and timers, it was a pleasant yammering in the back of Ronnie’s mine, but her attention was focused on the mystery of Subject 24. She was missing something.

 

And then, I threw his pantyhose covered ass out in the hallway and locked the door! Janice guffawed in triumph.

“You didn’t have to do that. We changed the sheets!”

It was the principal of the thing. No one fucks on my bed except me. Janice grumbled.

“But you don’t fuck anyone. They called you Mother Superior back on the base. It’s not like you didn’t have your choice, there was always some young thing looking at you with stars in her eyes.”

I was waiting for someone. Someone special. That’s all. Janice huffed. My bed habits are none of your business. You fuck around enough for the two of us. I swear, I’m surprised your vag didn’t fall out after all that banging you did with your twin. And have I told you how messed up and disgusting that was? That’s like banging your brother. Or worse.

“He was so fucking hot. You’re just mad that your twin was as gay as you are. Would you have watched if Jack was into me too? The three of us would have put on a hell of a show. Brock would be right there in the middle like icing in a cookie. I know you like to watch, Jan. That’s all you ever do.” It was cruel to say, but Ronnie wasn’t the nicest of people at the best of times.

You are an asshole, Veronica Rumlow.

“Yeah, but I won’t die alone. I’ll always have you Janice Rollins. You’re here with me. Always and forever.”

There was a very long pause and then Janice replied, Yeah. Ain’t I the fucking lucky one?

 

Ronnie jolted awake. They were transferring her to a gurney. “I have the chart. Really we need to make a second volume, the chart fasteners are about to give out on this one. I hate having to put a spilled chart back together. Anesthesia?” Someone asked, dispassionately. “An option?”

“Yes! Yes! Anesthesia is always an option!” Ronnie shrieked. She strained against her bonds as the squeaky wheels on the gurney echoed in a hallway.

“Subject 23 needs to be awake so we can monitor their response to stimuli. They never stay awake for long.” Ronnie howled at the top of her lungs and thrashed.

“Oh stop that nonsense. No one is coming for—“ The patronizing voice stopped mid-speech and a very familiar sound chirped three times more. The unmistakable sound of bodies dropping to the floor.

That's what they get for hurting you, Janice said.

Ronnie panted in distress. “I can’t get loose!” She arched her back off the gurney and flopped back.

Shh. Shh. Hold still, let me get the straps. Oh Ronnie— Oh my god. I’ve been looking for you. Oh Ronnie…

Ronnie laughed, “You can’t get me free, you’re a voice in my head. I may be crazy, but I’m not a fucking loon!”

Deft fingers pulled the bandages off of Ronnie’s eyes. She blinked in the shockingly bright light of the hallway and squinted. Her vision slowly swam into focus as her limbs were freed. Hands rough with gun callouses cradled her face and Ronnie nearly swooned at the feeling of someone gently touching her.

Come on baby. Come back to me. “I need you. Come back to me. Come on, we need to get out of here. Can you walk?” Green eyes lined with red, a scarred chin, never a beautiful woman on her best day. Ronnie opened her mouth and whimpered wordlessly in gratitude. Janice drew her into her arms and held Ronnie against her chest. “I’m here. I’ll never let you go again. We’ll figure out what to do about the baby later. Can you walk?”

Ronnie blinked and asked curiously, “The baby?”

Janice’s brow furrowed. “You didn’t know?”

Ronnie shook her head. “Know what?” Janice took Ronnie’s trembling hand and placed it on Ronnie’s swollen belly. Ronnie’s eyes grew wide with shock.

“You’re pregnant, Ronnie.”

Chapter Text

 

“Sit in the fucking wheelchair!” Janice ordered and Ronnie obeyed. “You’re as wobbly as a baby giraffe and I can’t carry you out of here. We’re about a mile underground at this point and you’ve still got like four tubes sticking out of you.”

Ronnie stared at her belly in disbelief. Janice picked up a thick blood-stained chart from the floor with Subject 23 on the label. She crammed it in a duffel bag. “We need to get out of here before reinforcements arrive.” Janice snapped her fingers twice. “Ronnie! Look at me.”

Ronnie startled at the sharp noise and Janice’s frown softened. “I’m sorry Jan— I’m so so sorry. None of this would have happened to you if I hadn’t recruited you—”

“Oh shut it. There’s time for tears and tequila later.” She handed Ronnie the duffel bag. “Hold on to that. Don’t let it fall. I’m counting on you.” Ronnie wrapped her arms around the rough canvas bag and clung to it, like an anchor in a storm. She wouldn’t drop it. She wouldn’t fail. Not again.

Janice grabbed medical supplies from cabinets as they rolled down the halls and shoved them in the bags. She broke the lock from the narcotics safe and emptied it. “Just like shopping with my grandma.” Janice said as she hooked a biohazard bag full of pills and vials on the wheelchair handle. “We won’t need this stuff, hopefully. But we sure as shit can sell it. About $30 a pill for this, yeah.”

“How do you know that?” The fluorescent lights gave everything an eerie green glow. I know everything, I’m a regular Einstein of the Streets, Janice’s voice said in her head.

“Remember my knee surgery?” Janice pushed Ronnie down the endless hallways, a silenced pistol at the ready in one hand. “Well, I didn’t need all those pills and Westphal, well she knew someone who did. So I refilled my prescription and voila! That’s how I paid for my pretty red leather couch. I’m a regular Einstein of the Streets.”

“That is the worst couch.” Ronnie leaned her head back to look up at Janice. Please, don’t ever go away, Ronnie thought. “It looks like a blood clot in the middle of your living room.”

“Bitch!” Janice snorted fondly. “Well, you won’t have to sleep on it. I sold it. I sold everything I could before the Feds descended. We’re wanted women, Ronnie.” She shrugged, “I am at least. Technically, you’re dead. Lucky you. Clean start.”

“I feel like I died.” Ronnie clutched the duffel tighter, her knuckles turned white as she gripped the canvas.

“You did. In the hospital. Third-degree burns over seventy percent of your body. Flatlined. I was there.” Janice stared out in front of her, watching for threats. “They sedated me and when I woke up, you were gone. Transferred to a special burn ward they said. That meant that you were alive and I was going to find you. Busted a few heads along the way. It’s what I do.”

“How long have I been missing?” How many days had passed in this hellish sterile prison? How much of her life had she lost?

“Four months. It’s been four months.” Janice didn’t look down at Ronnie’s heavily rounded belly. “Four months of chasing down any lead, any hint of you. I still don’t know who is behind this place. It isn’t HYDRA, it isn’t SHIELD.” She set her jaw and said grimly, “When I find out? Tick tick boom. The whole lot of them.”

The murder in her voice made Ronnie smile. “Let me help.”

“Of course.” Janice raised her pistol and shot a nurse in the head as he walked around the corner. They wheeled past his twitching corpse. “They picked the wrong bitches to mess with. We’ll make them regret being born.”

As they reached the end of the corridor, Ronnie nearly wept at the scent of hot desert air as it whooshed past the gates. It smelled like freedom. The gates were set into a mountain. The security guard was dead, neatly executed in his booth. Janice spat at him as they passed.

She pulled up next to a battered minivan with fake wood paneling. It might have been blue at one time. “Let go of the bag, Ronnie. You can let go of the bag now.” Ronnie stared up at Janice, goggle-eyed and reluctantly let go of the canvas.

“Did I do good?” Ronnie asked. “I didn’t drop it.”

“You did great, sweetheart. Mission accomplished. Now get your ass in the car.”

Ronnie sat in the front passenger’s seat, trembling. Janice touched her like she was made out of glass, fit the lap belt under her belly and carefully across her chest. Ronnie didn’t see Janice blinking back her own tears, she wouldn’t have believed that Janice was capable of crying. Not her Janice. Her Janice was tough as nails. She was squinting at her hands and arms in the harsh desert sunlight. Janice loaded the wheelchair and their loot into the trunk.

Her skin was mottled with fine pink lines and blotches, scars from the burns. She remembered the burning, remembered it so hot and fast and so blazingly vivid. She started to pant and keen wordlessly in panic as her skin fell off her limbs. She clawed at her arms trying to hold the flesh onto the bones.

“Shh! Shh! Ronnie, I’m here. I’m here.” Janice cooed soothingly and let Ronnie clutch at her fingers. “You’re okay. You’re okay.”

“I burned! I burned Janice. I remember. I remember all of it. We failed. I failed. If I’d just launched INSIGHT sooner… If I’d let you shoot her… None of this would have happened.” Janice shut the door and climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda. That’s all in the past. We just gotta keep going. I’ve got a cabin you know? We could go hide out there and be all pioneer. You’d look great in a bonnet.” They drove down the long gravel road and Janice pulled over onto the shoulder so that Ronnie could see the clandestine medical facility from her window.

“I know what will make you feel better,” she said with a sly smile. “Hold out your hand.” Ronnie obeyed and Janice dropped a black box studded with red LEDs and a single red button. “Do you know what today is Ronnie?”

Ronnie shook her head sadly. “I don’t even know what month.”

“I figure that since you’re technically dead to the rest of the world, today’s your new birthday. So why don’t you blow out the candles on your cake.” Janice unrolled the passenger window. “Go on. You’ll feel better.”

Ronnie peered out the window, the scent of sagebrush and juniper in her nose. She flipped the safety cover on the trigger and rubbed her thumb over the button. It felt smooth and firm. She took a steadying breath and pressed it. There was a pause. The mountain erupted into a cloud of dust and rubble.

So fucking gorgeous. Janice said in her head and Ronnie nodded as a hail of pebbles bounced upon the mini-van roof. It sounded like rain, like a hailstorm.

Ronnie started laughing and kicking her bare feet against the dashboard, her catheter tubing slapped against her leg. She laughed until she couldn’t anymore and started screaming at the mountain, “That’s right you fucks! You fucking douchebags! Fuck you!”

Janice handed her a second detonator. “This is for the escape tunnel. Right about now all the survivors are rushing there. They think they’re ever so clever.”

Doctor Dumbass and his cronies, the voice said.

Ronnie’s lips curled back in a snarl. Ronnie pressed the button and whooped as a second explosion erupted, larger than the first.

She watched the dust cloud in the rearview mirror until it was a speck on the horizon. Ronnie left the window down, the wind rippled through her hair. It was long enough to tickle her chin. She didn’t look at herself in the mirror. She didn’t want to see who she had become. Who they had made her into.

She still had tubes in her arms and a pissbag against her leg. She had a fucking baby inside her that she still couldn’t wrap her head around. She glanced down her gown. And she had tits for the first time in her life. They looked good. Those could stay.

Helicopters flew overhead towards the mountain as they drove towards a life that neither of them were remotely prepared for. Ronnie clutched her hospital gown in her fingers. “Janice?”

“Yeah?” Janice said, a mint toothpick in her lips.

“Th— thanks. Best birthday ever.” Janice patted her leg and Ronnie reclined the seat as Janice started to sing along with an old country song on the radio.

Chapter Text

 

Janice ditched the minivan at a rest stop outside of town. It was stolen, of course. She left the keys in the ignition. She helped Ronnie to the steps of a beat up old motorhome parked at the rest stop's overnight parking. “Welcome to Casa de Rollins. Three squares a day and you never have to wait in line for the chemical toilet.” She glanced about, no one was watching. “Come on, Ronnie. Shake a leg. We have to get a move on.”

Ronnie glared. “Sorry, haven’t walked in fucking four months and this thing,” she pointed at her belly, “Is throwing off my balance.”

Janice shook her head and scooped Ronnie up in her arms bridal style. “Upsie daisy!” Ronnie didn’t have time to protest and she didn’t really care either. It felt good to be held, to be protected. Janice held her a little too tightly, a little too long.

Janice placed her carefully on the bed, brushed back Ronnie’s hair from her forehead with infinite tenderness. “There you go, Princess.” She shut the door and sat down in the driver’s seat. It took three tries and a lot of cursing to make the motorhome start.

Ronnie waved her hand, “Love the wood print wallpaper. And why is there a mirror on the ceiling?” She squinted at herself as they bounced along the highway. Her hair was much longer than she’d ever worn it, long hair was something for an enemy to grip in close combat. It curled along her cheekbones, made her look softer. The same patterns of scars on her arms were on her face as well. She frowned and muttered at herself, “You’re one ugly bitch now.”

“You know, I never asked about the mirror. Figured it was better not to know. Bought this jalopy at a bar from a retired couple who wanted to play grab ass with me.”

“You played grab ass?” Ronnie asked incredulously.

“Desperate times, Princess. Desperate times. There’s some clothes for you in the green bag. They might be a little tight.”

Ronnie pulled out a pair of plain grey sweatpants and a t-shirt that read, My grandparents went to Nevada and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. “You weren’t expecting to find me all knocked up, huh?”

Janice sighed, “No. I was starting to give up on finding you at all. But I’m glad I didn’t give up. It feels like I’m in a dream though, like someone is going to pinch me and I’ll wake up. You can come sit with me up here, if you want to.” 

Ronnie clutched her belly, tried to make sense out of her situation. “Feels like that to me too. I want to get these tubes out of me.” She took off the hospital gown, flung it away from her.

“Well, I can look up how to do it on my phone or I can go borrow a doctor for a bit. It’s up to you.”

“Janice, I’d really rather not have you rip these out. Some of them are in delicate spots.”

“Suit yourself.” Janice started to whistle. When they passed a sign, she pointed. “One hospital next right. Oh, the guns and ammo are in the blue bag. And there’s a piece under the mattress, in the linen closet and under the driver’s seat.”

“Just like home.” Ronnie carefully pulled the shirt over her head and winced. Her nipples were sensitive. “With more pissbags and motion-sickness.”

“Are you hungry? There’s food in the mini-fridge and in the breadbox. You have to secure everything or it goes flying. Rolls everywhere.”

Ronnie moved very slowly, the motorhome swayed as it went down the freeway. She plucked a slice of white bread from the wrapper. Hesitantly, she took a bite and immediately started whimpering. Janice pulled over to the side of the road, people honked at them as she parked. She banged her head on the the ceiling as she rushed to Ronnie’s side. “What’s wrong?”

Ronnie blinked away tears, “It— It just tastes so good! I’d forgotten what food tasted like.” She pointed at her nose, “Tube fed.” Janice nodded. “I’ll take it slow. I’m not sure if everything inside me is still working or not.” 

“Yeah, doctor-borrowing it is.” Janice said with finality. She ruffled Ronnie’s hair. “Maybe they can look at your chart and help us figure out who the father is? That is, if you want to keep it or not. That's your choice.”

Ronnie took another bite and chewed it until it ran down the back of her throat with a single swallow and a sip of bottled water. “I just hope it’s human.” Janice worried her lower lip and took the half-eaten slice away when Ronnie was done. “I don’t know what they did to me in there Jan. I couldn’t see and they kept me restrained. I was helpless.” Fury sparked in her eyes, “I was helpless. And I’ll never be that way again.”

Janice smiled. “Atta girl.” She patted Ronnie’s leg. “Let’s go get you some prenatal care.”


 

“Okay. I’ll be back soon.” Janice checked her gun, “Do you think you can use this if you have to?”

Ronnie grimaced and took the gun. “It was four months, not forty years. I can still shoot. I still hold most of the records on the firing range. No one is going to surpass me.”

“That’s because it’s on the bottom of the Potomac, hot stuff. I’m serious.” Janice cupped the side of Ronnie’s face with her calloused fingers and Ronnie leaned into the touch with a deep sigh.

“Just don’t be too long.” Ronnie finally muttered. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“You’re not going to be alone.” Janice tentatively patted Ronnie’s belly, Ronnie flinched. “You’ve got Junior here to chat at.”

You could always talk to me. I’m still here. I’ll never leave you, the voice in her head crooned. Ronnie nodded, she wasn’t sure which Janice she was nodding to.

The moment Janice left the motorhome, fluttering started beneath Ronnie’s breastbone and her breathing grew rapid, shallow. She tried to close her eyes, but the darkness was more frightening than being alone. Ronnie found Janice’s old shirt, the cotton soft and worn. She pressed her face into it. Sweat, gun oil and dirt. She curled up on the bed and waited. She was better at waiting now, she had more patience. Infinitely more patience. Janice’s voice sang to her, crooned in her brain an old country song.

The door opened to the motorhome and Janice pushed a woman in. She had curly brown hair and glasses, an ordinary face. She looked extraordinarily calm for a hostage. Ronnie hated herself for flinching, hiding behind the old shirt.

“So you’re the pregnant woman in distress.” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “My name is Brianna. Dr. Brianna Banner.”

Ronnie blinked. “The Brianna Banner?”

The doctor nodded, still distressingly calm. “I’m not really an obstetrician, but I’d like to help.” Ronnie’s mouth opened and shut, gasping like a fish.

“What’s wrong?” Janice asked, holstering her gun.

Ronnie started laughing, she laughed at the sheer absurdity of her life. “You idiot. You kidnapped the motherfucking Hulk.”

Chapter Text

“I did what?” Janice said incredulously.

“She didn’t kidnap me, I offered to come.” Dr. Banner pushed her glasses up her nose. “I’m not worried about anything happening to me, but my colleagues at the teaching hospital are another matter. So, what do I call you?”

Veronica and Janice looked at each other, they hadn’t thought that far. It was quite unprofessional for a kidnapping. Dr. Banner sighed. “I’m not going to turn you in. Not unless you’re very bad people. And you don’t look like you’re a very bad person right now.”

Janice rolled her eyes and Ronnie did her best to look pathetic, it wasn’t much of a stretch. It was very, very important to not antagonize this woman. “You can call me Ronnie, I guess. Can you help me take these tubes out? I’m really tired of pissing in a bag.”

Dr. Banner took a pair of purple latex gloves out of her pocket and put them on. She carefully examined each port and the corresponding tubing while Ronnie shivered. She couldn’t help the revulsion she felt at the touch of gloved hands. “Why do you have these? Were you in a care facility?” Her voice was concerned, it had to be an act.

No one cares about you, they left you in that place. I care about you. I'll never leave you. 

“I don’t think so. I can’t really remember a lot about it.” She remembered too much. She’d do anything to forget.

“Did you have a head injury?” Janice brought the bag of stolen supplies to the doctor, she looked at them curiously and indicated which ones she needed with her elbow. Janice carefully opened each sterile package, she looked as serious as when she was defusing a bomb.

“No.” Ronnie chewed on her lip. “Look, I just want these things out of me!” She gestured at her entire body and the other women looked at her belly, then they looked away.

When it came time to remove the urinary catheter, Dr. Banner looked at Janice, giving her the option to leave the room. Janice crossed her arms. “I’m staying.” Ronnie shimmied out of her sweatpants.

“Okay, now this is going to sting a little. How long have these been in place?”

Ronnie stared up at the mirror on the ceiling. It was impossible to believe that the wretched woman on the slick floral polyester bedspread was her. She was strong, she was dangerous. She wasn’t a helpless sack of scarred up shit with her legs spread wide.

It’s okay baby. You’ll always be beautiful to me. Jan. That's what she'd call the voice. Ronnie smiled at Jan's reassurance. Jan wouldn't lie to her. 

“Four months at least.” Janice said as she watched Ronnie's odd expression and faraway gaze.

“Hmm. There, all done.” Dr. Banner said to Janice, “She just looks a lot farther along than four months. If we could take her to the hospital, I could do a complete work up.”

Ronnie scrambled away from Dr. Banner, all the way back against the headboard. She curled around herself, half-naked and more than half-feral with fearful distrust. Her fingers curled into claws. “No hospitals!” Ronnie hissed, “I’m never going back to another fucking hospital! I’d rather die!”

“You’ve got a lot of questions Doc. And I sure as hell don’t have any answers. You know how to read one of these right?” Janice threw the chart on the bed.

Dr. Banner picked it up, pushed her glasses up her nose and opened the manila folder. “Ah. Hard copy. There’s blood on this.”

“Long story.” Janice said pokerfaced. “Happy ending.”

Dr. Banner pulled down a fold-out seat from the wall, crossed her legs and sat on the cushion with the chart in her lap. She was a such a small woman, it was hard to believe that a monster lurked within her.

We’re all keeping secrets, aren’t we Ronnie?

Janice helped Ronnie with her sweatpants and let Ronnie curl up upon her solid sturdy body. Ronnie exhaled a slow shuddery breath as Janice combed her fingers through her hair, scratching the nails lightly against Ronnie’s scalp.

Dr. Banner gasped and then was silent. Her eyes went round with shock. “Oh my god.” She read faster and faster, her lips moving with the effort. Janice held Ronnie close and didn’t let go when Dr. Banner looked up. She had tears in her eyes. Honest to god tears. Ronnie couldn’t believe it.  “I am so, so sorry that you had to go through this. No one should have to endure this sort of unethical experimentation. You— you were tortured.”

Ronnie tried to sound blasé. “I think I’d rather have been waterboarded than knocked up.”

Dr. Banner tapped on a photograph. “Your burns were extensive. You don’t have to look if you don’t want to.” Ronnie shrugged and squinted at the photograph that Dr Banner held up.

She wasn’t sure what she was looking at, it looked vaguely human. Charred and cracked. “I looked like barbecue. Memphis-style.” She started to shiver and Janice held her tighter.

“I’d say more like Kansas City.”

“Asshole.” Ronnie looked at her hands, looked up at the mirror on the ceiling. “I shouldn’t look like this, should I? I mean I’m still ugly as all fuck, but I’m not charbroiled.”

Janice made a tsk tsk sound at her self-deprecation, Ronnie wasn’t sure which one it was. Possibly both. Even the voices in her head were bossy.

“No.” Dr. Banner tapped her finger on the chart. “From your problem list, you shouldn’t be breathing on your own. If you survived at all. The burns were the worst, followed by multiple broken bones, lacerations and—“ She stopped and uttered a soft “Oh.” She took off her glasses, rubbed the bridge of her nose and then put them back on. “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?”

“Doc?” Janice asked as she very carefully and slowly pressed a gun into Ronnie’s palm hidden between the headboard and mattress.   

“Four months ago there was a major disaster, wasn’t there? So, were you both in SHIELD, by any chance?” Dr. Banner leaned forward, her arms braced on the chart in her lap. She didn’t look threatened or scared, but the tears of compassion in her eyes had quickly dried up.

Oh fuck. Ronnie agreed with Jan. She fought back the urge to run, she wouldn't get very far. Especially with Janice practically on top of her.

Janice set her jaw and did her best to shield Ronnie with her own body, hiding the handgun. “How about you tell us who the father of this baby is before we admit to anything?”

Her pulse thundered in her ears and Ronnie heard herself speaking. “I don’t remember being raped. They didn’t want to touch me. It was very important to them that I wasn’t touched. They were going to harvest samples from me— and this kid. I’ve done some awful things, I won’t lie about that. But I was ordered to do them. That’s what soldiers do, we follow orders.” She declared, “I’d rather be in prison than strapped to any damned hospital bed. I’d rather be dead.” She flipped the safety off the gun.

Dr. Banner pointed at a lab test result. “The notes state that your fetus is very unusual. From the genetic markers, it appears to be the product of two exact clones with the exception of the chromosomes. I don’t see how that’s possible though. Perhaps they made a mistake?” She squinted at the results.

Janice dropped her arms from around Ronnie and glared. “Someone made a mistake.” The implications finally smacked Ronnie in the face and she stared at the polyester bedspread, gobsmacked.  Janice sullenly crossed her arms. “You know, Ronnie, you are the only person I know who has literally fucked themselves . Go on tell the good Doctor all about it.”

“Uh.” Ronnie swallowed and blurted out, “I met an alternate universe version of me and he was hot?” So hot. The physical connection they had was sweltering. Every erogenous zone on her had a  parallel on him and discovering those places kept them busy for almost a week of near constant fucking and sucking and fondling and…

“Oh god. I forgot.” Ronnie covered her mouth with her hand, the one that wasn’t holding a loaded 9mm behind a threadbare pillow.

“Forgot about what?” Dr. Banner prompted in fascinated curiosity. She leaned forward, her eyes wide. 

“A condom broke. And he said he had a vasectomy and it wasn’t a big deal and I was going to go to the pharmacy and take care of things but then—“ The Triskelion fell. SHIELD burned with HYDRA. We failed. “I never made it to the pharmacy.”

“So where is this clone now?” 

“Gone. Vanished along with my male twin and that creepy version of Rogers. I tried to track them down.” Janice said through gritted teeth. Ronnie looked at her in surprise. “What? I though he might have taken you from the hospital. I had to follow every lead. I had to find you.” Her voice hitched with suppressed emotion.

You’re mine. I found you first, Jan pouted.

“This is so fucked up.” Janice pressed her face  against Ronnie’s wild shock of black hair. “They’ll come back for her. And I won’t let that happen. I don’t care how many necks I have to snap to protect her. You have someone in your life like that Doc?”

Dr. Banner didn’t answer. She glanced back down at the chart and tapped her fingers. “The child would be the only known product of two separate universes. Not to mention your accelerated healing. Excuse me, but do you mind talking to one of my friends?”

“Which fucking Avenger would volunteer to be my Lamaze coach?” Ronnie snapped, fatigue settling in upon her shoulders.

Dr. Banner smiled, “That’s a doozy of a mental image. But Toni could help—“

Janice sneered, “Antonia Stark? Why don’t you just ask Stella Rogers to babysit while you’re at it?”

Oh shit.

“We’re not on good terms.” Ronnie hastily clarified and nudged Janice with her elbow. “Thanks Doc. But I think you’ve helped enough. We’ll drop you off at the next rest stop and be on our way.”

“Unfortunately, that’s not an option.” Dr. Banner tapped her glasses. “Tracking token in the frame, Toni gets all neurotic when I go on research sabbaticals. It’s a little possessive, but we’re working through it. She’s got abandonment issues. And I do tend to get abducted from time to time, so her heart is in the right place.” She closed the chart and said firmly, “You’re going to be a guest at Avengers tower. So you can get the best possible care.”

“So you can monitor my spawn, you mean.”

“You’re a pregnant woman in distress. I believe this meeting was meant to be. Unless you’d like to go to prison for treason, that could be arranged. You know they’re calling for the death penalty. We can protect you. Keep you safe, Ronnie.”

Ronnie held the muzzle of the gun to her temple. “Janice comes with me or I end this right here.” Janice gasped.

Oh that’s sweet darling, but you know it’s not you they really want. Trust me. Jan crooned in her head.

“Wait, it’s not really me you’re interested in.” She held the muzzle against her belly. “So, do we have a deal?”

“Don’t be so dramatic. Of course. I wouldn’t dream of separating new parents. No matter how they became a family.” 

“We’re not—“ Ronnie protested, but Janice carefully took the gun away from her trembling fingers and clicked on the safety.

Janice stood up and offered her hand. “It’s a deal then. Amnesty for both of us.”

“Until the child is born.” Dr. Banner shook on it and Ronnie didn’t feel a bit safer.

“Good enough.” Janice agreed, “Now where do I take us—?”

The ceiling of the motorhome ripped away, peeled back like a banana skin. Bits of aluminum and fiberglass rained down upon them. Janice threw herself over Ronnie, shielding her on the bed. Antonia Stark peered over the edge in full blue and silver armor. Her voice blasted from an amplifier on the suit. “Darling, when I told you to spice up our sex life I didn’t think you’d go full Winnebago. Kinky.”

Dr. Banner flushed red to the tips of her ears, crossed her arms and gestured at the bed. “Toni, we have guests.”

Oh FUCK my life.

Ronnie peeked out from beneath Janice’s shoulder, her eyes wide. She whispered,  “I agree Jan. Fuck my life.”

 

Chapter Text

  

“Toni, we’re taking these two to the Tower.” Dr. Banner crossed her arms. “I made a deal.” It was impressive how such a small woman could look so implacable. Ronnie didn’t want to be on the wrong side of Dr. Bann—

You’re kidding me, right? Jan laughed. It’s a little too late for oops and I’m sorry. But you’re not really sorry, are you Ronnie? You’ve never apologized for anything in your life and truly meant it. You’re just sore that you didn’t win.

Stark pointed at her helmeted face. “You know I have facial recognition built into this, right?”

Dr. Banner sighed, “Yes. You told me three times over breakfast.”

“So you know that these two are—“ Stark took a deep breath and rattled off a list. “Janice D. Rollins and Veronica E. Rumlow formerly of STRIKE, HYDRA, the personal bodyguards and lapdogs of the deceased Alexa Pierce? And they are armed. Put the gun away darlings or Momma will spank.” She waggled a warning finger at Ronnie.

Ronnie pushed the pistol away from her, it fell next to the bed. She muttered, “Pierce is dead? She didn’t make it?” The last thing Ronnie had done was run up to the Security Council Room to back up Pierce and take down Romanov, then that pesky little pet of Rogers had distracted her. “Guess I fucked that up too.”   

Janice shook her head and murmured in Ronnie’s ear, “You didn’t. It wasn’t your fault.”

Ronnie tried to push her away, it was like shoving a brick wall. She didn’t want pity and she certainly didn’t want forgiveness. “I’m starting to feel a little claustrophobic here.” Janice frowned and put her arm around Ronnie’s shoulders regardless.   

“You didn’t know that? Where have you been?” Stark asked incredulously. Dr. Banner pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.

Ronnie snapped, “Imprisoned in a rogue facility undergoing hellish medical experiments, thanks!” Her temper was starting to fray, she’d barely been out in the real world for a single day and already there were two Avengers up her ass. She was knocked up, tired, sore and fucking cranky. 

The blue and silver armor was responsive enough to show that Stark flinched. “Ouch.” Ronnie crossed her arms and glared.

“Toni. Read this.” Dr. Banner held open the chart and pointed to a particularly gruesome passage. It took a few moments but Stark recoiled in sympathy.

“Double ouch. But they’re still HYDRA Brie-baby. You know, the bad girls?”

Janice snorted, one arm still curled around Ronnie’s shoulders. “That’s rich. Wasn’t too long ago I used one of your Stark Model 346’s on a mission. Clouds of red mist. That’s all that was left.”

Stark sounded offended. “I don’t make those anymore.”

“You made enough of them.” Janice rubbed her thumb on Ronnie’s skin, soft circles of comfort and some possessiveness. “My girl here and I, we’re just your former customers. You were in the business of death before I even left basic training. We were just trying to make a better world. And we were betrayed. Lied to. Coerced. But you’ve already judged us guilty, even our innocent child.” Janice laid her fingers on the sliver of stretch-mark marred belly skin that peeped out from beneath Ronnie’s shirt.

My girl? Our child? Ronnie did her best to disguise her surprise, they weren’t like that. Sure, there’d been some random booze-soaked make-out sessions and some grinding, but that’s what friends did when they were lonely and horny. There weren't any feelings in the mix. Feelings were messy.

They knew what they were doing. No one signed up for HYDRA without knowing. They’d sold their souls for the chance to better the world and their own position in it. There was nothing wrong with looking out for yourself, with changing the odds of the game. But she had to give Janice credit for sounding utterly convincing.

Stark seemed convinced. Pompous fool. “So your point is that bad people can change and everyone makes mistakes, huh?”

“The people of Harlem seem to have forgiven her.” Janice nodded towards Dr. Banner who fidgeted and shoved her hands deep into her pockets, a slow red flush creeping up her slender neck.

Stark leaned on the edge of the motorhome ceiling and it lurched violently to the side. Ronnie clutched at the bedding to avoid falling off. “Fine. But extreme house arrest. And if any funny business happens, I’m dropping you off the roof.” She made a bye-bye gesture with armored fingers.

When you threaten to kill someone, it’s considered charming. When I do it, it’s a crime. Jan wasn’t amused.

“I’m not really able to do a lot of funny business right now. Maybe later.” Ronnie pointed at her gut. “I’m not exactly dangerous right now.”

Liar. Liar. Pants on fire. You’re always dangerous darling. Never forget that. I’ll never let you forget that.

Stark cocked her head to the side as if pleading to Dr. Banner to reconsider. Dr. Banner scowled and Stark pointed at the former HYDRA agents. “Extreme house arrest ladies.”

Ronnie lifted her chin. “Do I get shackled to a hospital bed and catheterized?”

“What? No!” Stark sounded horrified at the mere thought.

Stark was too soft, Ronnie thought. Too smart to be fooled and too soft to be converted. HYDRA should have done what AIM and Hammer had failed to do. “Then it sounds like a fucking vacation in Tahiti.”

 

“You will sit in the fucking wheelchair.” Janice ordered and Ronnie glared, she threw Janice’s hand off her arm.

“I’m not helpless. I can walk.” She gritted out through her teeth. “I’m not helpless.” Her legs shook and betrayed her words. Janice looked at her as if she would shatter like glass and Ronnie felt sick to her stomach. “Fuck you Janice. It’s not like I’m gut-shot.”

“I don’t have time for this.” Stark muttered and scooped up Ronnie in her armored arms. She walked into the tower through a discreet side entrance that had probably seen more Walks of Shame than most college campuses. Ronnie stared at her knees as the Avenger hauled her into an elevator. She was getting really pissed off at being hauled around like a sack of potatoes. Janice and Dr. Banner joined them, a sour expression curdled on Janice’s face.

“Hey, Janice?” Ronnie cooed maliciously. “Remember the last time we were in an elevator together back at the Triskelion? Good times. Good times.” Stark’s grip tightened on Ronnie’s scrawny limbs and she took the hint. But she didn’t have to be happy about it. 

“This will be your room.” Stark deposited Ronnie onto a crisply sheeted bed with no great care. Ronnie bounced on the mattress from the drop. It felt good to not be treated like an invalid.

She leaned her head back over the edge of the bed and looked up at Stark in her shiny blue and silver armor. So perfect, so pristine. “Thanks awfully for my new prison. You’re such a dear.”

Stark’s visor flipped open and she leaned close to Ronnie, her breath stirred the hair on Ronnie’s forehead. “Look here, you HYDRA snake. The only reason you’re here and not at the bottom of the ocean is that Brianna thinks you’re something worth saving. So you better do your damnedest to prove she’s right.” Stark turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, the door shut behind her with a pneumatic hiss.

“Fucking drama queen. Well, well, well Jan. What are we going to do now?” Ronnie muttered as she sat up with a lurch and began to explore her surroundings.

We survive. Ronnie nodded in agreement.

There was a bathroom with an inset tub and shower, it looked like it had never been used. Ronnie leaned against the sink and stared at her face in the mirror.

It was a stranger’s face. Her skin was mottled and whorled with scars. Her body wasn’t what she remembered at all. She had been strong, powerful and deadly. Now she was… much much less. She felt a surge of hatred towards Brock Rumlow for leaving her like this. He abandoned her after all his whispered affections, all the promises licked upon her skin. Well, he was her. Rumlows always put themselves first. She looked away in revulsion and turned off the light as she left.

Ronnie took a blanket off the foot of the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders. Her gaze slid over her belly and she refused to acknowledge it existed. Maybe she’d wake up from this nightmare.

There was a window that overlooked New York’s skyline. Ronnie leaned against it, slowly slid down the cold glass and gazed out into the city.

“Look at them, Jan. All those millions of lives. Running around, existing. I was going to make things so much better for all of them. That’s all I wanted. A better world. I did it all for you idiots and not one of you cares. Not one of you cares.” She spat at the window, a glob slid down the window. “Well fuck all of you.”  

Chapter Text

Ronnie awoke to Janice crouching over her with a goofy soft smile on her lips. One side of her face was cold from falling asleep pressed against the window. “Ronnie. There’s a bed right over there.”

Ronnie grumbled, “Four months is too much time in bed.” Janice slid down the window and sat next to Ronnie. It felt absurdly natural to rest her chilled cheek against Janice’s thigh. “Where were you?”

Gentle fingers carded through Ronnie’s hair and she stifled a groan of pleasure by pressing her mouth against Janice’s leg. “Oh, just spilling my guts. Betraying everything I’ve ever stood for. Calling Stark an egotistical fuckwad. You know, the usual.” Janice sighed. “It’s not like I knew anything more than what they found in the info dump. If I’d been a little quicker, you know, I could have taken down Romanov.” Janice sighed, “No shame in getting my ass handed to me by that Russian bastard, though. Can’t wait until he shows up here and finds us.”

“That would be fun. For a few seconds anyway.” Janice’s fingers trailed down Ronnie’s neck. “I thought they might have kept me in solitary.”

“That’s why I was away for so long. I had to convince them that you needed to be around me. Around someone. You couldn’t be alone, it wouldn’t be healthy for you or the sprog. We’re under constant surveillance, but you knew that. Just like the good old days, right? If it wasn’t SHIELD watching, it was HYDRA. Hard to take a piss without an audience.”

“Janice?” Ronnie murmured, “Thanks for finding me. I’m a useless sack of shit right now, but thanks.” She patted Janice’s leg.

“Veronica Rumlow. You’ll never be a useless sack of shit to me.” Janice paused, “A huge pain in my ass, of course, but never useless. Ow.” Ronnie pinched the side of her leg. “Fine. Wallow for a while. I won’t stop you. Known you too long to get in the way of your moods. You know, you’re going to be a hundred times more difficult as a pregnant woman, all moody and shit.”

“Pickles. Butterscotch pudding. Pickles dipped in butterscotch pudding.” Janice pulled the blanket up over Ronnie’s shoulders.

Jan made a retching sound in Ronnie’s mind. Ronnie smiled.

“That’s super gross, Ronnie. But if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.” Janice rubbed the ache between Ronnie’s shoulder blades until Ronnie started to doze off. She thought she heard Janice whisper, “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve sold my soul for you, sweetheart.”

 

They took the shoelaces out of your sneakers, Jan said. They don’t trust you.

“Well of course they don’t. That would be a stupid thing to do. I don’t trust myself right now. You should know better, Jan.” Ronnie said as she sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the empty eyelets in her shoes. She could barely see them over the swell of her belly.

“What did you say?” Janice asked, one finger reaming out her ear, her hair was wet from the shower.

“I was just complaining about being hideous. Completely revolting.” Ronnie smoothly lied. “Nice shower?”

Janice raised an eyebrow, but didn’t press the issue and Ronnie sighed inwardly in relief. “I’m a little nostalgic for the chemical toilet, but I don’t think this place will ever run out of hot water.”

Ronnie nodded. “The kid is getting bigger. We’ve only been here for what? A couple of weeks? I can’t see as much of my shoes as I could. I’m not going to be able to see my toes, am I? You’re going to have to roll me down the hallway.”

Janice sat down beside Ronnie and toweled her hair dry.  “Toes are overrated.” Ronnie poked her in the ribs with her elbow. “Ow. Watch that thing or Stark will confiscate it too.”

Ronnie muttered, “They took my shoelaces.”

“With the way your ankles are swelling, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t need laces.” Janice said mildly. “You could walk around barefoot, but then I’d make you stay in the kitchen.” Ronnie reached back for a pillow to cream Janice across the face. Janice held up her hands in surrender. “It was a joke, don’t hurt me.”

“They don’t want me to hurt myself. Or the kid.” She ran her fingers over her protruding navel. “Everyone is so goddamned fascinated with this kid. You’d think it was the second coming or something. They won’t even tell me the gender. Probably so I don’t get attached.” Ronnie sighed, “Once the kid is born, I’m as good as dead. It’s only a matter of time before Rogers finds us. Or that shadow organization. Or Stark drops us off the roof.” Ronnie chewed on her lip.

Janice took her hand, the gun callouses on her strong, thick fingers had softened. “I took your laces, Ronnie. Stark was too stupid to know what they could be used for.”

“So you don’t trust me.” Ronnie took her hand away and dug her fingernails into her palm.

Janice stood and hung up her wet towel. “I trust you with my life.”

“Just not with my own.” Ronnie spat bitterly.

A soft tone chimed and the voice of the building’s AI, Anna, announced the time. “We’ve always got each other’s six. You know that. You’re just wallowing again. It’s time for your tests. Why don’t we talk about this over dinner.” Janice offered Ronnie her hand and Ronnie took the assist. “Let’s roll you down the hallway, sweetheart.”

She’s lying to you. You can only trust me.

“Sure.” 

 

Dr. Banner chuckled warmly to herself and took her stethoscope’s ear pieces out. “Well, you’re both doing quite splendidly. Growing at an unheard of rate, but your body seems to be compensating. Having any more odd cravings?” Ronnie shook her head. She’d had an embarrassing moment when she admitted to wanting to eat dirt. Not that they had let her, the doctor had just increased her supplements and changed her diet. “We finally got those test results back. It’s fascinating. You and the fetus seem to have been exposed to a low dose version of the super-soldier serum that created Stella Rogers.”

“And the Red Skull. And the Hulk.” Ronnie added, just to make Dr. Banner wince.

“Yes, those too. The father must have been exposed to it at one time and passed it along in his semen to you and the fetus. Hence your rapid healing and unprecedented growth of the fetus.” Dr. Banner rapped her fingers on the table.

“Well, he did have super stamina. I was lucky to be able to walk after a few of those fucks.” Ronnie wriggled her toes. “So, all those times that you tried to recreate the super soldier serum and became the fucking Hulk as a result, all you had to do was wait for me to get my freak on? Sucks to be you Doc.” Janice shook with stifled laughter from her chair in the corner and Ronnie smirked.

Dr. Banner squirted out a glob of icy cold lubricant onto Ronnie’s skin and she squawked. Dr. Banner blinked innocently. “The warmer must have broken.” She ran the ultrasound probe over Ronnie’s belly and Ronnie grabbed the probe. Dr. Banner’s eyebrows winged up in surprise.

“You want this miracle kid’s stem cells to cure you. Don’t you?” Ronnie’s eyes narrowed and Dr. Banner nodded, reluctantly. All that altruism made more sense now. Stark and Banner were just as bad as the people who had stolen her from the hospital and experimented upon her. Her shackles were just a little bit longer now.

Out of the goodness of her heart, my ass. Jan sneered.

“Tell me the gender Doc.” Ronnie demanded, steel in her voice. “You’re going to take it away from me. It’s probably better, safer for it that way. But I’m tired of the word it.

“It will make separation more difficult. You’ll bond more with the pregnancy. Is that what you really want?” Dr. Banner looked at her kindly. “Because I will tell you.”

“I think there’s been too little transparency in my life as it is, Doc. Tell me.” Janice nearly fell out of her chair in anticipation and Ronnie held her breath.

“Female. You’re going to have a little girl.”

Janice gasped and Ronnie felt guilty that she didn’t care as much as Janice did. Some mother she was.

Ronnie stared at a small school of fish that swam on the video monitor mounted in the ceiling. It was supposed to be soothing. A distraction from the medical procedures. It just reminded Ronnie that her cheeks were wet. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand and didn’t say another word during the testing. 

Chapter Text

Janice flopped back upon the bed and drummed her heels in excitement upon the comforter. She grinned in delight and made a high-pitched squeak of girlish joy that seemed out of place coming from her massive frame. Ronnie raised an eyebrow as she dragged her sorry carcass into their quarters. Janice bubbled over and exclaimed, “A girl! A little girl Ronnie!”

“Yeah.” Ronnie sat down on the bed, slipped her shoes off and presented her swollen feet to Janice who kneaded her flesh with strong capable fingers.

She closed her eyes to enjoy the pleasure of being touched. She certainly wasn't getting laid anytime soon, not with how she looked. Janice hummed and said, “You have to pick out a name.”

“No, I don’t. It won’t matter.” Janice’s grip clenched painfully momentarily, “You pick if you care so much.”

“Not after my mother. Blanche is a terrible name. Your mom’s name isn’t much better, Peggy. ” Janice mused as she massaged Ronnie’s feet. “We could go with something Biblical like Bathsheba, Jezebel or Esther. Yeah, Sheba is great.”

“You’re fucking with me.” Ronnie groaned.

Janice shrugged. “Well if you don’t care then little Sheba and I are going to have a grand old time.” Janice leaned over and spoke directly to the belly. “Isn’t that right Sheba?” Her eyes glinted with good humor.

“You are not naming her after a cat food.”

“You don’t care, so why not?” Janice replied. Ronnie sighed, she didn’t care. She couldn’t let herself care. If she cared then it would hurt too much when it was all ripped away from her.

“Bianca.” Ronnie rubbed her face, the skin was tight where the tears had dried. “It goes with Veronica and Brock. Kinda mashed up. I don’t know. It’s stupid.”

“It’s lovely.” Janice smiled and curled up beside Ronnie, sharing the pillow. “Hello there Miss Bianca Sheba Rumlow. It’s your Auntie Janice.” Ronnie made a noise of disgust at Janice’s choice of a middle name, “And shush! I saved your ass, I get to pick out the middle name. We’ll only say it when she’s in deep, deep trouble. Bianca Sheba Rumlow! Get your ass in here and clean up this mess!” She laid a hand on Ronnie’s belly and rubbed in slow circles. “She kicked. A sign of approval.”

“She kicks hard. She likes to brace her feet on my spine and push outwards too. It’s like watching an old scifi movie, my gut moving by itself.” Ronnie chuckled weakly, “Just like a Rumlow. Always has to be the center of attention. And if she takes after her dad? We’re going to be in trouble.” She couldn’t help it, she missed the bastard. They’d only had a short time together, but it was seared into her memory.

“You mean if she takes after her mom, don’t you? Because you’re fucking flawless.” Janice ran a fingertip over Ronnie’s cheekbone. “Swelled up as big as a whale and you’ve still got these cheekbones. She’ll be lucky to get your eyelashes.” The gesture made Ronnie close her eyes, her lashes dusted over Janice’s finger. “Don’t worry, I can be the bad cop and make sure she gets home before ten.”

“I never did. Drove my mom nuts. One of the reasons she pushed me to enlist, a little structure and discipline for her wild wayward daughter. She’s going to be so pissed that her first grandchild has an absentee dad. I wasn’t supposed to repeat her mistakes, you know?” There she went, making plans for a future that would never happen. She had no future other than a prison cell that wouldn’t be as lush as Stark’s tower.

Janice stroked the scarred skin on Ronnie’s arm. Janice never recoiled at the feeling of scars, perhaps because she had so many of her own. Ronnie was too shallow to be that accepting. “Technically, sweetheart, you’re dead. You don’t ever have to go back. You’ve got a clean start.”

Ronnie huffed, “A clean start? Nah, I’ll fuck that up too. It’s what I do. I never would have signed up with Pierce if I hadn’t been sure that we’d win. That I’d finally win at something. Order through pain. Jesus Christ. I’ve never done anything right in my life, so why start now? I deserve this.”

Yes you do. You failure. You waste of skin. I’m the only person who could possibly want a loser like you.

Janice grabbed her shoulders and gave her a little shake. Ronnie was taken aback by the ferocity on her face. “You listen to me, Veronica. Listen. This little girl is the only thing that you’ve made that is perfect and pure and right. And I’m going to do my best to keep it that way. We’re going to raise her to be as strong and tough as her mother. You and me Ronnie, we’re in this together.”

“They’re going to take her away, Janice. They’re going to use her as a science project. Maybe, maybe it’s better that way?” Her voice hitched with hopefulness and she hated herself for being too weak to determine her own fate. Other people would always use her, make her into a pawn.

Of course they are. You’re not fit to be a parent. Jan cooed in her head. Ronnie winced at the painful truth. She slapped herself hard across the face, trying to silence the voice.

“I know, I know. I’m not fit. I’m not right. You keep telling me that.” Ronnie gritted her teeth, “Shut up Jan. Shut up!”

Janice grabbed her hands and restrained her. She stared at Ronnie and demanded, “What do I keep telling you?”

“Not you! But you just won’t shut up. You’re always telling me what I need to hear. But I can’t! I can’t—“ Ronnie was babbling, her face wet with tears.

“Ronnie. I’m here.” She pressed Ronnie’s hand against face. “I’m not here.” She tapped on Ronnie’s forehead with a weary, concerned look upon her face.

“But if you’re only here, then you can be taken away from me. I can’t be alone. I don’t want to be alone Janice. Please don’t leave me.” Ronnie clung to Janice, wrapped her arms around her stomach and shook with sobs.

Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!

“How could I leave you Ronnie? I love you.” Janice drew Ronnie closer, held her tightly.

“You’ve been the best friend I’ve ever—“ Ronnie sniffled against Janice.

“No Ronnie. Not as a friend. Not as a sister. Not as a teammate. I love you. And I know you don’t see me like that, not in the same way, but I don’t care. I don’t care who knows. I love you.” The voice in Ronnie’s head dwindled away as Ronnie looked up at Janice. “So there’s that. Try not to make it weird, okay?”

Ronnie blinked in awe. Janice loved her? “You love me? But I’m so fucked up! I hear voices in my head! I’m scarred up and bloated! I’m legally dead. What the hell is wrong with you?”

Janice shrugged. “I’ve got terrible taste.”

“You love me?” Ronnie kept repeating. “You love love me?” This made no sense. Well it actually made a shit ton of sense if you weren’t a thick-headed moron named Veronica Rumlow.

“Yes. Yes.” Janice was flushed redder than Ronnie had ever seen her. She held Ronnie tightly against her as if she were afraid of what might happen if she let go. A strand of hair escaped her braid and nestled against her blushing cheek.

“All this time?” Ronnie muttered, “But I’ve been such an asshole. I fucked on your bed! Lots of times!” She winced, “Forget I said that.”

“Oh I’ll sure try!” Janice wiped Ronnie’s face off with the hem of her shirt. “I’d like to kiss your shitty face, if you are okay with that.“ Ronnie wasn’t sure, but she felt her lips part in anticipation. She leaned her head back and Janice dipped down, her heart hammering hard enough for Ronnie to feel.

The door burst open. Stark and Dr. Banner rushed into the room. Janice dropped Ronnie and she fell backwards upon the bed with an indignant squawk. “Your heart rate spiked up! I was worried that you might be in distress—“ Dr. Banner sputtered. “I am so sorry. So sorry.”

Stark coughed and guided the embarrassed Dr. Banner out of the room with uncharacteristic grace. “As you were ladies. As you were. Come on Brie-baby. Let’s see if I can get your heart rate to spike like that. A little walk on the wild side?”  The door shut behind them, leaving Janice and Ronnie alone.

“Look. I’ll go take a shower and we can forget that this all happened, Okay?” Janice looked at the floor, her face still red. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—“

Ronnie sat up, grabbed a fistful of Janice’s shirt and pulled her down. It wasn’t a perfect kiss, but there was so much pent up passion that it made the edges of pleasure softer, a little blurry. She was kissing her best friend. Her Janice. Her Janice who wanted to make a life with her and her child. Janice sighed wistfully against Ronnie’s lips and Ronnie took advantage of her distraction. She rolled over, taking Janice with her until she was straddling Janice, propped up on her forearms.

“I like to be on top,” she murmured as Janice’s hands fluttered over her skin. Janice whimpered beneath her wordlessly and Ronnie took that as agreement and encouragement to claim her lips again.

Jan was silent and Ronnie doubted that she’d ever speak up again. Jan didn’t need to. Janice, the real flesh and blood woman who shimmied out of her shirt beneath Ronnie, was hers.

 

Chapter Text

“So,” Ronnie gestured at the bathroom. “Do you want first shower? Cause this whale is gonna take her time in there.” Janice stretched out nude in the bed beside Ronnie and buried her face in the pillow. Ronnie danced her fingers down Janice’s spine, lingering upon a new red scar. She clenched her teeth with the sudden urge to messily gut whomever had been responsible for that scar.

“So, that’s a no on waking up before noon then?” Janice grunted in response and Ronnie kissed the nape of her neck. It had been weeks since Janice’s confession and Ronnie was still stealing every moment of intimacy she could. Mother Superior was fucking sinful in the sack.

What a fucking blind fool she’d been. It didn’t help that it took Ronnie getting kidnapped and almost dying to make Janice decide to ‘fess up. They were such dramatic little shits, Ronnie smiled fondly.

And it made Dr. Banner incredibly uncomfortable when they bantered with barely concealed innuendo in the exam room. That was a plus. Ronnie could brag that she made The Hulk blush if she ever made it out of here and escaped a prison cell. Stark didn’t have that problem with their risqué exchanges. It seemed like she liked seeing Dr. Banner blush as much as Ronnie did, but for completely different reasons.   

It would be over soon, as soon as Bianca made her debut. Janice wouldn’t go quietly. Ronnie drew a small circle with her thumb on the scar. She wouldn’t give up on Bianca or Ronnie, she’d fight until she was dead. That was just Janice’s way.

Ronnie wished that she was that strong, but she’d always looked for the easy way, the sure thing. That’s why it was so easy to sign up with HYDRA. They knew what to say. They always knew what to say. She swallowed back a sigh. If she had known, would she have done things differently?

Probably not. If there was one thing she was good at, it was royally fucking herself over. Ronnie pivoted off the bed and waddled to the bathroom to piss for at least the tenth time. Sometimes she actually missed the catheter.

When did she become such a wimp? When had she given up hoping?

When you were strapped to that hospital bed, that’s when. Jan whispered. You were so strong. Look at you now. Pathetic. You need me. Ronnie shook her head, tried to expel the auditory hallucination. Jan only spoke when Ronnie was feeling awful, the voice of her despair.

“You shut the fuck up.” Ronnie said under her breath, she clenched her fist and thought about explosions in the desert. “I’ve got backup now.”

She picked up the bottle of shampoo, a gift from Stark of all people. Stark must have gotten tired of hearing Anna report about Ronnie’s complaints about her choice in hair care products. Ronnie was ugly, fat and cranky. She didn’t have to be frizzy as well.

She peered in the mirror. The scarring was diminishing by the day. She probed the contours of her face, let her tank-top clad belly rest on the sink counter and flashed her reflection a wink. “You’re looking a bit more like the badass bitch you were. But Jesus Christ woman, did you swallow a goat?”

Bianca kicked and Ronnie grimaced. “Settle down in there or I’ll eat some of Doc’s Indian food. That’ll teach you to disrespect your mama.” Another kick to her innards. Ronnie rubbed her stomach. “Fine. Fine. You know her tandoori hurts me more than you, right?”

A thud shook the bathroom wall.

Ronnie got low. As low as she could. She peeked out the bathroom door, the bottle of shampoo clutched in her hand.

Stella Rogers held Janice against the wall, by her throat. Janice clawed at her steely grip and gasped for air. Her feet dangled above the floor.

“Tell me! Tell me where Becky Barnes is, you piece of HYDRA shi—!” Stella screamed.

Ronnie opened the door and threw the shampoo bottle as hard as she could against Stella head. It bounced off ineffectually and Stella looked at her in cold fury. She flung Janice aside like a rag doll, she landed against the opposite wall in a heap. Ronnie took a step backwards. She’d seen that look on Stella’s face before. In the elevator at the Triskelion.

Oh FUCK. Ronnie agreed with Jan.

Ronnie took another step back and another until she bounced against the closet door. She held up her hands and  tried to sound innocent and soothing, “Whoa! Whoa big girl…”

“I’ve heard that from you before, Rumlow.” Stella’s fists clenched and she advanced. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

“Am I? Gosh! Really?” Ronnie sidled against the wall, her heart pounded in her chest as she edged towards the door. “Guess I’m lucky?”

“No. You’re not.” Stella’s voice was pure ice and Ronnie clutched her arms around her belly instinctively and cowered. “You’re not lucky at all.” Ronnie clenched her eyes shut and tried her best to shield her child—

The wall exploded into a puff of drywall and construction beams. Ronnie looked up at green legs as thick as young trees. Dr. Banner had lost her temper.

“Out of my way, Banner.” Stella ordered, a smear of white drywall dust on her blue shirt. It matched her eyes. “These snakes have information I need and they don’t understand talking.” Ronnie felt her full bladder release in fear.

Dr. Banner spoke calmly, “You know you’re no match for me. You’re certainly no match for Toni and I working together, she’ll be here in six minutes by the way.” Shredded clothing hung off her massive green body. Stark must have designed that super stretchy lingerie though, Ronnie thought absently, as she sat in a puddle of her own piss.

“I’m willing to try.” Stella pulled her shield off her back. “I’d do anything to find Rebecca. They were there. They know things. They have to know where the Winter Soldier is!” Stella’s voice wavered and then she clamped her jaw tightly shut.

“The Winter Soldier?” Ronnie muttered and Stella’s eyes snapped back to her. “Cap, I saw her like three times in my life. I swear.” She held up her hands again, “Polygraph me. Truth serum it. I swear! I was mostly with that crazy male twin of yours, Steve. And I would have much rather have been anywhere else ‘cause that man was bugfuck nuts.” Ronnie saw Janice shake her head and slowly regain her bearings. She sighed in relief. Bless that thick Rollins skull. “I don’t know where she is, but she’s gonna be damn hard to find. Better than you were at being incognito, that’s for sure.”

“Why are you here?” Stella continued as if the Hulk wasn’t looming above her.

“Duh. I’m a prisoner. So is Janice. You’ve probably scrambled her brains by the way. Oh and thanks for making me piss myself, that’s super dignified.” Ronnie glared, puffing up what was left of her dignity. 

“Oh dear.” Dr. Banner said. “Oh dear.”

“What?” Stella and Ronnie said simultaneously.

The Hulk knelt down and smiled as reassuringly as she could with teeth that big. “Your water just broke, Ronnie. As Toni would say, It’s showtime. ” Ronnie wasn’t sure who looked more shocked at the announcement, Captain America or herself. 

Chapter Text

Really.” Dr. Banner huffed. “She’s about to give birth and you’re still going to stand there frowning?” Stella crossed her arms and leaned against the exam room wall. Dr. Banner nervously fussed over the monitor wires on Ronnie’s skin. Her skin still held a slight tinge of green. She'd replaced her lab coat and rolled up the sleeves.

“You might think she’s helpless, but I know better.” Stella gritted out. “I remember what she could do in the field. And in an elevator.”

Ronnie beamed at Stella, ignoring the cramps in her belly and her full body sweat. “Finally, someone who really knows me. Goddamned right I’m dangerous. Go on. Tell me more about me, Cap.”

Stella snarled, “You’re a backstabbing traitor.”

“Yeah and how many times did I save your star-spangled hide?” Ronnie ticked off a handful of incidents on her fingers. “Just sayin’. I’m damned good at my job, aren’t I Cap?” A labor cramp doubled her over and Stella didn’t bother to hide her smirk of satisfaction.

“I have Dr. Cho on teleconference. He’s very good too.” Dr. Banner said soothingly and just a bit patronizingly as she adjusted a dial.

“Cho. Pfft.” Stark buzzed her lips. “He’s over-rated.”

“Did you use to date him or something?” Janice asked bluntly, still a bit muzzy from her mild concussion. She squeezed back when Ronnie’s fist clenched with the increasingly frequent contractions.

“No— I mean, maybe. It’s complicated.” Dr. Banner pushed her glasses up her nose and shot Stark a look of irritation. “He’s very good.”

“He’s a dork.” Stark proclaimed and crossed her arms petulantly. “And I don’t use that word lightly.”

“Ladies! Eyes on me!” Ronnie barked, “For once you’re not the stars of the show!”

“Sorry.” The bickering couple said simultaneously and looked chagrined. 

Ronnie panted, “Well, I hope you all enjoy the show. There’s not going to be a fucking encore!” She was never doing this again. This was one mission she wasn’t sure she could complete. “I— I— I’m totally fucked Janice!”

“You can do this.” Janice combed Ronnie’s hair back with her fingers. She winced from the pain of her bruised ribs. “You can do this.”

Ronnie hissed, “I don’t really think I have any fucking choice Janice!” She clutched Janice’s hand and tried to do those stupid breathing exercises that Stark had forced her to practice. They were not as effective as she had been lead to believe. Typical Stark.

“Who’s the father?” Stella asked.

“I am!” Janice snarled and Stella blanched at the ferocity in her tone.

“Okay then. I meant biologically.”

“Remember that time your male twin from an alternate universe dropped by for a couple of weeks?” Janice said while Ronnie did her best to pulp the small bones in Janice’s fingers.

Stella raised an eyebrow, “Yeah?”

“She fucked herself. Literally.” Janice said fondly. "Yes, she did."

“Stop saying that.” Ronnie groaned.

“Never.” Janice kissed her hand. “I’ll never stop saying that.”

Stark blew a bit of hair out of her eyes and pointed at Stella. “You had an alternate universe trio visit and you didn’t tell me? I thought we were friends! And what is this Winter Soldier stuff? Anna run a query—”

“Friendship had nothing to do with it! You had two HYDRA agents hidden away in your tower! The tower we’re supposed to be running the team out of. And you didn’t tell me! How am I supposed to trust you Stark?” Stella bellowed back.

“Can you do this another fucking time? I’m about to squeeze a watermelon out of my vag! None of you have ever done this before!” Ronnie screamed and Dr. Banner cracked her knuckles in warning.

“I have.” Stella said, after a moment. Everyone in the room stared at her. “I mean, I’ve helped out with birthing. Before all of these bells and whistles.” She gestured at the complex machinery and state of the art systems. “We usually just boiled some water…”

“You’re not invited.” Janice snapped. “We had a water birth planned. Soothing and calm. With that shitty New Wave music that Doc likes.”

“New Age music.” Stark gently corrected.

“It was going to be a beautiful experience. Something we’d cherish, but like always you had to fuck things up. So you stay over there and you don’t lay one finger on my Ronnie or so help me God, I’ll end you. I’ll end you.” Janice didn’t raise her voice, she didn’t have to. Everyone in the room believed her.

“You say the sweetest things, babe.” Ronnie whispered. She didn't deserve Janice. She didn't deserve any of this. Not the pain, not the rising panic and certainly not the judgmental stare of Rogers. Fucking hell, she was only doing her job at the Triskelion. She was a professional after all, just like the Star-Spangled Girl over there.  

Stella nodded, “Not a problem. But I’m not taking my eyes off of you two.”

Ronnie panted, “I— always liked being the — center of attention. Is this supposed to be going— this fast?” She groaned as Dr. Banner poked around her nethers. "Jesus Doc. Buy me a drink first."

“This child is statistically the rarest event I could calculate. So—“ Stark tapped on one of her hovering data pads.

“You don’t know.” Janice slid an arm around Ronnie’s shoulders and held her tightly against her own injured ribs. It was as if she was trying to absorb her pain.

“Right. It pains me to say this, but I haven’t a clue. I mean, the painkillers aren’t even working right… ”

“Tell me about it genius! If I die— don’t let them fuck my kid up.” Ronnie whispered, “Promise me you won’t let these nerds fuck my kid up.”

“If you die, I’m dragging you back from the Gates of Hell with my bare hands. I’ve worked too hard on you Veronica Rumlow.”

“Oh shit, you used my full name. You’ve—fucking jinxed me.” The events started to blur together in pain and disorientation. Ronnie wasn’t sure where she was. Stark’s tower? The Triskelion? The hospital? Oh please god, she couldn’t be back at the hospital! Not again, no!

Dr. Banner commanded with a voice that was louder than her small frame could possibly produce, “Push!”

“You’re not the fucking boss of me!” Ronnie wailed. “Please don’t send me back! I can’t be back in that place!” It felt as if she were being ripped apart. And she was. “I HATE ALL OF YOU! FUCK YOU MOST OF ALL BROCK RUMLOW!”

“Oh for the love of fuck, just push!” Janice yelled in her ear. So Ronnie did. She followed orders like a good soldier in the field when everything had gone completely bugfuck and there was only one way out. She couldn’t see what was happening, but she could see Janice’s face as it softened in joy, in wonder. Finally, a wailing reached her ears. She’d never seen Janice so happy.

I did that. For once in my life, I did that, Ronnie thought.

“See, I told you we didn’t need Dr. Cho—“ Stark commented as she handed Dr. Banner a soft clean towel and Ronnie didn't have the energy to tell Stark to shut the fuck up. Janice did it for her. 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Look at all that hair.” Janice petted Bianca’s dark locks reverently. “Definitely doubled down on the Rumlow hair game.” The baby gurgled in Janice’s strong arms. 

“I— I made this?” Ronnie said, still in shock. She didn’t feel like a mother. “No way.” She could field strip more weapons than she could count. She knew how to fly choppers, quinjets and how to launch the INSIGHT system. She knew infinite creative ways to maim and kill. She had no clue how to be a mother.

“Yeah. You did good Ronnie. You did good.” Janice smiled at her, “And it looks like you’ve um…” Ronnie looked down at the front of her tank, two wet circles expanded in the fabric.

“Let me help with that.” Dr. Banner reached over and pulled up Ronnie’s tank.

“Once again, buy me a fucking drink first Doc.” Ronnie grumbled. Dr. Banner shrugged and helped position the baby who latched on like a professional. Ronnie’s eyes grew wide and she cradled Bianca close.

She hadn’t asked for this. This responsibility. She glanced up at Janice. Janice had saved her. Janice loved her and this child. Ronnie bit the inside of her cheek and she snarled at Dr. Banner. “You— you can’t have her! You can’t use her in your mad science experiments! I’m not going to let you take her and use her! You’re not going to make her into some sort of weapon or lab rat! I won’t let you!”

Dr. Banner sighed, “I just need the leftover bits. The umbilical cord and placenta. Unless you want those too?” 

“You thought we were going to take the baby? What would I do with a baby? I can barely take care of my own needs. I’d be a horrible parent.” Stark said, horrified at the notion. She joked, "I'm practically a child myself." 

“That’s the truth.” Dr. Banner remarked as she checked Ronnie’s vitals.

“Brie. I’m wounded.” Stark protested. 

“So, what’s going to happen to us?” Janice asked after a few moments. Ronnie looked at Bianca’s fingernails. Tiny things. There weren’t any extra toes or fingers or a tail, thank god.

“A trial. And then prison for your crimes. Remember those? Or do I have to say ‘Hail HYDRA’ to jog your memories?” Stella crossed her arms. “I’m not leaving here without turning you both into the authorities.” She was the only person in the room who hadn’t held Bianca. It wasn’t like Ronnie would have let her, but still…

“You are such a cunt, Rogers.” Janice spat.

“Right back at you Rollins.” Stella replied and the baby at Ronnie’s breast started wailing. “Better burp her.” Then the tall blonde turned on her heel and left the room.

Ronnie scowled as she burped Bianca. “Does she always have to be fucking right all the time?”

Stark rubbed at the dark circles under her eyes. “You have no idea.”

 

Dr. Banner was at a conference, so that left only Stark and Rogers as their guards. Which was enough, Ronnie reluctantly admitted. Janice had done her best to secret away a weapon, but Anna’s constant surveillance prevented her from swiping even a plastic spork. The corner of Ronnie’s lip curled up, she could do some damage with a spork.

Life was a blur of napping, performing her duty as a human dairy cow and endless diapers. This was not what she’d wanted for her life, but it was what it was.

Janice was asleep in the rocking chair, Bianca in the sling around her chest. The sun peeked over the horizon, painted the buildings with yellow light. Ronnie looked out the window at the countless lives below.

The bitterness that had curdled in her gut was nearly gone, replaced with resignation. “Mirror mode, Anna.” Ronnie whispered. She gazed into her reflection, her skin mottled with a dusting of pink scars. Nothing a little makeup couldn’t cover. You’d never know by looking at her what trauma she’d endured. Somehow, not seeing evidence of her travails etched upon her skin that made it easier for her to deal with it all. 

She sat on the bed and watched her girls sleep. “I’m sorry.” Ronnie whispered, “I’m sorry for all of it.”

“That’s not good enough.” Stella said, lurking in the doorway in full gear. Ronnie hadn’t even heard the door open. Stella watched her with narrow slitted eyes. “It’s time.” She strode towards Ronnie with implacable steps. Ronnie felt her heart lurch in her throat and she opened her mouth to plead, to beg, to bargain—

A blindingly bright light flared, Ronnie shielded her eyes with her forearm and gasped. Something, someone low and fast, their shoulder braced like a linebacker hit Stella. A blur of motion and the mirrored window shattered into countless shards as Stella fell out of Stark Tower.

The black clad form slowly, dramatically stood and Ronnie heard Janice exclaim, “Motherfucker!” It was Steve Rogers, the male one. The one that could make your blood run cold with a giggle.

He picked a shard of mirrored glass out of his hair and flicked it out into the howling abyss. “No matter how many times I do that, it never gets old. Really. It’s the small things in life that really feed your soul. Ladies. Behold, your knight in shining armor.”

“Always with the flashy entrance. You didn't kill her, did you?” Another familiar voice said. It was Jack Rollins. 

Rogers looked down into the street. "She'll be fine." Then he grinned with all his neat white teeth. "In a few weeks." 

Jack heavily sighed and then smiled at Janice, “Hey there, sorry we’re late.” He gave her a little wave and Janice returned it reflexively, her mouth open in shock.

“Only by about nine months,” Ronnie knew that voice too. "Damned inaccurate dick magic." The thick black hair was a little longer, but the cheekbones and smirking lips were the same. The face she’d fantasized about while touching herself and also cursed to damnation nearly as often. The father of her child. Brock Rumlow held out his hand, “Hey there Ronnie.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Jack watched with wide eyes as Brock Rumlow got the shit beat out of him by his angry female doppelgänger. It seemed like she had some issues to work through. Wind whipped through the shattered window and various alarms chirped and whistled. They didn’t have a lot of time, but you couldn’t pay Jack enough to step in between the battling Rumlows.

Steve Rogers elbowed Jack in the side and smirked. “This was worth the trip.”

“Now wait—!”  Brock wheezed and pleaded, already down on one knee from the nasty sucker punch to his solar plexus. Ronnie balled up her fist and punched him right in his nose. Blood bloomed like a ripe red rose and Steve laughed.

“You fucking bastard! You—“ Ronnie kicked him in the ribs with her fluffy pink bunny slippers. Brock finally started to defend himself, caught her leg and took her down. They tumbled to the floor and rolled about like tousling puppies complete with yipping.

Rogers sighed dismissively and rolled his eyes. “Foreplay. Same old routine on any world.”

Jack didn’t miss the dagger of a look that Janice threw Steve’s way after that comment. Interesting.

Rogers sauntered over to Jack’s female twin and surveyed the squirming bundle strapped to her chest. “It’s mostly made of hair.” He sniffed. “And crap. Takes after her father, I see.” Rogers hazarded a poke at the child’s chubby little arm and Janice snatched her away.

“Her name is Bianca and don’t you touch her.” It was remarkable how fierce she looked, how protective. It made something deep in his memory twang like an off key guitar chord. It had been so long since Jack had thought of his own mother. Kids had never been in the picture, what was he gonna do? Adopt? The insanity of the idea made him want to giggle.

Steve curled his lip in disdain. “Children are messy.” A figure in silver and blue armor flew in the broken window with a roar of repulser jets.

“It’s a Stark.” Rogers announced, he grinned with all his teeth, “I love Starks! They’re like piñatas!”

“STAND DOWN. I DON’T WANT TO—” Antonia Stark ordered.

Rogers whipped his vibranium blade into the arc reactor on her chest. It made a funny snapping, hissing noise and the figure fell over, hundreds of pounds of sudden dead weight. Rogers knelt down plucked the blade from the reactor, flipped up the helmet’s faceplate and tweaked her bloody nose. She was lightly convulsing.

“Piñatas that have the best prizes inside. I’ve never seen a blue and silver one before.” He laughed and asked, “Is she a bad Stark?” He traced the plump lines of her bloodied lower lip with his finger. “Pretty thing. They’re all so pretty. Except for that one on the werewolf planet. Too much hair.” Then Rogers picked her up by her ankle like he was taking a photograph with a prize sport fish.

“She’s annoying, but she’s not bad.” Ronnie said softly from the floor. She had both hands clasped around Brock’s throat. “She took care of us after we kidnapped the Hulk.”

Brock made a muffled sound of query and Ronnie held up her hands, “It’s a long story. Just— don’t hurt her, okay?” Everyone was staring at Rogers, which was just how he liked things. 

Rogers huffed a dramatic great sigh as if he were being deprived of a great pleasure. Stark’s armor dented under the pressure of his fingertips as he gave her limp form a little shake. “And here I thought I was going to have some fun. Killjoys. You know I’m just going to take my frustrations out on Jack later, you spoil-sports.” Jack winced in anticipation and Rogers chuckled.

“He’s pissed off because he only gets to maim the evil versions of the Avengers.” Brock offered as he pinched the bridge of his nose and got to his feet.

“How many times does that happen?” Ronnie asked.

“More than you’d think.” Jack said in resignation. “Put her down Steve.” Rogers paused for a moment, licked his lip with the tip of his pink tongue and flung Stark out the window.

Jack rushed over to the window and screamed against the wind, “You dropped her!”

Steve curled an arm protectively about Jack’s waist and said in his ear, “It’s a Stark! It can fly. Look. The emergency repulsers kicked in.” A flare of light blossomed far too close to the ground and then trailed off to another location, presumably a safe place. Jack sighed. That was, hopefully, one less casualty on his conscience.

Steve pulled him away from the window and Jack tried to reason with him, “You can’t just assume that every world plays by the same rules—!“ Steve interrupted his lecture with a hungry, wet kiss that made the hair on the back of Jack’s neck bristle with anticipation. He pressed Jack against his armored body, hard with the thrill of a victory. He needed this rush, this adrenaline fueled thrill and all Jack could hope to do was limit the number of innocent bodies in Rogers’ destructive wake.

After Steve was done checking Jack’s back teeth with his tongue, Jack sputtered, “Never mind. You never listen when you’re like this.” He turned his attention to Janice and Ronnie,  “Ladies, do you want to come with us?”

“Go where?” Janice finally asked.

“We found a world that’s safe. There’s no HYDRA, no SHIELD, no one that’s trying actively trying to kill us. We have secure cover stories and a place to hide.”

“I’m so bored.” Steve whined. 

Brock took a handful of instant photos out of his pocket and held them up, his bloody fingerprints marred the crisp white borders. “Look! Look Ronnie! I built a nursery. I didn’t know if you’d want a crib or a co-sleeper, so I did both! And the decor is gender neutral and I’ve wired a baby monitor system into the entire house.” Ronnie took the photos and Janice looked at them as well, gently patting the sleeping baby in her sling.

“There are yellow ducks everywhere. It’s beyond disturbing.” Steve chimed in with a gagging sound. “Disgustingly adorable.”

Jack knew how hard Brock had worked to make a welcoming place for the child, for his little family. Jack, however, doubted that Brock had ever considered that Janice would be a part of the deal.

“Ronnie, we had a good thing for a little bit and I’m trying to tell you that I’ve got a good life set up for us.” Ronnie looked at each photo, the longing on her scarred face was heart-rending. She wiped her eyes with the back of her bloody hand. “Ronnie. Come with us. I want to help you raise our child. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. We’ve searched at least fifty worlds trying to get back to you, I’m sorry that we didn’t get here sooner.” He held out his hand and Ronnie bit her lip. Then she took a step towards Janice and put her arm around Janice’s waist.

“Things change Brock.” Ronnie said softly.

Jack watched Brock’s broad shoulders slump as his heart shattered. Then he raised his chin and said, “That doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t have to be your partner to be your partner.” He still held out his hand.

“That was as poetic as a discount greeting card, Brock.” Steve glibly quipped. Jack bruised his elbow against Steve’s body armor.

“Shove it Rogers!” Brock flipped Steve off.

“Only if you ask me nicely.” Steve announced, “Tick tock ladies. Do you want to stay here and be prisoners or do you want to take a chance on an adventure? From what I remember of you two, you wouldn’t let a little danger put your panties in a twist.” Brock held out both of his hands and Janice looked at Ronnie for reassurance, for permission. Ronnie nodded and both of them reached out…

The building shook with a great roar. Ronnie and Janice leapt towards Brock and Janice screamed, “What ever you gotta do, do it now because we’re all dead if Brianna Banner makes it up here!”

Steve groped Jack through his sweatpants, kneading and stroking the flesh there until Jack leaned back against Steve in a well-trained posture of submission. “Such a good boy. My sweet Jack. Please me, boy.” He licked his palm and ran his wet grip over Jack’s cock with stripping strokes that increased in intensity. Jack panted and groaned, lost in the sheer pleasure of the act. He’d long ago learned to tune out the distractions around him and to lose himself in the pleasure that triggered the Asgardian travel spell. He thought about their home base, the planet of coffee shops.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Janice hissed as she made sure the child was secure. The thundering footsteps were closer, closer… Getting faster!

“It’s called dick magic for a reason Janice!” Brock yelled over the cacophony. “Hold on to me! We all have to be touching Jack to travel with him!”

“That’s fucking disgusting!” Janice yelled back.

“Yes, but it’s so much fun!” Rogers crowed before he chanted the spell and Jack jerked in his grasp. Brilliant light flared as the Hulk ripped the doors off of the cell and let loose a bellow of rage. Everyone that wasn’t orgasming or chanting screamed in terror as they fell down… down… down.

Chapter Text

They landed in the backyard of their home base. The women were curled about the baby shielding her from the impact of the landing in the soft plush grass. Jack let his breath out in a whoosh of relief. They’d made it.

“Nice landing, Jack.” Brock said, his voice a bit garbled from the dirt he was spitting out. He grinned and pointed up. Steve was in the branches of the huge oak tree that dominated the backyard. He looked like a particularly pissed off house cat. “Here kitty kitty!”

Steve vaulted out of the tree with eerie grace and plucked a leaf from the collar of his tactical suit. “At least I’m not eating dirt. Better floss before you kiss your sweetheart, Brock.” His lips curled in a sneer, “Oh! I’d forgotten. You’re sleeping on the couch. Later hero.” He strutted off to use up all the hot water.

Ronnie was silent, she looked up at the blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds and her eyes were wide with wonder. She inhaled deeply and gripped the grass tightly with both hands.

“He’s a charmer.” Janice finished checking every inch of the baby. “Why haven’t you ditched him yet?”

Brock made a face, spat out a blade of grass and hitched his thumb at Jack. “Ask his soppy sweetheart. He thinks he can change him.” Jack felt his ears turn red. “To be fair, Steve kills a few less people in each world we visit. A few. Now I gotta show you what I did—”

“Hey!” Jack interjected, “Just you?”

Brock smiled and offered his arm to Ronnie, “What we did to make you feel welcome here.” After a moment, he offered his other arm to Janice. Jack blinked as both women accepted his offer. “There’s a lot of ducks. I can’t help it, ducklings are cute on any world. But not as cute as lil’ Rumlow there. Man, we made an adorable kid, didn’t we?” He led them into the backdoor of the house, practically chirping with pride.

This might work after all, Jack thought optimistically. Maybe the universe wasn’t trying to fuck him over for once.

 

Jack was making dinner as Janice quietly shut the door to the nursery where Brock was asleep in the gliding rocker, Ronnie dozed on the bed with Bianca close by in the co-sleeper. Steve was napping on the red leather couch in the living room, sprawled out like a languid leopard.

“Need a hand?” Janice offered. “I can’t sleep, not with what just happened. It still feels like all the hair on my skin is standing on end.” She rubbed her arms with her hands and shivered. “We just traveled to a completely different world and you’re just making dinner like this happens every other Tuesday.”

Jack took a paring knife out of the block. “Know how to peel spuds?” Jack asked wryly and Janice smirked.

“Haven’t had to do this since Basic. Never really forget I guess.” She deftly peeled a potato, the skin spooled off in one long strip. They were quiet for a few moments as Janice busied her trembling fingers with the mundanity of food preparation.

Finally, Janice set down the small knife and Jack pretended that he didn’t see the wetness that welled up in her eyes. “Meatloaf and potatoes, huh?” Janice sniffed the aroma wafting from the oven. “Comfort food.”

“Brock’s been teaching me how to cook. On our old world he used to be a celebrity chef.” Jack salted the water as Janice cubed the potatoes. “That’s before we exiled ourselves.” Explosively exiled themselves. There was no returning to their home world. Oddly, this place seemed more like home than anywhere else did. Maybe, that’s because they all chose it although some of them had grumbled more than others. Jack glanced over at Steve who was still asleep.

“Why isn’t he cooking then?”

“He uses too many experimental spices and ingredients. Someone,” Jack inclined his head towards Steve, “Likes a simpler palate. All his senses are supercharged. So stuff that seems bland to me could be revoltingly over seasoned to him.  So be prepared to salt your own food.”

“You like doing things for other people, don’t you Jack?”

Jack shrugged. “Beats being alone, I guess. Can’t really choose who you care about, can you?” Janice shared a knowing look with him and then bumped him with her hip.

“How did you guys pay for this place? You can’t have steady jobs with all your—“ She made the universal gesture for jerking off with her fist.

Jack groaned. “Jumping. That’s what we call it.” He poked the potatoes, tested their tenderness. “Hand me the colander. It’s a funny story, but we ran into another version of me. Of us. He’s old and after we helped him out, he decided that he could rent this place to us for cheap.” A slow flush of red crept up the back of Jack’s neck.

“How cheap?” Janice asked suspiciously.

“Um. We help out at his shop when we’re in town. And once a month, he comes over and we do dinner and a…. show.” Jack poured in the hot milk and butter and began mashing with a vengeance to cover up his embarrassment.

Janice stole a fingerful of mashed potatoes and after a few moments asked, “All of you?”

“Landlord’s choice.” The timer beeped on the meatloaf.

Janice crossed her arms and leaned against the counter. “You are surprisingly fucking filthy for being such a softie Jack.”

Jack took the meatloaf out of the oven with mitts. “Beats being a full time barista.”

“A what?”

Jack set the meatloaf down on the butcher block and drizzled sauce over it. “This planet is odd. And I say that having seen a planet where the men give birth. Every business is required to have some sort of connection to a coffee shop or cafe.” 

“So to blend in I learned how to pull a shot of espresso and what the different floofy drinks were called. Turns out I’m more of tea drinker, Steve only drinks black coffee and Brock— well he’s got a culinary gift that includes coffee. Between you and me, I think half the people who show up for their morning latte do it because he only wears sleeveless shirts and shakes his ass to horrible music. His tips are amazing.”

“What does your— Steve do to keep occupied?”

“He draws. Glares at people who try to get my phone number. Makes sure that no one camps out on the WiFi. There’s not much for him to do on this planet, not with his special set of talents.” Jack beamed at his meatloaf. If it tasted half as good as it looked, they were in for a treat.

“So you travel to keep him amused?”

“Yeah. If I think about where I want to go, usually I can get us there. Usually. There have been detours. Like the werewolf planet.”

“Where would you even take him? Wouldn’t that just be a massacre waiting to happen?” Janice spoke softly.

Jack shrugged. “There are worlds where that doesn’t really matter. Watched him take out a T-Rex once. There’s some teeth on the mantle, if you want to see.” He opened the cabinets. “Want to set the table?”

“This is so fucking weird.” Janice set forks on the tablecloth. She looked up at him, cutlery clutched in her fists. “But Jack?” Her voice wavered and she blinked away the tears in her eyes.

“Yeah?” Jack let her compose herself.

“Thanks. Thanks for coming to get us.”

“No problem Jan. You’re family. Fucking weird family, but family nonetheless. There’s only one rule here. It’s stupid, but it’s ironclad.”

“What’s that?” Janice wiped her eye with the back of her hand.

“I get the first plate.” Rogers said directly in her ear. He’d snuck up behind her without a single sound. He smirked,  reached around her and took his plate from the table. “I always get the first plate.” Then he glided over to the meatloaf and cut himself a generous portion. Janice’s eyes were wide.

“Oh don’t worry. Remember, I like you. Tick tick boom girl.” He sat down at the table and Jack poured a glass of water for him.

“You like me?” Janice didn’t quite know how to take that news. Steve’s little smile as he chewed didn’t help.

He swallowed and continued, “Your little custom explosive charges helped me with some unfinished business. You can have the second serving.”

“Thanks.” Janice said warily, “I like your red leather couch.”

“You could join me on it later.”

“No thanks.”

“I meant to watch television or read a book. I’m offended that you’d think I’d even propose such lewd activities. Gosh, are all of you Rollins’ so suspicious all the time?”

Yes.” Janice and Jack said at the same time and Rogers laughed hard enough to wake the baby which was probably his intent the whole time. Steve liked having everyone’s attention, but Jack was sure that later he’d be Steve’s sole focus. His toes curled just thinking about it.

He’d have to warn the girls about how loud he was during Steve’s attentions. He couldn’t help it, not without a ball gag. Steve caught his eye and sensuously licked his fingertip. Oh, I’m in for it, Jack thought.

He couldn’t wait.

Chapter Text

Jack stretched out on the rumpled sheets, his skin flushed red and slick with sweat. Steve loomed above him, a pale demon— no, a demigod in the darkness of their bedroom. Jack gasped as Steve’s nimble lips suckled at his chest, sharp teeth grazed the tender skin and Jack’s knees fell apart of their own accord.

“So greedy.” Steve chided even as his fingertips explored Jack’s slick rim and plunged inside. “You had best be quiet or you’ll disturb the guests.” Jack moaned as Steve twisted and flicked his fingers inside of him. “Unless you like showing off. Unless you want them to know how good it feels when I’m in control. Does it feel good Jack?”

Jack’s brain wasn’t completely capable of coherent thought and he answered Steve’s rather rhetorical question with a groan of needy desire.

Steve smiled, “Oh my pretty, pretty boy. I’ve been to countless worlds and I’ve never found anyone who would look so perfect spitted on my cock. The neighbors are going to complain again, because I’m going to wreck you.”

Jack raised an eyebrow, “Wreck me? You’ve been watching Brock’s porn stash again.” His head fell back in bliss as Steve curled his fingers about his scrotum and tugged.

Steve needed this theatrical display of rutting passion. Jack understood that. If Steve wasn’t kept amused or, even worse, if he thought that he was being underestimated or looked down upon then the carefully tamped down seething sadism that lurked within him would boil over. And that’s when people would die. Jack couldn’t let that happen.

  “Tell me what you want Jack.” He licked at the dribble of precum that smeared against Jack’s belly. “Tell me what you crave. Tell me your sweetest, darkest secrets. Confess your sins to me and I’ll treasure them, horde them and hide them. You can’t be as perfect as you look right now.”

Jack whined, “God you’re chatty.” His fingers clawed at the bedding and Steve licked the sweat from his navel. “That tickles!” He squirmed and instantly regretted that admission. Steve’s eyes sparked with mischief and he set about finding all of Jack’s ticklish places until Jack was writhing and gasping with overstimulation. He pinned Jack to the mattress with one massive forearm across his chest and Jack struggled to breathe.

“Tell me Jack. Tell me why we’ve never jumped to the world where the HYDRA Brock Rumlow escaped. Remember him? You have his name carved into your skin. Don’t you want to make him pay for that? Why haven’t you let me go there? I keep focusing as hard as I can and you know how hard I can focus, but you seem to be sabotaging my attempts. Not that these little jaunts haven’t been fun, no I enjoyed the mayhem. I truly did. But I’m losing my patience with this domesticity.”

“I— I can’t— breathe!” Jack clawed at Steve’s arm and Rogers relented a fraction, just enough to let Jack catch his breath.

“So, Jack, I’m waiting.” Steve’s face hardened into a stern mask and Jack feared for his safety for the first time in months. He’d been lulled into complacency in this world of coffee shops and he’d forgotten about Steve’s lethal mood swings. He’d proclaim love and devotion afterwards, but Jack’s skin would still be bruised, a canvas of rage.

“I have your stars cut into my skin too.” Jack spat.

Steve sighed, “Yes, yes. I was there first. But you know how much I want to make that duplicitous bastard pay for humiliating me.” 

For beating you. For escaping. Jack thought and he was suddenly jealous of that Rumlow. Jealous of his life with his husband who wore Jack’s face. “I haven’t thought about him in a long time. I’d put him behind me. And I thought you had too.”

Steve hissed and flipped Jack over onto his belly. He traced the scarred signature carved into Jack’s back with his finger. “I see this. I see this every time you are stripped bare before me and I need to make him pay.”

“If he hadn’t jumped here, you’d have never gotten to kill Barnes.” Jack mumbled into the pillow. “Can’t you just let it go?” He was rewarded for his advice with his arm wrenched upwards into a submission hold. “Fucker!” Jack howled as his shoulder threatened to dislocate.

“Tell me.” Steve said and Jack’s eyes watered from the pain.

“I— I— I don’t want to see him because it would hurt! I thought I loved him! I can’t go there and see him with another version of me. I just can’t! And you’re fucking awful to make me go through that again!” Jack buried his face into the pillowcase.

“But you love me now.Steve released him from his grip. “And I’ll never let you go. You’re mine Jack Rollins. You’re mine until Death comes to claim us and I’ll spit in her eye for trying to pull us apart.” Jack felt him position himself and he winced in anticipation as Steve thrust himself inside. It was a brutal hard fucking, more an act of claiming Jack’s body than of any sort of pleasure and Jack went soft. He lay silently on the bed as Steve took him and thought about the double agent for the first time in a long time.

“I’ll change your bandages. I wish we could have found you before you had to go through all of that. I swear. I’ll never let Captain HYDRA hurt you again. I’m sorry.” Jack had sworn to keep Rumlow safe in that cabin where their kisses had felt like fire. Rumlow had tried his best to protect him from the man who was currently fucking him. The anger Jack still felt at Rumlow’s betrayal had dwindled away into something more pathetic like shameful regret. Jack should have known better. It was hard to hate someone who had the face of a friend.

Steve grunted and spasmed, then fell upon Jack in a sweaty heap. He traced the shell of Jack’s ear and Jack turned his head away. “Now don’t be like that sweetheart. Think about my needs, don’t be selfish. I need this closure. Don’t you want me to be happy?” Light kisses against the nape of Jack’s neck, tender and sweet. “I’m so much more fun when I’m happy. And now that there’s a baby in the house—“

The unspoken threat hung heavy in the air and Jack nodded. “Fine. I’ll do it. But you get to sleep on the fucking couch.” Jack spat, “I’d forgotten how much trouble you are.”

Steve hummed contentedly, nuzzling at the soft skin beneath Jack’s ear. “Yes. It’s all your fault. I’m glad you know that. My sweet, sweet boy. You make me feel so good.”

“And that’s all that’s important, right?”

“It certainly helps.”

Chapter Text

Jack patted down his vest. The AutoDoc cube was there, it still chirped pathetically from time to time about system updates, but the power source was still active. His vest had more pockets than would ever be fashionable, but it was the best way they’d come up with for him to be prepared. He didn’t have the option of a HYDRA strike suit with infinite secret compartments. Rogers paced impatiently across the living room, each foot fall eerily silent. He was always restless before a jump.

“Not sure why you had to make a jump right now with everyone still adjusting.” Brock remarked as he packed provisions into a backpack that Jack also would wear. “My girls are just getting used to this place.”

“Your girls?” Jack smiled, “You’re really enjoying this family thing, aren’t you?”

Brock glanced out the kitchen window. Janice was on her back in the grass, her face dappled with shade. Ronnie and the baby were on a blanket beside her, Bianca was giggling as Ronnie played peek a boo with her. Brock bit his lip and looked back down at the food as he sliced it. “Yeah. I am. I can’t help but think that this, this is what I’ve always wanted.”

“Two bossy ladies and a baby? That’s not my idea of paradise.” Jack elbowed Brock. “You’re more of a softie than I am.”

Brock flipped the chef knife in his fingers, turned and whipped it at the cutting board mounted on the wall. It stuck in the wood and hummed with vibration. Brock raised an eyebrow. “Show off.” Jack rolled his eyes. “I noticed that you didn’t sleep on the couch last night.”

“Nope. I did not.” Brock sealed up the plastic container. “Glad I insisted on the King size.” He hummed under his breath and handed the sandwiches to Jack. “There you go. A picnic with your sweetheart. Have fun killing things.”

Jack stowed the food and shrugged his shoulders through the backpack straps. He clipped it in place and Brock clapped him on the arm. Jack looked out the window. “It’s not a bad version of paradise.” Jack said wistfully. “I’m glad you’re happy Brock.”

Brock ran his hand through his hair. “So when are you going to get started on making yourself happy, Jack?” Jack looked at the floor.

“He’s already happy. He’s with me.” Rogers proclaimed. Jack shut his eyes and sighed. “Isn’t that right Peaches?”

“Sure Steve. Sure.” It was a noncommittal response, but Rogers was too distracted to catch the nuances of Jack’s weary tone.

Brock wasn’t. He squeezed Jack’s shoulder, stared into Jack’s eyes and said, “You do what you gotta do man. Not for me. Not for them. For you. You got me?” He shook Jack gently for emphasis. “You got me?”

“Yeah, Commander. I got you.” Jack swallowed and took a deep steadying breath. He stuck one hand down his pants and offered his other hand to Steve. Steve held his hand, tapping his toe in irritation. Brock stepped aside, he wasn’t going with them this time. “Take care of things here.”

“Hey, hey. I outrank both of you. Of course things will go smoothly. You…” Brock paused as he chose his words carefully, “You don’t worry about us. Just don’t.

“Of course we won’t.” Rogers snapped. “Oh for heaven’s sake, just let me do it.” Jack pushed Rogers’ hand away from his crotch and set his jaw stubbornly.

“You don’t get to touch me after last night. Got it? I can jerk myself off, don’t need you to assist thanks. Just focus your thoughts, Steve.” Rogers flinched as if he’d been slapped and dropped his hand. His grip loosened on Jack’s hand and Jack had to shift his grip to hold on to Rogers’ fingers.

He began to slowly stroke himself, his eyes closed. He thought of an old magazine photo that he’d hidden under his mattress. Then his thoughts drifted to the Magistrate, scars and tender groans in the dark. Finally, he thought about Brock Rumlow. Not the friend in the kitchen with him, but the traitor with kisses like fire. He felt himself respond and bright light flared from the Asgardian tattoo, eye-wateringly bright even through his clothing.

And as Jack felt himself falling… falling… falling… he let go of Steve Rogers’ hand.

Chapter Text

Jack landed in the middle of a busy dirt road. He heard brakes squeal and he rolled to the side, curled into himself. He blinked as his eye recovered from the light. The truck was a part of a convoy, several vehicles long. Jack looked about. He was in Africa?

“You dumb motherfucker!” The driver yelled out the window. “Where the fuck did you come from?!” The man paused as he listened to someone in the back. “Fine. Whatever.” He opened his door and stepped out.

“Look, I’m not looking for trouble.” Jack said. He stood up and braced himself. “You really don’t want to mess with me.” Any moment now Rogers would appear, strike a pose and leave a trail of carnage. He’d grin with blood smeared lips and pull Jack close before kissing him. His guardian angel— no, Jack wouldn’t go that far.

The men stalked towards him, intent on their goal. Jack whipped out his collapsable baton, Rogers was being extra dramatic this time. Such a drama queen.

Jack could more than handle his own against an average man, hell he’d been practicing against two near superhumans for the past year, but these weren’t average men. They fought like he did, they fought like they’d been trained right beside him. And soon, he was on his knees.

“SHIELD?” Jack asked through bloody lips.

The men laughed nastily. The driver was bleeding down his face, he leaned down and said, “Not anymore.” Then he kicked Jack in the face.

 

Where the fuck was Rogers? That was Jack’s first thought as he regained consciousness. He struggled against his bonds, leather cuffs chained to the wall behind him. His backpack and vest were gone. The room was spartan, a simple bed in one corner and a desk set in the other.  Any minute now. Any— oh fuck. Jack saw the wall.

The wall was covered in photographs. Photographs of Rogers. This world’s version clad in the stars and stripes. String and push pins connected photographs with printouts and clippings. That was a crazy person’s wall.

Heavy footsteps approached. The door opened and a nightmare in black armor entered. Every inch of skin was covered in kevlar and plate, festooned with clips of ammo. Hydraulic gauntlets covered his fists, supercharged brass knuckles. The helmet was painted with a messy scrawl of white paint to look like a skull. A similar white X crisscrossed his chest plate. He shut the door behind him and loomed over Jack.

Jack stared up at the man. He had green eyes ringed with lumpy scars. They silently appraised each other until the armored man leaned over. A massive blade sprung from his gauntlet and Jack flinched as it whistled past his ear. He hacked off Jack’s t-shirt until it hung in rags, then he forced Jack’s head down. He was looking at Jack’s back.

The hand on the back of Jack’s neck started to tremble, a violent tremor. The man took a step back and then another. He whispered under the helmet’s faceplate. “I can’t believe it. He’s— he’s— you.”

“If you wanted to know who I was, I would have just told  you.” Jack blustered, buying time for Steve’s inevitable rescue. “Who are you? Cause right now I’m calling you ‘the douchebag who kidnapped me’. If you want me to beg for my life or bargain for yours, I’d rather not refer to you as douchebag.

“Sounds like him. We can make sure. Yes, I am listening to you, but you need to shut up Jack.” Jack wasn’t sure that the man was talking to him. His captor paced back and forth, getting more and more agitated.

“It’s okay. It really is. Look I’m not even mad. I’ve been beaten up worse on a first date.” Jack spoke in a soothing tone, just as he would when Rogers took offense to an imagined slight. “I’m sure we can make things right.”

The man began laughing in a high, shrill keening. He laughed until his throat caught and he choked under his mask. A deep rasping cough shook the armor. Jack swallowed back his fear as the man slowly strode towards him. He knelt down on the floor and pressed his fingers on the sides of his faceplate. Pressure seals released with a slow soft hiss.

Jack’s mouth fell open in shock at the sight in front of him. Knots and whorls of scar tissue, shiny and inflamed riddled his face. For some reason the only thing that was still perfect and untouched was his deep black hair. Brock Rumlow’s twisted lips quirked in a small rueful smile and he said in a gravel-choked voice, “I’m not sure that anyone could make this right, Jackie-boy.”

Chapter Text

Jack slowly exhaled. Rumlow was watching him intently, as if Jack would vanish if he blinked. Jack blurted out, “That has to hurt.” Rumlow’s brow furrowed. He couldn’t help be moved by pity and feel the need to help his former lover. Time had blurred the keen edges of betrayal and violation.

“No shit.” Rumlow reached over and Jack thought he was going to caress his face, but instead he unfastened the cuffs and stood up. Jack rubbed his wrists and stood up. He was still taller than Rumlow, that hadn’t changed. Rumlow began taking off his armor, one piece at a time. Jack watched silently.

Rumlow turned his back on Jack, pulled off his shirt. Jack inhaled with a sharp hiss. He was a roadmap of scars. Burns and lacerations. Chunks of missing flesh and grafts. “How?” Jack asked, his voice incredibly loud in the small room.

“Triskelion fell on me.” He shrugged and with weary bravado quipped, “I think I look pretty good considering.”

“No, I mean how are you alive? You should have died from these injuries.” Rumlow sat on the bed and pulled off his boots. He leaned over, rested his arms on his thighs.

“I did die. Flatlined twice. You know how they say you’ll see a bright light? Watch your life flash before your eyes?”

“Yeah?”

“Total bullshit.” Rumlow snorted. “There’s only darkness. Lonely darkness.” He glanced up at Jack through the remains of his eyelashes. “I thought you were dead or worse.”

Jack shrugged as well. “I look pretty good considering.” Rumlow snorted and took a swig of water from a bottle on the floor. “So, am I a prisoner or a guest?”

Mi casa es su casa.” Rumlow gestured expansively. “I’m not expecting my men for another 6 weeks or so, but you’re welcome to try to hoof it across the countryside. Just watch out for the lions and the dying of thirst.”

Jack opened the door. It led to a small kitchen and sitting area. He went to the other door and stared out into a compound ringed with an earthwork wall and razor wire. “Thinking about making a break for it? Do you hate me enough to die for it?” Rumlow said from behind him. The wind whistled through Jack’s hair.

“I don’t hate you Brock.” Jack said as he turned around.

“I don’t believe you.” Rumlow took another drink from his bottle. “I don’t even believe you’re here.” He turned and as he returned to his room Jack heard him mutter, “I’m always talking to ghosts anyway.”

 

“Look. Why are you such a jealous bitch? Okay, I’m sorry. I’m SORRY. You know what? Fuck you Jack. Just fuck you.” Jack could hear the one-sided conversation through the thin wall. Six weeks. Could Steve find him in six weeks?

Jack sat on the single chair in the sitting area. Where was Steve? They’d never been apart for this long. Jack looked at his hands. A terrible thought sprang up in the back of his mind.

What if Steve wasn’t coming? What if when Jack had let go of Steve’s hand, he’d fallen into a completely different world? Steve didn’t have the tattoo. Jack had everything he needed to jump right now if he wanted to.

He was free.

No more mind games. No more threats. No more violent temper tantrums and bruises. Dampness fell upon his hands. He was crying in relief. Or was he crying out of guilty grief? Because while Jack wouldn’t have to endure Steve Rogers’ pettiness and egomaniacal delusions, he’d also never feel the blissful worship of his caresses in the dark. The sweet tenderness that the monster reserved only for him. His shoulders shook as he sobbed, great gasps of twisted up, churning emotion.

Rumlow tapped him on the shoulder and handed him his water bottle. Cheap vodka stung the back of Jack’s throat. “I can’t do that anymore.” Rumlow gestured at Jack.

Jack wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “What?”

“My tear ducts are too damaged. Have to use special thickened eyedrops or my eyelids stick to my eyeballs.” Jack handed back his vodka and Rumlow took a swig. “Why are you blubbering? I’m not going to hurt you.”

“It’s a long story.” Jack said. “I think I fucked up. I really fucked up.” 

“We’ve all fucked up. And I’ve got nothing but time. But I’m not standing up,” Rumlow went back to his room and sat on the bed, “Drag the chair on in and we’ll have a little chat.”

“Do you have more of that vodka?” Jack asked. He unfolded the chair across from Rumlow’s bed. Rumlow shrugged with one shoulder.

“We’ll see how far we get with this because we break into the medicine cabinet. Go on. Tell me how you escaped Rogers.” 

“I didn’t.” Rumlow had the good grace to look down at the floor at that revelation. “I’ve been with him this whole time. He pretty much claimed me as his personal plaything." Rumlow looked stricken and Jack added, "It wasn't all bad.”

“I— I— did that to you. I'm responsible for all of that. I-- I want to say I'm sorry, but that wouldn't mean much coming from me, would it?“ Rumlow stammered. “Jackie boy, I didn’t think you’d survived. I tried to get the Asgardian to help me find you but she gave me the finger and flitted off back to Asgard. Nasty Midgardians, that’s what she called us.” Rumlow'd voice cracked. "Fuck. You've been with that monster this whole time. You saved me, brought me home and I left you with Captain fucking HYDRA."  

Jack looked over at the Wall of Crazy. Rumlow had many reasons to hate the men who looked like Steve Rogers. “Ran into my Commander. He traveled with us too. He’s a good guy. Started a family with a female you and my female duplicate.” Rumlow stopped mid-swallow. 

“Wait, what?” Rumlow set the vodka on the floor, it tipped over and Jack knelt down to right it. 

“I can draw a diagram. It might help.” Jack waited as Rumlow tried to process that information. 

“It might."

Jack said mildly, "Your hair still looks great. Unless that's an asbestos toupee." 

"I see that you’ve still got your sense of humor.” It was obvious that Rumlow's sense of humor had been burnt out of him. He was a shell of the man that Jack had met and fallen in love with. It made Jack's gut clench. Sure, he was HYDRA, he was a traitor... Jack shook his head. 

“It’s how I cope. What happened when you got back here?”

Rumlow took a deep breath. “I never told anyone what happened. I didn’t want to get dissected. We tried to fix the world, we failed and I lost everything, everyone. The price was high, too high.” He held up his left hand. “It was so hot that my wedding band fused to my finger bone. It’s scarred over now, but I can still feel it every time I make a fist.” He licked his lips and said with savage heat, “So I punch everything as hard as I can so I’ll never forget.”

They stared at each other for a while. Jack’s stomach growled loudly. “I’ve got provisions in my pack,” he offered lamely. 

“It’s on the floor of the closet.” Rumlow lay back on his bed. “Have at it.” He closed his eyes and folded his hands on his chest.

“I have weapons. I could hurt you.” Jack picked his vest and backpack off the floor and pulled out a provisions pack. He patted the pocket with the AutoDoc cube, it was still there. He should jump and leave this place. He should try to find Steve and apologize. Well, that was a fucking stupid idea. Steve would dismember him for his betrayal.  

Then Rumlow said forlornly, “I’d rather have Jack Rollins end my miserable life than anyone else. You could end me right here. Right now. And I'd say thank you and mean it.” Jack sat back on the chair. Rumlow sighed deeply, his green eyes bloodshot and hazy. “But you wouldn’t do that, would you Cream Puff?”

Jack sank his teeth into a sandwich. Brock had used a spicy mustard that burnt the back of his nose. At one time, he'd wanted to hurt the Commander. He'd wanted to see him dead. But that was a long time ago and Jack didn't have room for hatred in his heart. He chewed, swallowed and said, “Nope. I wouldn’t.”

“Life’s full of disappointments.”

Chapter Text

 

A long time ago Rumlow had told Jack that he talked in his sleep. This was still technically true. Jack stared up at Rumlow from his bedroll on the floor as Rumlow had an animated conversation with a dead man. “Of course, I’m still doing the plan. Nothing’s changed. Oh fuck you Jack. You’re such a jealous bitch. Okay, I will give you that one, but shut up! Jesus Christ.” Then he started screaming in agony.

Jack leapt up and shook Rumlow’s shoulders. “Wake up!” Rumlow lashed out with his fist and caught Jack in the nose. Jack fell off the bed and landed with a thud. Rumlow sleepily blinked and sat up. Jack’s nose was bleeding. It bled very easily since the time that Rogers had broken it with a simple flick of his fingers.

Rumlow looked at Jack’s bloody face with wide eyes. “Shit.” He murmured, “I’m always hurting you, aren’t I?”

Jack rolled his eyes and did his best to play his injury off as a trifling inconvenience. “This is nothing. This is a picnic in the park. You should have seen me after we got done fighting that giant armored octopus!”

“After you did what?” Rumlow’s eyes were as round as saucers.

Jack laughed, “The Commander and I got put in trial by combat on this gladiator plant and we had to fight this fucking huge octopus! I had these giant round hickies all over me, I looked like I’d been attacked by a toilet plunger.” He pinched his nose. “It wasn’t all bad. I was almost an honorary prince. You know I like the way you look at me when I tell you these things, it’s like I’ve grown a second head out of my shoulder and it’s sticking out its tongue at you.”

Rumlow relaxed a bit and settled back into his bed. “A prince huh?”

“Yep. There was this older version of me called the Magistrate and he wanted me to be his heir. Too bad he was a druglord and a slaver. We had some fun.” Jack chuckled, Rumlow was listening attentively.

“What kind of fun?” The question was innocent, the tone of Rumlow’s voice was far from it.

“Sexy fun.” Jack teased. His cheeks bloomed red. “I kinda fucked myself? I wanted to… I wanted to make the choice.”

Rumlow closed his eyes and confessed in a soft voice, “I wanted to be your first time.”

Jack reached up and clasped Rumlow’s scar-gnarled hand. It was warm and an electric thrill went up his spine. He squeezed it reassuringly and when Rumlow opened his eyes Jack quipped, “Life’s full of disappointments.”

Rumlow snorted. “Sorry about the sleep talking. I did that even before,” he gestured at himself with his free hand, “All this happened.” He rubbed his thumb on the fleshy part of Jack’s palm in slow circles. “Tell me more about this Magistrate. Did you love him?”

“Oh hell no!” Jack laughed, “I’d only known him for a few days—“ The movement of Rumlow’s thumb stopped. “I mean, I was fond of him. He was pretty damn hot. And I’d never used a strap on before, that was an education.” Jack stammered, his face flushed red. “I kinda was getting over someone at the time.”

“Someone. Huh. Did he break your heart?” Rumlow gazed up at the ceiling.

“Into a thousand pieces.” Jack admitted. “I think I used the worst glue ever to put it back together. I’ve probably still got holes in it.”

Rumlow gripped Jack’s hand tightly. “Then we’re a matched set. Because mine shattered twice and hope— hope stings like a son of a bitch.”

 

Jack went through the boxes in the kitchen. Instant crap, canned food, water. He dug out a can of vegetable beef soup and smiled at the memory of the last time he made soup for Rumlow. He found the can opener and busied himself with the mundanity of food preparation. He sang a show tune for old times’ sake.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Rumlow grumbled from the doorway, his vodka in hand.

“Making you a different kind of liquid dinner.”

“What day is it?” Rumlow asked. Jack shrugged, he didn’t even know what year it was. Rumlow looked at his watch. “Fuck. I thought I had more time. Fuck. There’s never enough time.”

“What’s your problem now?”

“There’s going to be a truck at the front gates. They’re dropping off… supplies. I want you to get on that truck and get the fuck away from this place. Get as far away as you can, as fast as you can.”

Jack didn’t answer, he kept stirring the soup. Rumlow put his hand on Jack’s shoulder and spun him around. “Listen you stubborn son of a bitch. Listen to me.” His voice cracked and he panted out, “I’m no good for you. I’m no fucking good for you. My soul is as black as Rogers' ever was and you're too fucking perfect for me to destroy again. Get out."   His face crumpled and if he had still had the ability to cry, Jack was sure tears would have streamed down his mutilated cheeks.

Jack laughed in his face. “Make me, Old Man.” Rumlow looked confused, so Jack clarified. “ "I've had a lot of practice facing down someone bigger, badder and much, much scarier than you could ever dream of being. So sit down, shut up and eat your soup.”

Rumlow sat at his sad little table for one and obediently sipped at the mushy vegetables and cubes of stringy beef as Jack stood over him with his arms crossed. The delivery truck honked at the gates.

“Please Jack.” Rumlow begged. “Please just go.”

“Not unless you tell me why I have to.”

The spoon clattered in the bowl. Rumlow covered his face with his hands and then looked up at Jack with guilt etched into his scarred face. “Because you’ll die if you don’t. That’s the last shipment of explosives. I’ve got this whole place ready to go up in smoke the moment an Avenger pops up. We’re talking megatons, here.”

“So. Suicide by superhero.”

“I planned to take as many of them with me as I could. Especially Steve Rogers.” Rumlow’s mouth curled in a tiny indulgent smile. “Taking out the Falcon would be a nice touch too.”

“When were you going to tell me this? When you lit the fuse?”

“I never planned to have you stay. That’s why you need to get on the fucking truck Jack! I can’t have you die again!”

“Why do you care? You’re just going to take the coward’s way out.” Rumlow swiped the bowl off the table with one arm, it splashed on the floor and Rumlow stood up.

“You self-righteous prick. Do you have any idea what it’s like? Living in this constant pain? Hopped up on fentanyl and trucker speed? Do you!? I want to kiss you, I want to maul you with my mouth but I can’t feel anything there! It’s all numb. And guess what’s left of my junk? Nothing that works! So you can shove your attitude up your pert ass, Jack Rollins! You have no idea what I’ve gone through. You’re just standing there, all perfect. Like one of my best memories. One of the things that kept me from going completely insane. Fuck!” Rumlow howled, “I talk to my dead husband and he’s shouting in my head constantly because he knows how I feel about you!”

“How do you feel about me, Brock?” Jack watched as Rumlow sat back down in his chair.

Rumlow whispered, “I convinced my Jack to grow a beard for the winter. I told him it was because I thought it looked sharp, but I wanted,” he sounded lost and haunted, “I wanted to pretend that it was you I was kissing in the dark. I wanted to feel it on my skin. He’s right to be angry at me. I’m no good. I’m better off dead.”

Jack stood behind Rumlow, his heart pumping hard enough to burst from his chest. He pulled Rumlow up from his seat and wrapped his arms around his former lover. He held Rumlow tightly, let the wounded, battered man shiver against him. Then he said, “What if I told you that I could fix you?”

“I’d say it was a shitty metaphor.” Rumlow said, his face pressed against Jack’s chest.

“I’ve been to some strange places Brock. But one of the most wonderful has this thing called an Auto—“ The compound shook with the impact of the gates being ripped off their hinges.

“BROCK RUMLOW.” A voice announced over a speaker, “Surrender! Unless you’d rather do this the hard way, we’re cool with that too.”

Wilson.” Rumlow hissed. “There’s never enough fucking time.” He shoved Jack away and grabbed his helmet. He snapped it on his face, “You want a fight, bird boy? You got one. Run Jack. If you’ve ever loved me, run!

Chapter Text

As Rumlow rushed past Jack to get his hydraulic gauntlets, Jack made an impulsive choice. It wasn’t the first stupid decision he’d made and probably wouldn’t be the last, but it was his choice. He stuck his foot out and tripped Rumlow. As Rumlow was on his hands and knees, sputtering with outrage, Jack snaked his arm around Rumlow’s neck. “Hold still, you stupid stubborn son of a bitch! This is for your own good!”

Rumlow slapped Jack’s arms and kicked his feet, he struggled with all his strength. But Jack outweighed him and he wasn’t burdened by injuries, weakened muscles and whatever pill cocktail Rumlow had recently guzzled. Jack slowly squeezed the air from Rumlow’s throat and felt him go limp in his arms. Rogers would have been proud of how well he had executed that choke out. Rogers had taught him how to hold his breath for a long time. Stop thinking about that.

He carefully set Rumlow down then grabbed his vest and backpack. As he put them on he screamed as loud as he could, “THE WHOLE PLACE IS RIGGED! AND HOSTAGES! OH GOD SO MANY HOSTAGES!” 

He heard the advancing forces retreat as they verified at least half of his warning. Jack stuck his hand down his pants and worked up a boner in record time. “That was even faster than the vampire planet!” Rumlow couldn’t hear his muttering. Jack pulled off the the skull-painted helmet with his free hand and threaded his arm through the neck of Rumlow’s shirt, making it into a handle. “I’m not letting go. Not this time.” The light flared from his tattoo and Jack grinned in triumph.

He was going to fix everything.

 

Jack was getting used to people staring at him when he popped into existence with a wet spot on the crotch of his trousers. “Wait, he’s very sick! I need an Auto-Doc!” A man pointed in a general direction and Jack hauled Rumlow over his shoulder. “You’d think a pill popping alcoholic burn victim would weigh less.” Jack muttered under his breath. It would have been a lot easier with Steve— Don’t. Don’t think about him.

He dragged Brock into the AutoDoc and put him on the low bench. Brock didn’t look good, there was grey underneath the red and pink scarring. He slapped the payment pad and the AutoDoc chirped, “Welcome back! Please touch the genetic sampler. Charges will be deducted from your account automatically.”

“Yeah it’s great to be back, thanks.” Jack responded to the neutral female voice.

"Thank you. Please indicate the patient." Jack touched the button above Rumlow. "The privacy screen will now deploy. Please wait." Jack leaned back against the wall of the cubicle.

The Autodoc cube in his vest vibrated furiously and Jack plucked it out. “Please deposit the cube into the refill dispenser.” A niche in the wall glowed and Jack set the cube in place. It seemed to coo with satisfaction as it finally connected with the network. “Connection. Connection. Connected.” Jack couldn’t help smiling for a moment, at least something was happy about this whole messed up situation.

He sat on a molded plastic seat in the wall opposite the privacy screen and pulled his knees up to his chest. This had to work. It just had to. As the machine pinged and made the occasional chirp Jack found his mind wandering to the last time he had visited this world.

How much time had it taken to repair the Commander? Jack didn’t remember, his cheeks burned red at the memory of sex pollenated abandon. He thought about terribly strong fingers that gentled when clasped around his throat. The scent of Rogers’ skin, tiny downy hairs on the back of his neck that tickled Jack’s lips. He shook his head as if to clear out the cobwebs of memory.

How could he care about a man who’d threaten a baby? A man who’d make a throne out of corpses. A man who’d rape at knifepoint. A man who’d mutilate a companion out of sheer spite and malice. Jack started to shake as the reality of his situation settled in.

If Steve was dead, he’d killed him. Murdered someone that he’d loved. Even if it wasn’t a good love, a clean or healthy love. He’d still killed Steve Rogers by letting go of his hand.

If Steve were alive, then he’d want Jack dead for his betrayal. And he’d already wanted to slaughter Rumlow just for petty revenge. Just for giggles.

“Schrodinger’s Steve. Is he alive? Is he dead? Or is he just fucking pissed off?” Jack mumbled to himself, rocking back and forth on the seat.

“Restoration 50% complete.” The AutoDoc chimed. “Please enjoy a hydration beverage from the dispenser while you wait.” A light blinked softly on the wall and Jack touched it. A bottle of clear purple fluid popped out from a hidden dispenser. Jack cracked it open and took a sip. It tasted like childhood grape cough syrup. Jack made a face.

"Restoration 65% complete. Please take the reclaimed foreign object." Something got spat out into a tray. A melted gold ring. Jack put it into a pocket, quickly. It didn't feel right to touch it.

The cube pinged at him and Jack took it from the cubby. “Hey there.” Jack put the cube in his vest pocket. “Hope we don’t have to use you again little guy.”

“Restoration 85% complete.” Jack put the empty bottle in the waste receptacle. His shaking had stopped but his mind was still racing. What was he going to do with a healed Rumlow? Take him back to the coffee shop planet? Three fucking Rumlows on the same world? Well, two of them were former HYDRA agents, they’d have things to talk about? Jack pinched the bridge of his nose and looked over at the privacy screen. “I hope you really, really like coffee,” Jack muttered.

“Restoration 95% com— ERROR. ERROR. ERROR.” Jack stood up as the AutoDoc’s lights flashed red. “Restoration interrupted. Fraudulent transaction reported. No further restoration will be completed. Please await the arrival of the authorities and thank you for using AutoDoc.”

The privacy screen rolled up and Rumlow rolled off the bench onto the floor, face first. Jack gasped. Ninety-five percent. That had to be good, right? “Wake up! Oh god!” Jack shook Rumlow’s shoulders.

“What the fuck just hit me?” Rumlow groaned. His voice was still gravelly. He pushed himself up and looked up at a stunned Jack. “What?” Rumlow asked, completely bewildered.

Jack knelt down and pulled Rumlow into his arms. “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

Rumlow pulled back from Jack’s embrace. “Why are you sorry?”

Jack pulled Rumlow up and pointed at a mirror on the wall. Rumlow stared at his reflection. “I couldn’t fix it all.” There were still scars. A starburst of burned tissue encircled Rumlow’s left eye, dusted down his cheek. “I— I did my best.” Rumlow touched his face with perfect fingers. He ran his fingertips over his lips, the tip of his nose. Then he turned to Jack, who couldn’t look at him out of shame.

“Jack Rollins.” Rumlow growled, then he lunged at Jack and kissed him. Jack’s heart leapt up in his throat as Rumlow kissed him hard, hungry as a starving man. Jack gasped for breath as Rumlow pressed him up against the wall of the AutoDoc and nipped at the tender skin of his throat.

“I guess— ninety-five percent is okay?” Jack groaned.

“Take what I can get as long as I get you. And I never was a straight A student.” Rumlow answered. “God, you taste so fucking good! I haven’t tasted anything since— God! So good!” He suckled and licked, rubbed his face against Jack’s beard. Rumlow moaned at the sheer overstimulation of sensation.

The AutoDoc shook as if a helicopter were hovering above it. A screen popped up and a very familiar face started to speak. “Who the fuck are you and why are you running up my gene card, AGAIN!?”

Rumlow did a double take. “Jack?”

“Brock?” The man on the other side of the screen looked as confused as Rumlow did.

Another face popped into view on the screen with very familiar black hair. “Me?”

Chapter Text

Jack looked over at Rumlow. His eyes were closed and he had an oddly serene smile on his face. The scars on his face were the only visible remnants of his trauma. Jack wondered if Rumlow was talking to his dead husband as they sat together on the spaceship floor. He ventured, “Looks like you’re handling the weirdness pretty well.” Jack held up his bound wrists. “I mean, unless your world was flush with space piracy that you never told me about.”

Rumlow tilted his head back against the rumbling bulkhead. “I’d give today… a ninety-five percent perfect rating.” He laughed, a quick snort that made Jack smile.

“I’m glad.” Jack shifted his seating, “I’m glad I didn’t let you— do what you were going to do back there.”

“Oh don’t get me wrong. I still want to shoot Captain America in the fucking face. Two different versions of Steve Rogers, in fact. I’m just taking a moment to appreciate the finer things in life. Like breathing. The fire didn’t just sear my outside, you know?” He inhaled deeply, held it and let it out. “Just listen to that. Not a wheeze. Not a rattle.”

He elbowed Jack playfully, “I bet my junk is going to work flawlessly again too. Yeah, I snuck a peek. It’s all there. With extra pubes too. Wasn’t expecting that, but it’s a small price to pay. And it’s all thanks to you, Jack.”

Jack blushed and looked away. “You’d do the same for me.” The words spilled out of him without thought and Rumlow sucked in his breath.

“No. I didn’t. And I can’t ever make that right. But I can try.” Rumlow nudged him with the side of his boot. “Look at me.” Jack obeyed. “I never believed in new beginnings, in redemption or becoming a changed man. Thought that was all bullshit. But now,” Rumlow flexed his fingertips. “Now I’m not so sure that I can’t believe in miracles.”

“It’s not a fucking miracle. It’s an AutoDoc.” A voice boomed out over a loudspeaker. “An extremely expensive piece of technology that you’ve used twice without permission. Do you know how many credits you’ve cost me? The scourge of the shipping lanes, the terror of the Rantir Nebula, I, Captain Jack Rollins, was forced to set up a payment plan because of you!”

“You’re pirates. Why do you care?” Rumlow snarked. “You steal shit. That’s what pirates do.”

The door opened and an older, more battered Jack strode into the bulkhead wearing a patched up flight suit. Grey hair dotted his temples and instead of a scar on his chin, it stretched across the bridge of his nose. A strange animal that looked like it was made of random parts followed at the Captain’s heels.

The Captain made a rude noise with his lips. “You’ve obviously not from around here. No one fucks with the AutoDoc Corporation. They’re the only ones who can patch you up and they don’t take kindly to theft of services. So, how are you going to pay me back?” He knelt down and snapped his fingers as if a brilliant idea had occurred to him. Jack felt a bit disoriented as he looked back at the Captain. It felt like looking in the mirror and at the Magistrate at the same time.  “I’m going to sell you, of course. That will make back at least half of my credits.”

The odd animal rolled up to Jack’s legs, extended a snout and snuffled a stain on Jack’s pants. Then it shook, fluffed its green fur and squealed sharply in alarm. Captain Jack’s mouth fell open and he knelt down, seized Jack’s pants leg. “Tell me what this is!”

“My leg.” Jack said, thoroughly confused.

“Not your fucking leg you— this stain! What is it?”

Jack thought for a moment. “Baby puke?”

Captain Jack stumbled back and sat down heavily on the bulkhead floor. He clasped his hand over his mouth and mumbled, “It can’t be. I just can’t be.”

Jack glanced over at Rumlow who shrugged. It wasn’t like this was any weirder than getting rebuilt and kidnapped in a space ship by pirates. Baby puke was pretty normal in comparison. “Pretty sure it’s just spit up. I washed these pants, but that stuff’s a bitch to get out. Why?“

“Is the baby— Is the baby special?” The intensity of the Captain’s question compelled Jack to answer truthfully.

“Yeah. One of a kind, I’d say. Why?” 

Captain Jack looked younger with hope painting his rugged face. “I’ve been searching for that particular DNA for the last five-hundred sols. I need a fresh sample.”

Rumlow said rather saucily for a prisoner, “How bad do you need it?” Captain Jack didn’t take the bait.

“You bring me what I need and I’ll call us even.” Even.

Jack shook his head. “I’m not giving you the baby. I just won’t.” There was no way he’d steal Bianca away from her parents just to save his own skin. He didn’t need to make deals with this Jack. All he needed was something to rub against while he chanted. Dick magic was simple that way.

Captain Jack flipped his hand in exasperation. “I don’t need a squalling baby. I just need fresh vomit or a filthy nappie. Something like that.” The animal cooed and fluttered against Jack’s leg, as if it were in love with the stain.

“You still haven’t answered why.” Rumlow pointedly asked. “The offer is intriguing, if a bit disgusting.”

Captain Jack studied Brock. “All mercenary, aren’t you?”

Rumlow shrugged, “It’s a living.”

“Are you two fucking?” Captain Jack raised an eyebrow.

“Not yet. Had a little pirate interruptus.” The promise in Rumlow’s voice thrilled up Jack’s spine. The Captain sneered at the joke.

“You are not funny. Just like my Brock. He’s sitting up at the helm piloting our ship, the Hydra.” Rumlow’s lips quirked in a stifled smile at the name of the ship. “He’d be down here kicking the shit out of you boys with me, but he’s…” The animal waddled back to the Captain who stroked it like a cat. “Five-hundred sols ago, he— he protected me when I did something stupid. And now he’s sick with something the AutoDoc can’t fix. Not without the right DNA sequence. The sniffer on this Vector-Beast is trained to identify the proper sequence and I’d given up hope of finding it. So yeah, I’ll do anything to get it.”

“We’re not from this universe.” Jack said. “You’d never be able to find it without our help.”

“No shit. You reek of Asgardian magic. Never trusted the stuff. But one thing I’ve learned about their spells is that you usually have to say something. Like an invocation or a chant. I could just keep you both gagged until you decide to cooperate.” After a moment, he smiled. “Or just one of you.”

“Keep me and let him go.” Rumlow said. “I’m the one you spent all that money on.”

Captain Jack petted his beast. “See that’s a typical Brock thing to say. All heroic self-sacrifice and bluster while the rest of us use our brains to win. Why are you all so fucking stubborn and fool-hardy? Is that a universal constant? Just a Rumlow thing?”

“Hard head. Harder cock.” Rumlow quipped. 

“Flip those around.” Jack made a decision. “I need him to make the spell work. It’s— it’s sex magic. I can go get what you need and bring it back. I need my hands free and some privacy.” 

“I’ll cut you loose, but there’s no way I’m going to leave you two alone. Nope!” Captain Jack popped his lips on the last word. “You go. Leave him here. And you get him back when I get the DNA.”

“If you hurt him—“ Jack said, but the Captain cut him off as he unbound Jack’s wrists.

“Yeah yeah. I know. I’d say the same thing Muffin.” The Captain sat back against a crate of illicit goods with the beast on his lap.

“Why does everyone call me things like that?” Jack muttered. “Cream puff. Peaches.” He rubbed feeling back into his wrists. “I’m not edible.” Jack grumbled as he turned to Rumlow and straddled him on the floor. He sat on Rumlow’s thighs and leaned in.

“I disagree.” Rumlow purred. “I’ve wanted to eat you all up since the moment I met you. Remember that? The hospital room? I kissed all your callouses,” With bound hands Rumlow duplicated his actions, his lips nipped and kissed at Jack’s palms.

“I remember. You gave me the oddest boner that day.” Jack   wryly grinned. “That’s the theme of my life, isn’t it?” Rumlow nodded as he worshiped Jack’s fingers with his mouth.

“The taste of your skin—“ Rumlow groaned.

“Looks like I have the upper hand here, don’t I?” The Captain made a pained noise at Jack’s quip. “What do I want to do with you Brock Rumlow?”

His eyes were hooded with lust. “Keep me. Use me. I am your slave.” He licked his thin lips, a hint of stubble already blooming on his chin. “I’ll be your everything Jack.”

“Nah. You’re too much work to be a pet.” Jack undid his trousers and Rumlow gasped as Jack dragged his fingernails down the thin fabric of the AutoDoc’s clothing, tracing the contour of Rumlow’s cock. “And from what I remember, you’re a bossy boy.” He freed them both and fed his fingers into Rumlow’s mouth. “Make me wet.”

Rumlow obeyed, his eyes half-closed as he anointed Jack’s fingers reverently. “That’s it.” He traced Rumlow’s face with his free hand, from the wing of his cheekbone to the vein that throbbed on his temple. “I thought I was done with you. I thought that— I was wrong.” Jack closed his spit-slicked hand about their cocks and thrust. The thrill was electric and Rumlow threw his bound arms over Jack’s head, drew him closer and claimed his mouth. Jack’s head swam at the taste of Rumlow’s mouth, the way he nipped aggressively with his neat white teeth and plundered with his tongue. It reminded him of Steve and that was enough to push his pleasure over the brink.

Bright light flared from his Asgardian tattoo and Jack chanted against Rumlow’s lips. Soon they were falling, falling…. Falling.

 

They landed in the backyard of the coffee shop planet. Home, sweet home. Jack thought. Rumlow was beneath him, sloppy with pleasure. The dappled sunlight painted them and bird trilled in the tree branches.

“You gonna tell me you love me?” Rumlow slurred out.

Jack shook his head, “Nah, I’m gonna kiss you first.” He dipped his head down and as their lips met, a clod of flung dirt nailed Jack in the side of the head.

The Captain stood over them, his beast bristling with distress. He put his hands on his hips and sneered, “That’s what I thought. Now, you’re going to help me save my First Mate. Not because I’m threatening you. No. Because I’m threatening this entire fucking planet if you don’t.” He pointed at the beast on his shoulder. “You’ve never seen a Vector-Beast before, have you? Well, once you and the rest of this fucking place starts bleeding out of your eyeballs you won’t care.”

Jack scrambled to his feet. “Come and get your DNA, there’s a whole pail of it in the nursery. But don’t make any fast moves or her parents will fucking gut you.”

Something was wrong. No one came out to greet him. No one. Janice. Ronnie. Brock. Steve. Jack ran to the door, pressed himself to the side with his hidden sidearm in hand. He gestured at Rumlow, who held up his hands. The Captain reluctantly freed him. Rumlow joined Jack at the door.

Together they cleared the perimeter and when they entered the house, Jack cried out in distress. The home was in utter disarray. The red leather couch tipped over, riddled with bullet holes. Long dried blood on the floor.

“Jack!” Rumlow called from the nursery.

Jack rushed over, his heart heavy with dread. There was no sign of any of them. The bassinet was missing.

The Vector-Beast bounced up and down in the wrecked nursery, it honked and yelped. Captain Jack was pale. “None of this is fresh enough. Where is the baby?”

Jack shook his head. He had no idea. Rumlow plucked a yellow squeaky duck toy from the floor. It made a high-pitching whine as he squeezed. Jack flinched at the sound, then he squared his shoulders. “I don’t know. But these are my friends and I’ll find them. Just give me twenty minutes or so.”

“You better.” Captain Jack muttered ominously, “You fucking better.”

Chapter Text

Jack paced back and forth nervously. What could have happened? There was one obvious answer that made his blood run cold. Steve. But that didn’t make a lot of sense. It wasn’t his style to not leave a big bloody STEVE ROGERS WAS HERE sign. Possibly with finger-painting. Especially if he wanted to let Jack to know that his violence was Jack’s punishment.

“You think it was Rogers. Don’t you?” Jack shook his head in denial. Rumlow sat on the edge of the bed as he inspected the weapons stash. “Weird stuff you’ve collected. Odd caliber guns. Some fantastic custom explosives. Ooh! Stun batons. Love these things. But I’m not sure what this is.” He held up a packet with a doodle of a dick and a :( on the label.

“It’s nasty stuff, sex pollen. Makes you want to fuck or die. You don’t want to huff that.” Jack kept pacing and Rumlow put the packet carefully into his pocket. Captain Jack was raiding what was left of the kitchen while grumbling about something about living like savages. “Got a nose full of it once. It was not pretty. Steve thought it was fun.”

“How did you and Rogers got together? Last time I saw you, I wasn’t under the impression that either of you were sweet on the other.” Rumlow pointedly did not look at the pictures on the bedroom wall. One had Jack wearing a replica of the Omegas Do It Better sweatshirt that Brock had given him as a joke. There was a snapshot of Bianca wearing a duckling bib. One of Brock, Janice and Ronnie in a cuddle pile, totally shit-faced on a bottle of rosè wine. The last one was of Steve holding Jack in his arms and looking down at him with soft adoration as Jack grinned.   

Jack chafed his arms. “It wasn’t all bad. Some days were really special, I’ll always remember the good times. But now that I’ve had some distance and some time away from him—“

“Do you know where he is?”

Jack looked down at his feet. “I think I killed him. When we jumped to your universe, I let go of his hand. When I landed, he was gone. Lost.” He leaned against the dresser that still held their clothes. “I was angry at him. He wanted to find you and make you pay for humiliating him.”

“So you were going to help him kill me. I’m sure he was persuasive.” Rumlow ran his finger over the edge of a tactical knife’s blackened blade. “Such a sore loser.”

“I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to see you again. I knew, I knew that it would hurt too much. We only had a few days together, but you changed my life. And I couldn’t let him murder you because he didn’t like the name carved into my skin.”

“Ah. He was jealous.” Rumlow snorted. “Good. Why didn’t you ditch him earlier?” He flipped the knife in his fingers. “Do you love him?”

Jack shrugged. “I don’t know what I feel. It’s mostly fear right now, I’m terrified at what he might do to you. I can’t let him hurt you.”

“Of course not. I’m very expensive to fix up.” Rumlow sheathed the knife. “You know, you don’t have to be his shield. You don’t have to give yourself up to protect people from him. I’m a bit of a bastard myself, but even I can see that that is some messed up shit.”

Jack sighed, “I know. I know. Maybe I just got used to being his plaything, convinced myself that I was doing some real good by letting him focus on me. I’ve always liked forceful men. I mean, look at me, I’m not a weakling or a shrinking violet.”

“I am looking at you.” Rumlow pinned Jack in place with his stare. “And I know what you like. Any predator can see it. I took total advantage of you in that cabin, your trusting nature and sweet, sweet decency. I’d say I was sorry, but I promised myself I wouldn’t lie to you anymore. I’m not sorry and I’d do it again.” The scars around his eyes crinkled as he smiled.

Jack felt himself blushing and he sputtered, “Um— Anyway, I’m rambling. I’d convinced myself that there was some goodness in him. That there was still a shred of decency that was left from that small boy I met in Brooklyn.”

“What?” Rumlow blinked.

“Time traveled. The three of us went back in time and we… showed some kindness to Steve before he became a monster. It made a huge impression on him. That’s why he was so fixated on you, on the Commander and myself. Hell, we dosed him with the portable AutoDoc too. That’s probably why he survived the Project Genesis that transformed him. If you’ve had a vasectomy, you’re probably fertile by the way.”

“Rebuilt from scratch, huh?” Rumlow whistled under his breath. “So everything I went through with Captain HYDRA was because you took a little jaunt back in time and fucked with the timeline? By being nice to the nastiest piece of work I’ve ever met?”

“There’s worse people out there. We met one of them. He’s dead now. Guess I needed to watch more Star Trek?”

Rumlow’s face lit up at the reference. “No shit! I was just gonna say that. You are just full of surprises, Jack. Full of surprises.” He fastened Brock’s spare cross-body harness over his chest and patted it nostalgically. “I missed this thing. Fuck handles. So how are we going to find your friends?”

“You don’t have to go with me. If you don’t want to.”

Rumlow stood up and clipped a stun baton into his holster. “End of the line babe. I’m with you.” He held out his hand and Jack took it, found himself pulled into a kiss.

When Jack caught his breath he said against Rumlow’s lips. “Your life won’t ever be normal with me in it.”

Rumlow laughed, “I called myself Crossbones unironically until about three days ago. I’m pretty sure normal life and I broke up decades ago. I wanna pretend to be one of the good guys again. Maybe if I pretend hard enough, it will actually stick.” He palmed Jack’s ass with both hands. “And I’ll be worth you.”

“So if you two are done playing grab-ass, perhaps we could get a move on.” Captain Jack leaned against the door frame, Cheetos dust in his stubble. “So do you need a suck off or something more kinky?” He licked his orange-stained fingers. “Whatever gets the job done, man.”

Rumlow grabbed a fistful of Jack’s shirt beneath his vest and pulled him towards the bed. “I got this, thanks. I’ve been wanting this for a long, long time.” He paused for a moment, his head cocked to the side. “Huh. Silence. I haven’t been alone in my own head since—“

Jack touched his face, full of concern. “I’m sorry for your loss. I know your Jack meant everything to you.” He dug in a vest pocket and pulled out the melted wedding ring. “Here.”

Rumlow looked at the small circlet of gold, swallowed and folded Jack’s fingers around it. “You keep it for me. Okay?” His eyes were wet and he rubbed at them. “Jesus. Guess they fixed my tear ducts too.”

“Oh for the love of fuck.” Captain Jack bellowed. “Just get on with it!” The beast screeched in agreement.

Jack smiled and combed back Rumlow’s messy hair with his fingers, “I just had the weirdest case of deja vu. I’ll tell you later. Time to get to work soldier.” Rumlow dropped to his knees.

“Yes sir!” He looked up at Jack with the same expression that Steve had in the photograph. Jack’s stomach lurched in recognition, he ran his thumb over Rumlow’s wet lips. He closed his eyes so he didn’t see Steve’s photograph. So it didn’t feel so much like betrayal. He threw back his head with a gasp as Rumlow explored him with his lips and eager tongue.

He focused his thoughts on Brock, Janice, Ronnie and Bianca. Which was pretty disconcerting with the way Rumlow’s tongue was fluttering against the head of his cock. The light flared, bright even behind his eyelids, he felt Captain Jack grab his vest and they were fallingfallingfalling.   

 

“You might want to put your dick away, son.” A voice said to him, followed by the unmistakable sound of bullets being chambered. Jack’s vision focused and he saw his landlord sitting on the edge of a desk. He rocked a crib with his foot. “We’ve been expecting you. Welcome to AIM.”

Chapter Text

“What the fuck is AIM?” Captain Jack didn’t mince words. The Vector-Beast was hidden inside his flight suit, giving him the appearance of a large quivering beergut. “Wait, I don’t fucking care. We’re here for the baby.”

“Of course you are. Everyone wants that child. Her very existence is a miracle.” The man who looked too much like the Magistrate, too much like the Captain and too much like Jack, tipped over the crib. All three men lunged forward, only blankets tumbled out.

“It’s empty, of course. She’s in a secure location with her mother. We’re not monsters, tearing apart a family, no, we’re guardians. Guardians of our quaint way of life. Do you think a peaceful, coffee based economy just happens? No, it takes careful grooming, nurturing. A deep roasted balance.” He looked too pleased with his pun and Jack felt his knuckles itch. “And we’ve been watching your little conclave since you arrived. Just popped into existence. Three strapping men with no past, no employment history, well that pops up some red flags. Every citizen is required to work at least part time from the moment they turn sixteen. Keeps them occupied, distracted and docile. And really, you both look eerily like my sons. We had to make sure you weren’t clones from HIVE.”

“So, let me get this straight, you’re AIM and you’re the good guys who kidnap babies. And you’re worried about HIVE, who are the bad guys?” Rumlow asked, not really paying attention to the answer. He was buying time.

“In a manner of speaking, a very simplistic manner, yes. We are the good guys.” The landlord folded his hands in his lap.

“That was a lot of blood in our house for the good guys.” Jack muttered.

“It did not come from your friends. We weren’t aware of the ladies’ capacity for violence. It was quite stunning. We won’t make that mistake again. We thought that after the blonde muscle had vanished that we’d have an easier time of it. We’re very patient here at AIM. Your entire domicile was fitted with the best surveillance equipment.”

“So why did you have us, pay rent?” Jack asked, his cheeks red with the memory of the acts he’d performed in front of this man for room and board.

“Oh that was purely for my amusement. You were all awfully enthusiastic about your performances.”

“What do you want? Other than to talk us to death.” Captain Jack rolled his eyes.

“We want the secret to inter dimensional travel of course.And the child’s near magical healing abilities. I’ll take you to her.” The landlord gestured to a door. “After you, gentlemen.” The group of gunmen surrounded them pressed forward and the trio moved down a hallway.

“So you can see here the epicenter of our world-wide operation, the pinnacle of discretion—“

“Yeah, you only tell everyone who teleports in.” Captain Jack interjected.

“Please, consider yourself honored guests. We haven’t even taken your weapons. That’s how much we value your cooperation.”

Rumlow glanced down every corridor they passed, Jack did the same. Old training. Find the exits. Find the weak spots. They let the landlord talk as the Captain distracted him. Jack caught Rumlow’s eye and he winked twice. That meant either two exits or Rumlow had a twitch.

The landlord stopped, stood to the side and waved them through an arch. The Vector-beast trilled, popped out of Captain Jack’s flight suit and hauled ass, spinning legs clattering on the linoleum. “Hey!” Captain Jack called out and ran behind the animal.

“I’m going to regret this,” Rumlow muttered as Jack followed. The landlord was all toothy smiles as the three inch thick plexiglass door slammed shut behind them.

Jack wasn’t listening. Ronnie was sitting on the floor of her plexiglass cell, rocking back and forth. She clutched her knees and   didn’t look up when Jack touched her shoulder. “Ronnie!” He touched her face and she flinched away.

Rumlow looked down at his female doppelgänger and after a few moments of shock, he barked in a tone worthy of any drill sergeant, “On your feet soldier! Report!”

Ronnie blinked and her body moved as if she were a puppet with cut strings. Jack helped her get to her feet and she buried her face in his chest. “They took them from me. Brock, Janice and—“ she choked back a sob, “They bring her for feedings and I think they’re draining her dry. She’s so pale, Jack. So pale.”

Jack led her to her cot and sat her down. “Do you know where they’re keeping them?” She had bruises all over her body, one kissed the plane of her cheekbone, the hollow beneath her eye. She’d fought back and hard. Jack gritted his teeth as she shook her head.

“I don’t even know if they’re alive.” She gripped the front of Jack’s shirt. “We’re not leaving them. Don’t you even fucking suggest that we abandon them!”

Out of her sight, Captain Jack threw up his hands in exasperation. “Well there goes my idea.” The beast rooted around in a pile of laundry and hooted sadly.

“Who are these fucksticks?” Ronnie demanded, a bit more of her fire showing. “Another Jack? Another Brock? Making a collection? You don’t have to catch them all, Jack.” Jack didn’t get the reference. She let go of Jack’s shirt and wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Where’s Steve?”

Jack didn’t have an answer. He didn’t have a lot of answers these days.


 

Where is Steve? Well he's in a crossover. Please read Too Many Buckys by the delightful Lauralot. 

Chapter Text

 

“Why didn’t they take our gear?” Rumlow muttered as he paced back and forth. Jack sat against the plexiglass wall and stared up at the camera dome mounted in the ceiling. It was like living in a zoo where the keepers didn’t want the public disturbing the rare animals. Captain Jack sat against the opposite wall and fiddled with an odd piece of equipment, flanking the door. The beast purred and cooed against his leg. 

“They don’t need to.” Ronnie pointed to the ceiling vents. “They’ll gas us before they come in,” her voice wavered, “Then they’ll restrain us. And we’ll wake up strapped to hospital beds talking to imaginary people in our heads.”

Rumlow looked at her in alarm. “What did you just say?”

Ronnie tapped her head. “Got a Janice talking to me in here. She stopped for a long time, once the real deal found me, but she’s back.” Ronnie smiled, “She thinks you’re all a right bunch of asshats. I don’t usually talk about her because admitting that I have an imaginary friend would mean that I’m crazy, but I’ve stopped giving a fuck.”

Rumlow sat down next to Ronnie on the bed. “I… I lost my Jack in the Triskelion. Did that happen to you too?” Ronnie nodded. “Did you get burnt too?” Another nod. Rumlow added after a moment, “You look great.”

“I got a second hand dose of AutoDoc from Brock’s,” she made air quotes with her fingers, “Magical Healing Cock, all rights reserved and trademarked. And our baby girl.” Ronnie pulled her knees up to her chin. “Now I’ve lost everything again. I’ve lost my Janice again and I know she wouldn’t go down easy. She took down one of those guys with Brock’s Kiss the Horny Cook apron and the barbecue tongs…”

Rumlow caught Jack’s gaze and Jack was taken aback by the murderous intent in his eyes. “We’ll make this right. A little order through pain,” Rumlow said quietly.

Ronnie shrugged. “That’s what I used to say.” Then she heaved a weary sigh and laid down on the bed. “That’s what I used to say.” Rumlow stood up and sat beside Jack.

The lights dimmed. “Looks like they want to observe our nocturnal patterns.” Jack quipped. “Just like the zoo.”

“I’m not a fan of captivity,” Rumlow said as he examined the edge on his tactical knife. “I’ll end things myself if it comes to it. Just letting you know that.”

Jack let his head fall back with a thud against the plexiglass. He closed his eyes. “Don’t be stupid. I didn’t save you and fix you up to let you go, not like that.”

“And you were expensive, you little pansy, don’t be wasting my money.” Captain Jack stood up and walked over. He raised an eyebrow and promptly squeezed himself between Rumlow and Jack, settling in with a wriggle and an elbow jab to Jack’s ribs. “Don’t mind me boys, just making sure you’re on your best behavior and not jumping out of here while you steal tender kisses in the dark.” The animal crawled up on Captain Jack’s lap and started oozing a sickly-sweet odor that made Jack’s gorge rise.

“What?” Ronnie asked.

“These two are all hot for each other and I’m not letting them rut around like horny teenagers. I know how this shit works.” Captain Jack crossed his arms and grumped. “Typical Asgardian sex magic fiends.”

After a few moments Ronnie said, “Steve’s going to kill you, Jack, after he saves you.” Then she rolled over and put the pillow over her head.

She wasn’t wrong, Jack thought. Too bad Steve wasn’t around to do the first part, he would gladly endure the second to save everyone. But no. He’d fucked things up. Again.

 

It was a faint vibration in the floor that made Jack perk up. It had been several hours since Captain Jack had started drooling on Jack’s shoulder and Rumlow had dozed off as well. The vector beast fluffed its fur and flicked what Jack thought was its ears. Jack pressed his hand against the floor.

“I feel it too.” Rumlow muttered. They sprang to their feet and Captain Jack got rudely jostled awake. He started to complain about their treatment, but Rumlow hushed him with a hand on his lips. Captain Jack batted it away, but kept quiet.

The three of them took defensive postures as Ronnie awoke with haunted eyes, wide in the dark. Rumlow handed her a stun baton and she smiled with tight lips. Her determined expression was echoed by Rumlow. Jack took the safety off of his side arm. Whatever came through that clear door was in for a world of hurt.

Smoke enveloped the plexiglass cell, swirled and curled around the walls, obscuring their vision. An explosion shook the building, rattled Jack’s teeth. A body was flung against the cell door with such force that it clung to the plastic, then it slowly slid down with a bloody trail. Pieces of people pelted the plexiglass, a shower of bloody parts shrouded in the smoke.

Jack swallowed hard. He’d seen this carnage before. Back in the Purge universe. A throne of corpses. His hands started to shake as the smoke cleared.

The door lifted and the smell of blood and smoke flooded the room. Figures in the smoke approached and Jack took aim.

“Stop!” Ronnie cried and sprinted to the door. She threw her arms around Janice. “Oh god, I thought I’d lost you!” Janice petted Ronnie’s hair tenderly and smiled through her battered lips.

“Save some of that sugar for me!” Brock called as he followed Janice. Ronnie released Janice from her embrace, punched Brock in the arm and then kissed him, hard. Rumlow looked shocked at the his doppelgänger. Knowing that you had an exact double was one thing, seeing it was quite another. He held back to the smokey shadows.

“Bianca! Where’s Bianca!” Ronnie shouted, “We’ve got to find her—!”

“There there.” A familiar voice crooned. Jack felt time slow to a crawl as Steve Rogers strode into the cell, his hair stiff with ichor that dribbled down his face. Jack couldn’t decide if it was guilt, joyful relief or just good old fashioned terror that clenched his heart. Maybe a bit of all three.

Jack expected blood, he expected gore and carnage, but he didn’t expect the small bundle of squirming baby in Steve’s arms. He held Bianca in the crook of his black-clad arm like a football. Rogers tickled her under her chin and made a goofy, singsong voice. “Uncle Steve is here to make everything right. Yes, he is. Yes, he is.”

Ronnie rushed over and held Bianca in her arms, her face wet with tears. She looked up at Steve and said crossly, “You’re late.”

Steve shrugged. “You’re welcome.” His faint smile was warmer and more genuine than Jack could remember.

The vector-beast trumpeted triumphantly and scurried up Ronnie’s leg to perch on her shoulder. It nuzzled and whuffled Bianca’s hair and purred in contentment. “What’s it doing?” Ronnie tried to push it off, but it evaded her hand.

“Collecting hair follicle samples.” Captain Jack spoke and the new trio finally saw him in the smoke-filled air. “We’ve got a deal, Jack. Remember that.”

Jack nodded. “I know. I know. I’ve just got to figure out where we can all go now. Our home base is a bust and I’m having trouble thinking of a place that doesn’t want us all dead.”

Captain Jack sighed, “Fiiiiine. You can bring them all with us. On my ship, The Hydra.” A chorus of snickers made him frown. “What’s wrong with the name of my ship?”

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose. “Nothing. Nothing. It’s just a common theme through the multiverse. Okay, we can do that.”

Steve strode up behind him. “Jack.” Steve said in a soft lilt in Jack’s ear. The hair stood up on the back of Jack’s neck. Steve draped an arm possessively over Jack’s shoulder and pointed at Rumlow. “Who’s that?”

Jack swallowed hard, but before he could answer, Brock lied smoothly, “I’m Brock Rumlow. You’re very impressive, I gotta say. But who the hell are you?” 

Chapter Text

 

Steve chuckled in Jack’s ear. “Always picking up the strays, aren’t you Peaches? Even the ones that think they’re clever.His lips nipped at Jack’s ear and to his horror, Jack felt himself respond. Rumlow didn’t hide his distaste as well as he could have. The new mobility of his facial muscles betrayed his feelings and Steve fed upon that. He slipped his fingers over Jack’s hipbone and pressed down, leaving small fingertip bruises over the bone. Jack whimpered in spite of himself. Where was his newfound dignity? His self-awareness? He knew better than to sink back into those terrible strong arms and lose himself in wicked caresses.

“He saved my life and I’m grateful.” Rumlow gritted out.

“How grateful?” Steve asked as he threaded his fingers in Jack’s hair and pulled back Jack’s head to expose his throat. The needy sound that escaped Jack’s lips made Steve press his groin hard against Jack’s ass.

“Sorry to interrupt the show, but could we get a move on? There’s going to be highly caffeinated craziness descending upon us any minute.” Brock said. Ronnie and Janice ignored the boys and busied themselves constructing a baby sling out of bedding.

  “But of course,” Steve simpered, “This is my favorite part.” He moved his hand from Jack’s hip and slid it beneath Jack’s waistband. Rumlow’s eyes followed his movement and then flickered up to Jack’s.

“I bet.” The lust in Rumlow’s gravelly voice traveled straight to Jack’s dick and he melted into Steve’s arms. Steve licked and nuzzled at the flesh of Jack’s throat, then dragged his teeth along the pulsing artery. Rumlow was watching him, just like at the cabin… oh fuck no. That wasn’t right, that wasn’t… Jack struggled in Steve’s grasp, but that just made Steve grip him tighter.

“A little fight left in my kitten? Lovely. I’ll make you purr, Peaches.” Steve sucked a bruise into the junction of Jack’s neck. “Purr for me, my love.” Rumlow’s hands curled into fists and he stared into Jack’s eyes as if waiting for a signal. Jack closed his eyes in resignation and relaxed into Steve’s grasp. Steve sighed in contentment and whispered, “I missed you, my darling. I’ll never let you go again.” Jack blinked. Steve thought that he had let go, not Jack. Oh. Oh.

“Jesus Christ. Can’t you two wait for a moment?” Janice hollered, “Okay everyone grab on to each other. We don’t know what happens when you get separated during one of these jumps.” Everyone grabbed a handful of each other’s clothing, wrapping it around their hands and wrists for stability.

“Oh I know.” Steve quipped. “And I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But first,” he wrapped his fingers around Jack’s dick. “First I have to make up for lost time. I’ve lost the scent of you on my skin, my sweet Jack.”

“Are they always like this?” Captain Jack rolled his eyes, the vector beast quivering inside his flight suit.

Janice made a disgusted face, “Always. It’s like watching horny teenagers on prom night. Where did they pick you up, old man Jack?” She adjusted Bianca in the sling and made sure she had a good grip on Ronnie and Brock. Captain Jack gripped the back of the sling.

“About 300 light years outside of Alpha Centauri.”

“You mean, space?” Ronnie asked incredulously, “Like up there?” She tilted her chin at the ceiling.

“Technically, it’s everywhere. But yeah, it’s a spaceship. You really are a bunch of savages. Okay get on with it!”

Rumlow was the only person who hadn’t grabbed ahold of Steve and Jack. He stood apart from them and watched as Steve coaxed whimpers and animal whines from Jack’s body. Jack raised a feeble hand to him and Steve stared at Rumlow with his teeth clenched on the junction of Jack’s neck like a vampire. Steve was daring him to make a move. Jack’s tattoo flared with light and at the last moment, Rumlow lunged forward. He wrapped his fist in Jack’s shirt and kissed him with savage passion.

That was all it took to push Jack over the edge of climax and they were falling… falling… falling.

 

The party landed with a thud in the cargo hold of a familiar smelling ship. Captain Jack lurched to his feet first, he slammed his fist on a pad beside the door and ran off with the vector-beast clutched to his chest. “I’m coming Brock! I’m coming!”

Jack rubbed the back of his head. He’d smacked it against the armor of Steve’s black tactical suit, right on the HYDRA logo. Steve was beneath him and Rumlow was on top of him. Rumlow was staring past Jack’s ear at Steve with a slight smile on his face.

“Jack always brings me the nicest presents.” Steve cooed. “I’m looking forward to flaying you alive, Rumlow.”

“You gonna brush my teeth first, Captain Crazy? There’s nothing you could do to me that would break me. I’ve been broken. You missed all the fun.” Rumlow sneered and Jack started to sweat. “He saved my life. Like I said, I’m grateful.”

“Jack. Jack. Jack. Did you fix him for me?” Steve’s light tone didn’t fool Jack. He rapped his fingers on Jack’s arm.

“I— I had to. It— it was the right thing to do!” At Jack’s words, Rumlow leaned in and kissed him slowly, like a lover. Like he wasn’t laying on top of a ticking time bomb of murderous intentions. “Oh god, why are you doing this?” Jack muttered between kisses. “He’s going to kill you!”

“I’ve died before and it was alright. If I died in your arms, it would be a blessing, Jack. I was never a good man, but you make me want to at least pretend to be one.” Steve inhaled hard at that statement and Jack heard him grind his teeth.

“Well, I appreciate a good flare for the dramatic, but I’m done with this nonsense.” Steve lifted both of them effortlessly and dumped them to the side in a heap. Jack covered Rumlow with his own body, protecting him and without a single word, defied Rogers.

Steve’s eye twitched, but he stood up and dusted himself off. “Never explored a spaceship before, care to come with me ladies?”

Ronnie raised an eyebrow and nodded. Janice, with Bianca in her sling, offered her hand to Brock. “I assume when you say ladies you’re including me. Because you always do that.” Brock took Janice’s hand and stood. “So, who is that one again?” He gestured at Rumlow and Jack.

Steve flicked a fleck of dust from his sleeve. “That is the traitor that impersonated you after the Asgardian blasted you to the oasis.” He snorted. “He tried to pretend, tried to lie, but that’s just what he would do. There are so many copies of our bodies out there. In this room. But only one of those copies would dare to look at my Jack in that arrogant way. Only one of them would dare to kiss him as I held him tight. To trick him into healing him. Because that’s what happened, didn’t it Rumlow? You’re the one who carved his name into Jack’s back right beside my stars. I just learned that I’m the worst Steve Rogers in countless multiverses, so what does that make him? I’ve never lied about who I am. Remember that Jack when you’re listening to his sweet venom in your ear.” He turned on his heel and stalked out of the cargo hold.

Brock whistled and crouched down next to them. “Jesus Christ Jack. What the hell have you gotten yourself into? And for this guy? I thought you hated him.”

“He hated you once too. For good reason.” Rumlow said and Brock flinched.

“True. True. We’re just not good for Jack Rollins’, are we?” The two duplicates nodded in agreement.

“Oh quit being such fucking drama queens,” Janice said. “You’re all going to end up fucking each other eventually and making way too much noise doing it. We’re on a motherfucking spaceship! In SPACE.” She squeaked in excitement.

“Correction. We’re on a space pirate ship.” Jack rubbed side of his neck where Steve had bruised him. His lips hurt from Rumlow’s mauling kisses. He was a mess.

Janice grinned. “That’s even better.

Chapter Text

The halls of the Hydra were packed with boxes and crates, some with flashing lights and other with labels that screamed obvious Danger in languages Jack couldn’t read. Lights flickered above and odd mossy growths phosphoresced blue and green. They followed a blue inlaid line in the ceiling that seemed to direct them forward.

“This ship is a dump.” Ronnie declared, Bianca hiccuped on her shoulder. “Do you see any other crew?”

“No,” Janice breathed, nearly giddy with wonder. “This place looks like one of those great movies where the alien leaps out of the cargo bay door and slaughters the—“

“You’re gonna stop right there.” Brock said, one hand on her shoulder. “And I’m going to pretend I never heard that.”

“Aw, does Brock still have nightmares?” Steve teased, his heart not really into the jest. He was walking beside Jack, matching him stride for stride.

“Not since I met you, Captain Crazypants. Nothing in my imagination quite compares.” Brock said.

“Why thank you.” Steve said.

“That wasn’t a compliment.”

“I like that. Captain Crazypants.” Rumlow chortled. “Captain Curveball. Captain Psycho.” Steve stopped walking and pivoted on his heel, his eyes narrowed and lips pressed tightly together. “The names go on and on and still are completely accurate.”

“Shh! Don’t antagonize him.” Jack admonished Rumlow, but to no avail.

“Antagonize him? These guys all know he’s a rapist, right?” Brock looked at the floor as Rumlow made eye contact. Ronnie and Janice shared a knowing glance. Neither of them were surprised. “Like he raped both of us. He stabbed me though my hands while he told me he loved me and tried to put me in the brainwashing chair.” Steve’s lips compressed in a thin line.

“I was obsessed with a memory. That’s it.” There were consequences for fucking around with the timeline. Jack knew that now. He felt helpless, how could he fix this mess? Without someone dying, of course.

“Oh, did you forget that you claimed to love me? That you were our biggest fan?” Rumlow pointed at Brock, ”That poor bastard over there is lucky you never got your paws on him!”

“Well— there was that one time in the gladiator world—” Brock chimed in but Steve cut him off with a vicious snarl.

“Shut up Brock! As far as I recall, Rumlow, you offered Jack to me in that cabin. You held him down, petted his hair and kissed his face while giving him to me as a distraction, as a bribe to save your own worthless hide! I’ve never lied about what kind of man I am. All you know how to do is lie! You’re pure HYDRA scum, just like the worst of them!”

“Scum? Pretty sure the only person here who hasn’t done HYDRA’s dirty work is Jack—“ Ronnie offered, but neither of the arguing men paid her any attention.

“You’re a monster! I’d never have done that if there were any other way of surviving you. That’s all you can do around Steve Rogers, survive or die. You look so perfect, but you’re rotten to the core. God I hate that fucking face.” Rumlow spat.

Steve softened his tone and a chill ran up Jack’s spine. “Oh, what happened Rumlow? Did you lose to my double? I bet every time you looked at him, you thought of me. Every time you saw him smile, you thought of me. What did the hero do to you? Was it painful? Did you suffer? I sure hope so, you duplicitous snake. I hope that whatever he took from you was priceless.”

Rumlow reached in his pocket. Janice stepped between the two men. “Okay, you to the front of the line.” She poked Steve in his HYDRA emblem, then she did the same to Rumlow’s harnessed chest. “You to the back.” Janice said to them both. “We are on a motherfucking spaceship. Until we find our way to a safe home, somewhere for my kid to grow up in safety, then you both get to pretend to get along. You got me? You can kill each other when this is all over.”

“You’re not my mother, Janice.” Steve looked down his nose at her.

“I prefer C.O. Steve.” She squared her shoulders and ordered, “Now take point soldier. Keep us, keep Jack safe.” Steve’s expression softened and for a moment, he looked vulnerable.

Rumlow hissed, “Go be the meat shield you were born to be, you freak.” Steve’s knife appeared in his fingers, a glint of light on the edge of the blade caught Jack’s attention. He stepped forward and took Steve’s arm in his.

“I’ll go with you. You should all hang back, protect Bianca.” He pulled Steve along with him, it took all his strength to cajole the man into walking with him. The others hung back, giving them space.

After a while they stopped in front of a door with the word MEDBAY. Before he reached out to open it, Jack said, “Please Steve. Please give him some space. He’s been through some stuff.” Steve snorted in disdain for his rival’s pain. “He lost his husband. His Jack. And I think, I think he’s gone through some experimentation like Ronnie did.” Jack let Steve hold his hand and Steve rubbed his thumb along the callouses on Jack’s palm.

“Why do you only see the good in people?” Steve asked.

Jack shrugged in the dark. “I just do. Someone has to. I guess it’s my weakness.”

“I don’t share my toys, Jack.” There was a hint of a whine in Steve’s voice and Jack stopped walking. It was time for honesty.

“Steve. You need to listen to me. I’m not a toy. I don’t belong to you. You can’t threaten me and the people I care about to make me love you.”

“I would never—“ Steve looked wounded by the implication.

“You threatened a baby, Steve. A baby.”

“I implied. I’d never hurt the smelly little thing. I saved her. Without you telling me to, by the way. Thank you very much.” Steve put his hand on Jack’s shoulder, stared into his eyes.

“Jack, when I was parted from you I found myself in a room with hundreds of Steve Rogers. So many variations. Some of them had animal ears and tails! Most of them were heroes wearing ridiculous patriotic costumes.”

He touched his chest solemnly,  “I was the only one wearing black. The only one with this logo on his chest. They quarantined me because I was the most dangerous one there. I heard what they all called me. I’m not a monster. No matter what he says. No matter what. I don’t care if all the multiverse says otherwise. I know I’m not.”

“You act like it. And actions speak louder than words.”

“Trite garbage. A monster can’t love. And I love you. I’ll wait for a thousand years for you to love me back. I never meant to let go of your hand Jack. Please, please don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone. I can’t be alone.” Steve’s shoulders slumped and for a moment Jack saw the young man in Brooklyn. He took Steve’s hand.

“Why did you let go?”

Steve looked miserable as he confessed, “I— hurt you. And I was selfish. Brock kept telling you to be happy and I’m not stupid. I know you’re not happy with me most of the time. You just stay with me to be my shield. To protect everyone from me and my impulses. So— I act badly. I act out to make you remember me. To indulge my desires.” 

He looked at Jack as if he were the sunrise, yearning etched upon his chiseled features.  “How could someone as wonderful as you, choose me?” Jack leaned in and was about to kiss him, charmed by his apparent honesty, but then Steve regrouped and the mask of smug condescension was back. “Other than my stunning physical perfection and utter brilliance, that is.”

“You just had to keep talking, didn’t you? God, you’re such an asshole.” Jack thumped his fist against Steve’s chest and started to turn away. Steve wrapped his arms around Jack and buried his face in the crook of Jack’s neck, he nuzzled at the bruises there.

“I can hear how your heart beats faster when you’re close to me.” It was true, Jack couldn’t deny that.

“I’m usually fearing for my life.”

“You life is more exciting with me in it.”

Jack sighed, “No. I want a normal life. A calm, peaceful life without all of this craziness! Without your craziness. I don’t love you, Steve. I’m scared of you.” For a moment, Steve’s grip tightened and he squeezed the air out of Jack’s ribcage, but he relaxed and Jack sucked in a breath.

“You’re lying again, Jack. I can always tell. You’re not scared of me, you’re scared of how you react to me. You’re terrified of giving yourself to me. You don’t understand how I’d do anything to keep you safe. I’d wade in blood to show you that. You were made for me. That’s why I’ll wait for you. Until the end of the line…”

 

 

Chapter Text

Jack pushed away from Steve’s grasp. “So you want my love? Then you’re going to respect my wishes. Don’t lay a finger on him no matter what. And the only time I’ll touch you is if I want to. You got it?” Jack held Steve’s gaze and summoned up every ounce of steel in his spine. “You got it?”

Steve crossed his arms and shifted his weight, cocking a hip. He looked Jack up and down then slowly licked his lips. “I get it. You want to be courted.”

Jack held up his finger, trying to make his point. “I want to be respected.” I don’t want to crave you. You’re not good for me.

Steve stood as close as he could without touching Jack. He cooed into his ear, hot breath stirring the downy hairs. “Wooed. Seduced. You want to fall under my sway and give yourself permission to be mine.” And God help him, Jack wasn’t sure that Steve was completely wrong.

“I don’t think you’re getting it—“ Jack stammered.

“Oh, I think I do. Don’t worry Jack. I won’t disappoint you. I’ll be that hero—“ Steve rolled the word in his mouth as if it were a strange foreign language to him. “That you want me to be. I mean, how hard could it be? There were hundreds of me that managed the task and some of them weren’t even human!”

Jack took a step back, he was pressed against the door. “Yeah. Be my hero Steve. Can you do that?”

Steve slowly saluted and dragged his eyes over Jack’s body, his gaze lingered on the flush of red upon his cheeks.“They’ll make a museum exhibit in my honor, I’ll be so fucking heroic. Now stay behind me, my sweet, who knows what lurks behind this door.” He pressed the door controls. A white acrid mist filled their lungs and dissipated.

Jack hacked and coughed. “What the hell was that?” 

“That’s the sanitation mist, you savages. Can’t have your alien bacteria killing him before the treatment takes.” Captain Jack was seated beside what looked like a glass coffin. Inside was a wizen man, his skin papery and yellow with age.

“That’s your Brock Rumlow.” Jack murmured. “His hair never changes, does it?”

Steve squinted into the case, “I’m really tired of hearing that name. He looks like shit.”

Captain Jack nodded in agreement. “He does indeed. The child’s DNA will… basically rebuild him from the inside out. I’d be more specific but I saw your civilization. Small, short sentences.” Jack accidentally kicked the vector-beast and cringed as it fluffed and growled out a protest.

Captain Jack smirked at his fearful reaction. “Oh, Murphy is harmless. He’s only good for finding DNA, he doesn’t really have any destructive capacities other than chewing on your shoes.” Jack scowled at him and the Captain shrugged. “I was bluffing back there. You wanted to find your friends and I was happy to give you a little nudge if your balls hadn’t dropped. But I’m guessing you’ll forgive an old man who personally paid for you to rebuild two of your buddies.” He wiped a smudge off the glass case. It was immaculate in comparison to the rest of the disheveled ship.

“Three.” Jack said.

“What?” The Captain raised a eyebrow.

Jack hooked his thumb at Steve. “We traveled back in time and used the portable AutoDoc cube on this guy when he was scrawny. Probably saved his life.”

“Or doomed me. It depends on who you ask.” Steve leaned down and peered into Captain Jack’s face. Then a smile flickered over his lips. “So that’s what you’ll look like when you get really old Jack. I kinda like the grey hair.” He gently brushed a stray hair off of Captain Jack’s face. The Captain pursed his lips and pushed Steve’s hand away.

“Fuck you. I look great for 250 sols.”

“I’m probably going to look like this forever. That’s what the scientists told me. I’ll never change, physically.  Never change at all…” A hint of wistfulness in Steve’s voice.

“You look just like the Galactic Sector President.” The Captain snorted. “And you seem like just as big a pain in the ass.”

“You don’t get along?”

“There’s a price on my head.” Captain Jack tapped on the glass. “His too. The rest of the crew abandoned us. It was probably for the best. But hey, looks like I have a whole new crew.”

“I’m not working for you, old man.” Steve sneered.

Captain Jack leaned back in his chair, his legs spread wide with ease. “Fine. Have fun depressurizing in the vacuum of space. Because that’s what happens when the ship is in disrepair. Unhappy ship? Dead crew.”

Steve rapped his fingers on the glass casket. “You make a compelling argument, old man.”

“That’s why I’m the captain. My people skills. I’ll show you lot to your quarters.” He cleaned Steve’s fingerprints off the glass. “And don’t touch my First Mate.”

 

Brock watched Janice bounce up and down on her toes. The Captain had promised her a tour of the command deck, once he’d cleaned it up. He’d muttered something about his old lunch becoming sentient. “Tell me Janice, were you ever this excited before? Like Christmas morning?” Janice beamed at him and Jack felt a bit envious of the ease of their relationship. Lucky bastard.

“When Bianca was born.” Janice ruffled Bianca’s hair as she breastfed. She grew deadly serious. “I’m going to tell you something and if you laugh at me, I’ll kneecap you, got it?”

Brock held up his hands, “No laughing. Swear.”

“I always wanted to be an astronaut, but HYDRA got to me first. And my test scores weren’t high enough.” Janice grinned,  “I wanted to travel to the stars and here I am!”

Steve spoke from the shadows. “I’ve always loved the stars too. You could see them so much clearer when I was young. They seem dimmer now.”

“Light pollution.” Janice nodded, then she clapped her hands together. “So, there’s two rooms that aren’t crammed full of hoarding. Who’s bunking where?”

“Well, we’re already used to sleeping together. So you, Ronnie, Bianca and me.” Brock shrugged. “It’s only natural. We’re family.”

“Are you fucking serious?” Ronnie said, “They’ll murder each other in their sleep.”

“Jack can sleep in the middle. It’s what he does. Steve can have one end and newbie can have the other. High-fives over Jack’s back are optional but highly reccomended.”

Jack sighed. His face was already going red at the thought of being the meat in a Rumlow and Rogers sandwich.“Fuck you Brock.”

“I’m fine with it.” Steve said mildly.

“You’re fine with it?” Ronnie said in disbelief.

Steve stretched languidly, “I’m a gentleman.” Jack nearly swallowed his tongue. 

Rumlow agreed. “So I get to share a bunk with Jack? Okay. I can do that. Seems like I’ve been waiting for years to do just that.” He stared at Jack like a starving man turned loose in a bakery.

Steve held up his hand, “But Rumlow has to follow the rules too.”

“What rules?” Rumlow asked.

Steve spoke in a slow, condescending tone. “Jack decides when he wants to be touched. It’s only polite. We can’t hurt each other. That’s going to be the hard part for me. Your face is so punchable.” He curled his fingers into a loose fist, then clenched it hard. “It’s just asking for a pummeling.”

“Wanna shake on it?” Rumlow took off one of his gloves, held out his bare hand and the rest of the group held their breath in anticipation.

“Fine.” Steve gripped Rumlow’s hand and they shook on it. 

“Fine. Truce. We can pretend to be buddies.” Rumlow suddenly pulled Steve into his arms and with his gloved hand, he tweaked Steve’s nose. “Look at this face. Gotcha nose.” Rumlow gave it a little tug, “Ew. Boogers.” He wiped his gloved hand off on Steve’s face, slowly and with great deliberation.

They heard a snap, like a small gunshot. Steve had clenched his fist hard enough to break his own thumb. He turned on his heel and stalked away into the depths of the ship.

“Playing with fire, Rumlow.” Jack murmured.

Rumlow stripped off his glove, carefully turned it inside out and balled it inside the other glove. He smiled with great satisfaction. “You have no idea, Jackie-boy.”

Chapter Text

They sat around the mess table. Captain Jack had to move a few crates of something that looked alive before there was enough room for everyone to be seated. “So…” Janice said, “Ever think about selling some of this crap?”

The Captain broke open a box and tossed a small box to each of them. Steve fumbled his catch and looked mildly confused. “It’s difficult to fence stolen goods with only two people. One person most of the time. Yes, it’s all stolen. This is a pirate ship, I hope none of you have tender ethical feelings.”

Ronnie leaned over and said conspiratorially, “Hey Janice. Do you have any tender ethics?”

Janice rubbed her chin. “I think I got those removed with my tonsils. How about you, Ronnie?”

“Nope!” She laughed and bounced Bianca on her knee. “Hey Captain, you should probably know that you’ve got a crew of certified badasses. I’m willing to cut Brock here a little slack because he wasn’t completely HYDRA, he was just brainwashed. And after I saw the scarred up newbie fiddle with his knife, I’m pretty sure he’s in our league too. And Steve there? He’s a one man wrecking crew. Jack’s the only one I’d worry about, but even our pet cream puff is a sniper with dead aim.”

Jack groaned. “I am not a cream puff.”

“What do you say to that, Steve?” Janice grinned.

After a moment he said, “Um, what? Sorry. Wasn’t— wasn’t paying attention to your incessant prattling. Are we going to eat or gossip like old women?” Steve pulled at the collar of his tactical suit and unzipped it a fraction of an inch. Rumlow sat across from him and watched with lazily slitted eyes.

“Dinner is served.” Captain Jack leaned back in his chair and pulled the red tab on the corner of the small box. It hissed and a hot savory smell wafted up. He tilted the box and slurped up a soft noodle paste. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and cracked a smile. “Hope you all enjoy shelf stable rations. I think I’ve had this case for the past 6 cycles.”

Brock shrugged. “Can’t be worse than the veggie burger MRE’s.” He pulled the tab on his box. “Well, bottoms up!” He took a slurp of the ration as the rest of the group watched him. He set the box down. “That wasn’t so bad—“ then he fell off his chair with a gurgling sound.

“Jesus!” Janice lunged for him. Then she punched him in the shoulder as he started laughing. “You asshole.”

“Ow. It’s fine. Better than the chili mac.” He sat back in his chair and finished his box. “I mean, if you’re not going to eat yours?” He reached for Janice’s ration and she slapped his hand. “You mean thing. I love it.”

Everyone tucked into their food and suddenly Steve choked. Jack patted him on the back. His face was flushed red, the tips of his ears were crimson and a small bead of sweat dripped down the side of his face. He stared at Rumlow as if he were trying to make his head explode through sheer willpower.  “You will remove your foot from my crotch.”

“Oh, sorry.” Rumlow apologized. “I thought I was playing footsie with Jack. Terribly sorry.” He drank from his box, his eyes never leaving Steve’s.

Steve stood up, his ration spilled on the table and he stalked off. There was a muffled crash as Steve destroyed something.

“What the fuck are you thinking?!” Jack yelled at Rumlow.

Rumlow shrugged and finished his food.  “It was an accident.”

“You’ve got a fucking death wish.” Brock said. “Keep up with that and Steve’s going to grant it. I don’t think you know what you’re doing.”

“On the contrary, I know him better than all of you. I had his undivided attention for a few days and I got the whole crazy colonic. He told me that I bled like a virgin. Always with the sweet talk. I can’t believe that you all turn a blind eye to his madness. He’ll kill all of you and not bat a single eyelash while he fucks your corpses.” Rumlow folded his hands on his chest and leaned back in his chair.

“That’s very poetic.” Brock sneered. “But really, you’re sitting down for dinner with a table full of highly experienced double agents. We know what he is. He’s a highly focused bomb and we’d rather have him on our good side than not. And he might have saved all of our lives a few times.” Brock shrugged with one shoulder, “He grows on you. Like a fungus.”

“We saw him in action on our world, right before the Triskelion fell. I think he could have taken our Stella Rogers. Even after she found out about her precious Becky.” Ronnie burped Bianca and wiped her chin. “Wish he’d done that. Would have saved me lot of third degree burns and isolation in a creepy experimental hospital.” Ronnie cooed at her daughter, “That’s right. Mama went cuckoo in that place. They harvested things from her, but not you. Not you little snookums. Jan-Jan and Brocky would shoot off their f’ing fingers if anyone tried to hurt us. Isn’t that right puddin’?” Bianca gurgled in contentment.

Rumlow chewed on his lip. “Fucking Triskelion fell on me as well. I get that.  I lost everything to a Steve Rogers. Becky?” He raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Becky Barnes? How fucking stupid is that?”

“Girl planet.” Brock offered in explanation as Ronnie picked up her food carton to throw it at Rumlow’s head, “So, did you fuck Bucky Barnes or did he fuck you?” He leaned forward, “There’s a big difference.”

“The first one.” Rumlow finally admitted.

“I win!” Janice crowed, then she was deadly serious. “We all had a bet. All this shit you’re pulling isn’t just pissing off Steve, you’re upsetting Jack. It’s not good to upset Jack, he’s a sensitive guy. And he’s the only person that Steve cares about. Yes, it’s fucked up. Royally fucked up. But I’ve seen the way he watches Jack, the little things he’ll do for Jack that he wouldn’t for anyone else. Just like I’d do for for Ronnie and Bianca.”

“Hey!” Brock protested.

“Okay, you too Pretty Boy.” She reached over and ruffled his hair. He tried to comb it back into place with his fingers and she smiled fondly. “I know you’re hurt. Probably gutted. I know how I’d be if I lost my loves. That man sitting beside you, he’s the only thing saving your hide. Jack’s your shield, just like he’s Steve’s.”

“Always with the fucking shield metaphors.” Rumlow muttered. “Fine. I’ll play nice. For now.” It wasn’t particularly convincing, but it was the best he was capable of giving. 

Jack finished his food. He watched as the Captain fed Murphy leftovers. He glanced over in the direction that Steve had stomped off in. He stood up and told the others, “I better go check on him.” Rumlow didn’t meet his eyes and the others were too busy arguing over improvised diaper construction to pay attention.

Something was wrong.

Chapter Text

 

There were too many dimly lit corridors and all of them were crammed to the ceiling with boxes and crates. Some of the boxes moved by themselves and Jack gave them a wide berth. He thought about what the others had said at the mess table and shook his head. They’d thought too much about it. He was just a sucker for horrible men.

He always thought that he could change them, make them do the right things, but he was a fool. Now he had two completely nuts, utterly dangerous suitors who despised each other. Jack wasn’t sure which of them was better.

Steve had more issues than the periodical section at the library. He was arrogant, pushy, belligerent and still, so fucking sexy. He was bloodthirsty, spiteful and yet, capable of surprising tenderness. Jack stepped over a bundle of glowing cables.

Rumlow wasn’t any better. He had an obvious deathwish, horribly untreated trauma and so much guilt that it was amazing there was room for anything else. And Jack had to admit, anyone who decided to voluntarily fight for HYDRA probably had a whole toolbox of screws loose. But the desire in that voice, the way he spoke to Jack and looked at him like he was made of gold and sunshine and kittens— there had to be something worth saving there.

Jack stubbed his toe and then bounced his forehead off a low-hanging pipe. Maybe he should just take Brock’s advice and have them both fuck him at the same time. And see who survived. He rubbed his forehead, that was going to leave a bruise.

Captain Jack’s voice blared out over a recessed speaker. “You lost?” The speaker popped and hissed.

“Completely.” Jack admitted. He’d been lost five turns ago.

“There’s a heat signature about three corridors down. Take a left. It’s probably one of your boyfriends.” The speaker crackled. “Probably.”

Jack patted his holster. “Bad idea to fire a bullet on a spaceship, isn’t it?”

“Well not if you want to live. He’s really hot, you know.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem. I forget that there’s a nut job under that perfect exterior—“ He hustled down the corridor and ran into a dead end of crates.

“No, I mean he’s burning up temperature wise. He’s not a normal human I’ve been told, but as a species we’re not supposed to have a fever like that. Our brains started to shut down. You better not have brought an alternate universe plague onboard. I can’t fucking afford it.”

“I don’t think he can get sick anymore. Not like that.” Jack was worried now. He climbed over a pile of boxes. “Oh.”

Steve was curled in a fetal position, his tactical suit unzipped to his waist. His pale skin gleamed with sweat and he was softly whimpering. The sounds of distress lit up every protective urge in Jack and he knelt down next to Steve. “Steve?” He reached out a hand and Steve flinched away from his touch. “Are you sick?” Jack pressed his hands to his thighs. “Do you need medical help?” Steve shook with hysterical giggles and slowly straightened out his legs.

“Don’t— don’t touch me!” His blue eyes were nearly black with dilated pupils. Steve panted, “If you touch me, if you touch me— he’ll win.” He grabbed his crotch and the outline of his huge swollen cock was painfully obvious. “It’s sabotage.”

“Sex pollen.” Jack gritted his teeth. “Rumlow.”

“He wants me to be weak. I am not weak. I am stronger than that.” Drool leaked out from his pink lips. “Don’t touch me.”

“You think you can kick this without help?” Jack remembered the white-hot blaze of lust that had clouded his mind when he’d been dosed with sex pollen. How his brain had devolved to fuck or die and he had serious doubts about how long Steve could hold back.

“I’m going to win. Just stay over there.” Steve curled back in upon himself and sniffled. “I’ve suffered before. I’ve suffered my whole life.”

Jack sat back and curled his arms around his knees. The sheer willpower Steve was showing boggled his mind. Sweat made his blonde hair cling to his forehead in clumps and he looked much younger, more like the boy in Brooklyn. His obscene long eyelashes fluttered upon his cheekbones. “You don’t have to suffer Steve.” Jack said and meant it. “Your brain is going to shut down if you get much hotter. And your heart, it might explode.”

Steve panted. “I don’t even— if— I can’t—“ He stammered and rolled over, facing away from Jack. “I did my best Bucky. Don’t hurt me!”

Jack startled at that name. “Bucky’s dead. He can’t hurt you anymore.” He moved closer. “Oh Steve,”

Steve was too far gone to hear him and he moaned, “I’ll try to be good Buck. Don’t hurt me— okay, I deserve it. I’ll be better.” The monster was sobbing like a broken child. Jack combed back his hair, the gentle touch sent tremors throughout Steve’s massive body. Jack touched the swell of Steve’s cheek, the arch of his brow and Steve keened with torment. Jack leaned down and captured Steve’s mouth in a kiss, gentle and soothing. Steve’s hips snapped up and stuttered, he moaned into Jack’s mouth. He was so overstimulated that a simple kiss had pushed him over the brink.

He blinked and his blown out irises seemed to focus for a moment. Steve curled his fingers in his suit fabric, fought to keep from clutching at Jack. “Shhh. It’s okay. I’ve been through this. I’ll suck you off and see if that takes care of it, okay?” Steve nodded in desperation, drips of sweat beaded up on his nose and fell upon the floor. Jack unzipped the suit’s fly and Steve shuddered through another orgasm as the cool air of the ship hit his cock. Semen spattered and smeared, making a mess. Jack hazarded a touch to the swollen, leaking head of Steve’s cock and he groaned so loud it echoed off the hull walls.

“Please! Please! Oh god please Jack! I— need—“ Jack swirled his tongue around the tip and took Steve into his mouth. As he slowly sucked, Steve muttered a litany of blasphemy and praise. “Oh thank you, fucking god. You beautiful bastard. Thank you my sweet boy. Yes— yes!” Jack felt himself respond to the potent combination. Steve jerked and spasmed, Jack felt it hit the back of his throat and he swallowed.

“There. Feel any better?” He patted Steve on his sweat-sticky belly, “Did that help?”

  Steve shook his head, “No.” His perfect face contorted in agony. “Jack— I’m burning up. I need more.”

Jack shrugged, “Well, I should probably ride you so you don’t crush me. Good thing I’ve got slick with me, always be prepared right?” He pulled a bottle out of his pocket. “Brock called me the Transport Slut yesterday. Remind me to rat him out to Janice about eating all her special cookies.” He was keeping this casual. Just something a friend would do for another friend. It wasn’t something he craved, no. Of course not.

Jack took off his shirt and vest. He started to unbutton his pants, Steve put a hand on his leg. “Jack. I haven’t done this since Brooklyn. Since Project Genesis changed me.” Jack leaned close and Steve pleaded, “I need you to fuck me.”

Jack blinked, incredulous. “Are you sure?” 

Steve shimmied out of his pants, his skin flushed and clammy. He rolled over, pressed his face and cock against the dirty floor and muttered in misery, “Just get it over with.”

Jack felt the corners of his mouth pull back in a grin. He squirted a blob of lube on the tip of his fingers. “Oh I’d never do you like that Steve. You know that.” He slid his fingers down Steve’s crack, slow as molasses and twice as sweet. He rubbed the cool gel on Steve’s lewdly pouting hole, little massaging circles. Steve whimpered through a orgasmic shudder and spread his legs wider. Jack’s grin grew wider too.

“You’re cruel to me Jack.” Steve complained as he canted his hips up.

“You need to come as many times as you can to clear out the sex pollen fog. I’m just doing you a solid here.” He grabbed a handful of Steve’s firm ass and squeezed as he pushed his wet finger inside. “I’m not enjoying this at all.” Jack’s ragged voice betrayed his claims to the contrary. One finger inside and Steve was spasming, his dick rubbing in a pool of his semen on the floor. “All that for one finger? Man, you’re going to freak out when I get my dick in there.”

“I’m not going to freak out. I— I just haven’t done this for a really long time. I wouldn’t do this— with anyone else.” His voice hitched as Jack languidly fucked him with his fingers.

“Oh? Why not?” Jack watched a dribble of sweat travel from the apex of Steve’s ass curve down to the small of his back.

“Don’t trust anyone else.” Steve bit down on his lip and moaned as Jack twisted his fingers. Jack’s own breathing grew more and more ragged. It was like he’d been infected with the pollen too. That had to be it. There was no other reason. “You wouldn’t hurt me. It’s not in you. You— argh! You’re the best thing ever in my life!”

“You’re just being sweet because I’ve got my hand up your ass.” Jack rubbed his cock against Steve’s skin. “You’d say anything to come again.”

“I— am— NOT a liar!” Steve’s fingers dented the metal of the floor. He pushed himself up on his arms and looked over his shoulder at Jack. The hunger in that gaze didn’t just come from the sex pollen and Jack withdrew his fingers with a squelch. “Now fuck me Jack before I lose my patience and ride you instead!”

Jack’s mind whited out at the thought of Steve’s perfect body riding him and he lined up, pushed in. Steve shivered from head to toe, his dick jumped against his belly in a dry orgasm. He howled, there was no other words for it as Jack pumped inside him, churned his hips and slapped their skin together.

“God, you’re so—“ Jack muttered, his fingers digging into Steve’s narrow hips. Tiny bruises rose up, flared red and purple and healed before Jack’s eyes.

“Obnoxious? Horrible?” Steve completed his sentence, “Awful?” Jack pushed all the way inside, then withdrew and slammed back inside at a punishing pace and Steve gurgled in strangled relief.

“So fucking perfect.” Jack breathed as he leaned forward, rested his body against Steve’s back, Steve’s immense strength holding them both up. Light flared from his tattoo, but without the chant it merely cast harsh shadows upon Steve’s chiseled face. Jack thrust one final time and came, his orgasm seemed to ripple through his entire body and travel to Steve’s. They laid on the floor drenched with fever and sex sweat, the smell of spunk heavy in the air.

Jack pulled out and as he placed tiny kisses on Steve’s shoulders, anointed them with admiration and affection, Steve began to weep. “Oh. Hey hey now. None of that.” Jack cooed and he pulled Steve into his arms. “I’ve got you. I’ve got you now.”

Steve stared up at him with fever-bright eyes, the flush on his face barely dimmed. “I’m sorry Jack. But— I need more. I’m going to die if I don’t get more.” Jack embraced him tightly.

Jack kissed Steve’s forehead. “I’m going to need back up.”

“Not Rumlow.” Steve demanded, his dick still painfully swollen, purple and hot. “Please don’t let him see me like this.”

“What about the others?” Jack asked and Steve curtly nodded. “Are you still listening?” Jack called out.

There was a pause, then Captain Jack’s voice said from the speaker, “Listening? Recording a video feed while I jerk it a little? What’s the difference? Yeah, I’m still here.”

“Send Janice, Ronnie and Brock down here. Tell them to bring some water and something to pad their knees. It’s a medical emergency.”

“Oh, is that what you’re calling it?” Captain Jack chuckled. “Sure. I’ll send them on their way. A whole crew of perverts. You know I bet I could charge by the minute, the whole galaxy could get off on watching the Galactic Sector President’s twin get the shit fucked out of him. So many credits.”

“I— will gut you if—“ Steve panted in Jack’s arms. “— My humiliation—“

“Pfft! Your friends are on their way. And Jack? If I may offer a helpful suggestion that isn’t in any way tied to my personal perversions?”

“Yeah?”

“You could always fist him.”

Chapter Text

  

Steve’s eyes widened. “Wha— what?” His rose-pink lips trembled as he panted.

“Um, you know.” Jack chewed on his own lip. “I kinda… um… very carefully… um… fist fuck you.” He held up his hand. “Never done it before though. Maybe it’s not such a good idea.”

“Or it’s the best idea ever!” Captain Jack chimed in from the speaker.

“Sounds…. Gooood?” Steve’s blue eyes were fogging over again, hazy with the effects of the sex pollen. All his senses were cranked up to eleven, maybe that’s why it affected Steve so much worse than it had Jack. Jack slapped his face and Steve groaned, “Ooh! Yes. Just like that Jack. You’re such a beast.”

“Can I slap him around too?” Janice asked as she hurdled over the boxes, Bianca strapped to her back. Ronnie and Brock soon followed. They’d ran to Jack’s aid. Jack smiled fondly at them. His team. 

“I’m down for that. And Jesus Christ! It smells like a locker room after a circle jerk in here!” Brock exclaimed then he took a closer look at Steve’s condition. “Is that what I think it is?”

Jack nodded. “He’s been poisoned. Sex pollen. We have to make him get off until it clears his system or he’ll die.” Steve fluttered his long lashes as Jack cradled him in his arms.

“Would that be so bad?” Brock said.

“You— shit—!” Steve sputtered.

Brock laughed and kicked off his shoes. He tossed a satchel at Jack then peeled off his shirt. “Just kidding big guy. I’ve been a bit pent up myself. Our good Captain provided us with a care package.” He pulled his pants off, commando as always.

Jack set Steve on the ground, he writhed at being deprived human touch. Jack took out a tub of something labeled Loki’s Industrial Strength Lubricant, a highly compacted air mattress and a set of thin silver rubber gloves. He stared up at where he thought the video camera was and mouthed the word, “Really?” He pulled the tab on the air mattress and watched as it hissed to full inflation. It was a king size. Of course it was.

Brock helped Jack get Steve up on the mattress and Ronnie hopped up beside him.

“So, we’re supposed to fuck him better? Gosh, I didn’t even have to go to medical school for that.” Ronnie trailed her sharp fingernails up the length of Steve’s cock and giggled at his shivers. She licked her lips and dug her thumbnail into his slit just to hear him groan. “He heals fast, right?” Her question made Jack worry, as did the wicked hunger in her eyes.

Janice made a disgusted face and waved her hands in dismissal. “Sorry, but that’s a hard nope for me. I’ll go be the designated adult on the bridge.” She spoke to Bianca, “I am so glad that you’re too little to understand how fucked up this is.”

“I’ve got snacks! You’ve always got to have snacks. You never truly understand a culture until you observe their mating rituals.” Captain Jack said over the speaker and Janice grimaced. 

“I’m not watching live porn with you.” She made her way back over the boxes.

“It’s not live. There’s a tape delay. I have to add the music and subtitles.” Captain Jack protested. “There’s a difference.”

"I'm totally getting a copy of this. Gotta rebuild my collection." Brock said gleefully.

Ronnie shimmied out of her clothing, fine shiny lines of red etched her skin. Stretch marks and burn scars over strong, wiry muscles she’d worked hard to train back to full strength. Jack had never seen her naked before. While it didn’t do anything for his dick, he was impressed. She noticed him staring and smirked.

Ronnie straddled Steve’s face, her thighs bracketed his head and she could reach down to grasp his cock with one slim gun-calloused hand. Steve craned his neck and her quim was tantalizingly just out of reach. “Beg for it.” Ronnie commanded, a vulpine smile curling her lips.

“— Please?” Steve squeaked out. Ronnie sat down, smothering him with herself, grinding against his face.

“That’s a good boy. Put that mouth to good use instead of talking so much.” She stretched her arms out and raked her nails over Steve’s abdomen and chest, churning her hips in tiny grinding circles. Then she beckoned to Brock who was staring at her as if she were a goddess incarnate. “Come on over pet.”

Brock sank to his knees and worshipped her breasts with his mouth, licking and nipping at her pert nipples. She wound her fingers in his hair and jerked his head back. She shivered and gasped as Steve’s tongue probed deep within her, then she asked Brock, “You want to suck his cock, don’t you pet?”

Brock nodded, his chest flushed red with arousal and his cock nearly as hard as Steve’s. “Well you don’t get to. I want you to ride him instead. Can you do that for me pet?”

Brock smirked, “Lady, that’s my superpower.” Ronnie tweaked his nose and lifted up her bottom so that Steve could take a deep shuddering breath. She sat back down.

“Well get on with it, pretty pet.”

Jack watched as Brock methodically slicked up Steve’s cock, cruelly twisting his fingers around the shaft. Two fingerfuls of alien lube and some rather frantic fingering later, Brock straddled Steve’s hips and sank down. Jack winced. He could not have done that. Brock exhaled and held out his hand for a high-five. “Oh don’t leave me hanging buddy, that was pretty impressive. Admit it.” Jack slapped his hand away and watched hypnotized by the couple riding and using Steve for their pleasure.

“I love fucking super soldiers,” Ronnie crooned into Brock’s mouth as they kissed each other, “They can really hold their breath.”

“Oh yeah, how many have you fucked Ronnie?” Brock asked.

“Three now. That’s my superpower.” She rocked her hips and moaned through another orgasm, Jack had lost count of how many she’d had. “Okay, enough for me. I come, he gets oxygen. I think it’s a fair trade.” She leaned forward into Brock’s arms, he clutched her close and she wrapped her fingers around his cock. Steve snapped his hips up and began fucking Brock in earnest.

Between Ronnie’s clever hands and Steve’s monster cock crammed up his ass, Brock was helpless. He shook and spurted, painted Ronnie’s torso with white ribbons of semen. She laughed with delight, scooped up a bit and fed it to Brock. Then she dismounted Steve, his face and hair sopping with her juices, curled up beside him and said, “Open.” Steve obeyed and Ronnie let him suck off her fingers. She gave him a tiny kiss on the cheek. “Good boy.”

Brock’s ass made a squelching, wet sound as he pulled himself off of Steve’s still ramrod hard cock. He fell over onto the air mattress and uttered, “Uncle. I give up. You got me.”

Jack examined Steve, his eyes were returning to normal, their pupils constricting. His skin tone was improved too. Jack patted Steve’s arm. “Looks like you kicked it. Congrats.”

Steve shook his head. “No… Still burning up inside! Please Jack! Please don’t make me suffer.” Jack glanced at Steve’s cock, sticky with use. It was still sort of hard. Maybe he wasn’t cured yet.

“What do you want me to do? Tell me Steve.” Jack combed back Steve’s hair from his brow, it was tacky to the touch from Ronnie' juices.

Steve fluttered his eyelashes and moaned, “Do it.”

“Do what?” Jack asked.

“F—ff—fist me.” Steve choked out.

Brock almost rolled off the air mattress in shock and Ronnie’s hand shot up. “I have small hands! I volunteer!” She bounced up and down like a student who finally knew the answer to a test question. “Pick me! Pick me!”

“Only— trust— Jack.” Steve panted and moaned a bit too theatrically. Jack felt the quiver of suspicion in the back of his mind and he decided to play along.

He picked up the gloves and put them on, snapping the cuffs for dramatic flare. “Say… mercy if you want me to stop.”

“I would never— beg for —“ Steve stammered, his dick getting harder. 

“I know. That’s why it’s a good safe word.” Jack swirled his fingers in the lube. “Now knees bent, let your legs fall apart…”

“Oooh Dr. Jack. Do me next.” Ronnie cooed. She pinched at Steve’s nipple as Jack began fingering Steve at a slow, luxurious pace.  “Remember when we did this Janice? You came so hard you soaked the bed.” Brock leaned back, yawned and observed.

“I thought we weren’t going to share our bedroom activities, Ronnie!” Janice said over the speaker, her voice garbled.

Ronnie shrugged and then paused her torment of Steve’s tits, “Are you eating something, Janice?”

“I told you I had snacks!” Captain Jack chimed in.

Jack had forgotten that they had witnesses. But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the way that Steve gave into his touch. His perfect body relaxed and opened for Jack’s hands, beckoning him in deeper. He stroked the inside of Steve’s thigh with his free hand, watched the utter bliss that transformed Steve’s face into something softer, more vulnerable. Jack felt himself harden as he held Steve’s hazy gaze.

“Beg for more, Rogers.” Jack ordered, feeling high on his control of Steve’s pleasure. “Beg for me, my darling.” He really had no idea what he was doing. Super soldiers healed fast. Steve had recovered from Jack trying to slit his fucking throat, that incident seemed years ago and miles away. If he fucked this up, well…

A new blush turned Steve’s face crimson and Jack knew. The bastard was cured, but this was the only way he could ask for what he wanted. He needed the excuse of the sex pollen to relinquish his tightly held control. Jack hooked his thumb under the stretched rim of Steve’s hole. “Trust me. Breathe sweetheart. Breathe.” Steve sighed and Jack pushed inside.

Steve shuddered like a winded stallion, Ronnie and Brock stroked his skin, massaged his limbs with light caresses and nipping kisses.

“Well, that dick isn’t going to suck itself, Brock.” Ronnie said and Brock smiled.

“Yes, ma’am.” Then he began to suckle at the purple-crimson tip of Steve’s cock as Jack curled his fingers into a fist inside. Steve howled. He bellowed in incoherent lust and Jack thought his clenching ass was going to break his wrist. After the spasms had ceased, Jack eased his hand out and peeled off the glove. His skin was mottled with fresh bruising.

“You know, next time you need someone to fist him, I’ll take a pass.” Ronnie said, her eyes wide.

“Come on babe. You better have saved some of those snacks, Janice!”

“I promise nothing!” Janice taunted.

Ronnie grabbed her clothing and tossed Brock’s at him. She vaulted the boxes, then strolled off, confident in her nudity with Brock following her, a dazed lovesick expression on his face. “I don’t know if I should punch Rumlow in the face for doing that or buy him flowers and a thank you card…” Jack heard Brock say as they sauntered down the hallway.

Jack looked up at the camera. “Turn that off now. No audio, no video. You’ve had your show.”

“Pffft. Alright alright… ALRIGHT woman! I heard—“ the connection flizzled out and ended with a small pop!

Jack climbed up on the mattress and waited with his hands folded on his belly. It took several minutes but eventually Steve turned on his side and looked at Jack though his eyelashes with clear blue eyes. He picked up Jack’s injured wrist as if it were made of glass and peered at the angry bruising. “Even in my abject submission, I have injured you.”

“Do you hear me complaining?” Jack said. “Just grateful it wasn’t my dick.” Steve curled up against Jack’s side, put his head on Jack’s chest and listened to his heart.

After a while Steve said, “When did you know?”

Jack shrugged as best he could with Steve laying on him. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll never say anything.”

Steve wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. “Of course not. I’d gut you if you did. Make Christmas decorations out of your entrails.”

Jack patted him on the shoulder. “Sure. Sure.”

“I’m sorry I let go of your hand Jack.” Steve admitted. “I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me.”

Jack sighed. There was no good time for this. “Quit beating yourself up about that. You didn’t let go. I did. And I’m sorry too— I was angry and I didn’t mean to—“

Steve rolled over, sat up and gathered his black uniform. He pushed the boxes out of his way with one mighty sweep of his arm and stalked down the corridor. Then Steve uttered one word over his shoulder at a bewildered Jack.

Mercy.

Chapter Text

“Well this is awkward.” Ronnie murmured as Steve took his ration cube from her and stomped down the hallway to whatever corner he was sulking in. It had been several days since the incident that Captain Jack called Hand Puppet Theater. He never said that around Steve though, he wasn’t stupid. Steve took his meals away from them. Away from Jack, specifically. He wouldn’t make eye contact or speak directly to Jack either. “Feels like high school.”

Brock burped Bianca on his shoulder. “I’m just happy to be breathing and not cut up into ribbons. Steve doesn’t usually take rejection well.” He glanced up at Jack, they shared a look. Jack thought about crushed blue flowers and the scent of blood. It made him queasy.

They were on the bridge while Captain Jack showed Janice how to fly the ship. She’d worn him down with constant questions and boundless enthusiasm. Finally he’d pointed at the flight chair and told her, “Sit. Listen. SHUT UP.

“Now don’t touch this button.” Captain Jack pointed at a purple glowing button.

“Why not?” Janice asked, very serious.

“Because that will vent the cargo hold and in addition to making a huge mess, will kill anyone in there. Let me repeat, huge mess.” Captain Jack’s priorities were always a bit off. Janice nodded.

“Now, this one increases thrust and this one counter thrusts. Got it?” Janice nodded again and wiped her palms on her pants. “Now you can let the whole thing go on autopilot and not worry about,” he shrugged, “Doing something stupid like warp jumping into the heart of a sun. Very bad idea. How far has your world traveled? Like a manned mission?”

“Mars.” Janice and Ronnie said.

“The Moon.” Rumlow and Brock admitted. The girls smirked and Ronnie made a tsk tsk sound under her breath.

“Savages. The lot of you.” Captain Jack yawned. “There’s no hope for a civilization that hasn’t conquered the stars—“ An alarm chimed and Captain Jack leapt to his feet. “Don’t— don’t touch anything— I gotta go!” He tripped over the vector beast as he rushed off and Murphy chittered irritably at getting punted.

Rumlow hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Wanna check that out?” He leaned against the hull and seemed quite content. The corners of his scarred eyes crinkled in amusement. “Maybe something dangerous escaped.”

Jack followed him out the door, stepping over Murphy.

“So. Still giving me the silent treatment?” Rumlow said after they were out of earshot of the others. He looked back over his shoulder and smirked. It didn’t seem like he was looking at Jack.

“No.” It was the truth. Jack just felt numb. Like he’d fucked everything up somehow. He’d gotten what he wanted. Steve didn’t even look at him now. All he’d had to do was tell the truth. “I just don’t feel like talking.” His big fat mouth had messed everything up. He was all messed up.

“Mad at me? No one got hurt. Seems like everyone got off instead.” Jack rubbed the ring of faded bruises around his wrist. The bones still ached where they had ground together. Maybe it was his penance. What was wrong with him? He should be happy!

“It’s not funny. Don’t ever pull that shit again.”

Rumlow shrugged. “No promises. You know I was bad news when you met me Jack, it’s hard to give that up.”

Jack snarled, “You were full of promises at first, weren’t you? A changed man. You wanted to be better, for me. It was bullshit, wasn’t it?”

Rumlow tapped the door panel controls. “You’re in it so deep, aren’t you? There’s Stockholm syndrome and then there’s you. I really really like you Jack, but you’ve got to grow some balls when it comes to Rogers.”

“You’re just as obsessed with him as he was with you.”

“Vicious circle, isn’t it? I thought I could give it up, try to replace it with the fluffier things like affection, sweetness, hope and unicorns.” The door opened and Rumlow stepped through. “But when you’ve only known hate and let’s be honest darling, I fucking thrived on it, nothing tastes quite as sweet as revenge.”

Rumlow and his stupid metaphors, Jack thought. “So if you had to choose between fucking Steve over and being with me?” I don’t know if I even want you now.

Rumlow paused, then turned and looked Jack dead in the eyes. “You’re a sweet kid, Jack. And I’m forever grateful that you healed me, took the time to rescue me and patch me up,” he sighed, “But, I’m just not meant for being a hero. I like causing pain.” Rumlow held out his hand. “Can I have my wedding ring back please?”

“Are you breaking up with me?” Jack stared at Rumlow’s hand, incredulous.

“Sure. Look at it like that.” Rumlow smiled fondly and Jack wanted to punch his face to a pulp. “That’ll make things easier. It’s not you. It’s me.”

Instead of punching Rumlow, Jack reached into his vest pocket and retrieved the small melted circlet of gold. He put it in Rumlow’s hand. Their fingers touched for a few moments, then Rumlow shook his head and walked down the hall towards the medbay. Jack heard him mutter, “You’re such a Cream Puff, Jackie-boy. But I won’t get to be the one that eats you up.”

Chapter Text

“Easy now. Easy.” Captain Jack helped his First Mate out of the stasis tube. He looked up at Jack and Rumlow and groaned, “Oh who the fuck invited you two?”

The First Mate squinted at them. He looked like a different man than he had before the treatment. He also looked like the man standing beside Jack. And the one on the bridge changing a diaper. He was a bit older than Jack’s BR crew, but his hair was still black as the void outside the ship. “I’m hallucinating. Right?” Jack suddenly felt invisible as the First Mate’s gaze locked on Rumlow.

Captain Jack shook his head and hid a soft affectionate smile against his shoulder. “Nah. You were already in the tank when I brought these two yahoos aboard. They helped me fix you up. So I guess I should say thank you, but I’m not gonna. Huge pains in the ass. Don’t even get me started.”

The First Mate took a moment to push his hair back out of his eyes. “Gotta love alternate universes.” Jack heard Rumlow’s breath hitch at the motion. Fuuuuck. It was just like watching Ronnie and Brock size each other up back on the mats. The whole lot of them lived to fuck themselves. Jack rolled his eyes.

“Figured that you’d enjoy yourself. Heh. See that was a pun—“ Captain Jack patted his friend on the leg.

The First Mate grimaced. “Yes, yes I know what that was. You look like you’ve seen some shit youngster.” He leaned forward and rested his tattooed muscular arms on his thighs. Pure peacock and Rumlow was eating it all up with a spoon.

Rumlow pointed at his face and tilted his head, “Was it my complexion that clued you in?”

“Nah. Your eyes. Always looking for an exit. I was like that too before this jerk took me on board.” He elbowed Captain Jack in the side affectionally.

“You two together?” Rumlow asked, his tone carefully blasé.

The First Mate contorted his face in disgust. “Ew. Gross. No.” He elbowed his friend again and laughed. “Never. I don’t think he even bathes.

Captain Jack smirked and returned the jab to his ribs. “Oh fuck you, I spend countless hours, years even trying to save your ungrateful ass and you still won’t even consider banging me.” It seemed to be an old joke between them, as easy as breathing.

“I got sick because of that crate of Irtellian pornography that you insisted on stowing in the mess hall. I hope you’ve gotten rid of it instead of exposing all of them to the shriveling sickness!”

Captain Jack scratched absently at his beard stubble. “Um? Yeah. I think I did. I was distracted, okay? So yeah, best mates, not fuck buddies.”

“I thought you were in love or something?” Jack asked, more than a bit confused. It was his normal state of being and curiously comforting.

“Ha! In love. What kind of fucked up world do you come from where we would be in love?” The First Mate guffawed, but he stopped when he saw the stricken expression on both of their faces. “Oh, dude, sorry— did I? You two weren’t— I really stepped in it didn’t I?”

Rumlow shrugged, played it cool. “I was married to another Jack Rollins. He’s dead. And we’re ancient history. Aren’t we, Jack?”

Jack swallowed. “— I guess so.”

The First Mate shook his head and flexed a bit while stretching his cramped muscles. “Man that is awkward as fuck. Why don’t you go back to the bridge and fly the fucking ship? That is your job, right? Piloting.” Captain Jack snorted in response. His friend pointed at Rumlow, “And you stay a while. Have some hot caf. I’ve got stories to tell and I need a fresh ear to bend.” Two brilliant white smiles in tandem. Jack felt ill at their immediate rapport.

“I’m not going to suck your dick.” Rumlow put his hand on his cocked hip and smirked.

“Well, I’m not going to suck yours either. Not until you tell me your name, gorgeous. I’m not that easy.” There were winks. God help him, there were winks.

“Same as yours.” Rumlow sat down beside the First Mate.

“That’s not going to do at all. What’s your call sign? Mine’s Bones. You are on a pirate ship after all. I remember the first time I got trapped on a Kanjiklub freighter smuggling a whole herd of Banthas in heat!”

Captain Jack mercifully took Jack by the arm and led him out of the med bay.

“He means a lot to you, doesn’t he?” Jack said after a while.

“More than he’ll ever know.” Captain Jack said wistfully and then he quickly covered up his momentary lapse of bravado. “It’s not a bad thing to have someone return your affection. But what do I know? I’ve only been pining for centuries. It’s more like a dull ache in my balls now, like when you haven’t jacked off for a few days and things are getting really pent up but you’ve got this holotype that is just smoking hot and you want to save—“

Jack murmured, “I don’t think I have anyone who loves me right now.”

Captain Jack buzzed his lips, a rude wet sound. “So you’re blind and deaf, as well as stupid. Good to know. There’s not a person on this ship that’s not ridiculously fond of you. Well maybe Bones, but that’s because you look like me and that’s too much hotness for his pea-sized brain to handle. But he’ll come around. You’re just that kind of person.” He clapped Jack on the shoulder and guffawed. “Bet it’s a real pain in the ass to be that popular.”

“Yeah.” Literally.

Captain Jack hugged him about the shoulders. It had been a while since he’d bathed, Jack thought. “Come on. Let’s go make some money. That always makes me happy. Credits, credits and more credits. Gotta pay off the AutoDoc.”

“Are we selling this junk?”

“Nah. Selling your sex tape.” Captain Jack have him another squeeze as Jack gasped in shock. “Told you I owe a lot of credits from fixing up your buddies.”

“Already have fifty bids. But I’ve been waiting for number fifty-one. There we go. You stubborn sonvabitch.” He looked at a data pad on his wrist. “Huh. He’s requested a specific delivery boy. Can’t really remember what happened to the last one I hired.” Captain Jack shrugged and gave Jack a third squeeze. “Can’t be helped. Thanks Jack, you’re a peach. A swell peach.”

“They want me to deliver it?” Jack squeaked out.

“He’s not going alone.” Steve said from behind them.

Captain Jack’s mouth fell open. Then he hollered, “Where the fuck did you come from? Were you hiding in the rafters just so you could drop down for dramatic effect?”

Steve didn’t answer those questions, instead he said, “I’ll go with you, Jack. You have a tendency to be captured easily.”

“You were in the ventilation system then. Unless you sprinted over, vaulted over those crates, grabbed the pipes and waited until you could really make an entrance—“ Captain Jack was babbling now.

Steve did have a good point, so Jack made a choice. “Okay. Come with me Steve.” They could always jump if things got hairy. And if Jack was being honest, it felt good to have Steve talking to him again.

“Or were you in the storage closet that we just passed? I NEED TO KNOW.” Captain Jack pleaded.

Steve raised an eyebrow and said, “Trade secret.”

Chapter Text

Captain Jack dropped them off in a shuttle about two clicks away from the meeting spot. He saluted them as the shuttle bay doors closed, “It’s been nice knowing you boys! Oh I’m kidding. Stop looking at me like that.” Jack and Steve watched the shuttle take off and they stood in silence on an alien planet, in the middle of nowhere. Neither of them wanted to be the first to speak.

Jack took the data crystal out of his pocket, it glimmered purple and blue in the sunlight. “How much do you think he got for this?” Jack murmured.

“Not as much as he got for selling us out.” Steve gritted his teeth.

Jack looked up and saw that they were surrounded by robots, obviously heavily armed. Jack and Steve raised their hands in surrender. “FOLLOW. Zzzzt!” One of the robots ordered, Jack and Steve obeyed.

“Stay close.” Steve hissed. “I need you.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.” Jack took stock of their surroundings as they were loaded onto a transport. “Stop being so soppy about it.”

 

Jack looked down at his binders and then over at Steve’s. They were fools to cuff Steve’s hands in front of his body. Every muscle in his body was tensed, ready to strike. They hadn’t found his vibranium blade either, it didn’t show up on their scanners. Small blessings.

They knelt on the floor of what looked like an administrative office. It reminded Jack of the top floors of the Triskelion where Director Pierce would conduct business, all steel and glass. It was odd that the people who had the most to hide insisted on blatant transparency in their working environments.

Robots, no they called the machines droids here, flanked the door. The door opened with a smooth pneumatic hiss and Jack blinked in surprise.

A man who looked like Steve’s twin strode into the room. He was clad in a severe black uniform with a high collar beneath his chin. Slim knee-high black patent boots clung to his calves. His shoulders were not as broad as Steve’s, not serum enhanced. He looked like the boy in Brooklyn could have with adequate nutrition and healthcare, but not the pinnacle of human perfection. He met Steve’s matching blue eyes. Steve sniffed in derision and Jack felt like kicking him. The man’s eyes narrowed and Jack knew they were in for a lot more pain and suffering than they had been before that sniff.

A figure clad in tattered black robes followed. They were wearing a grotesque mask. They stood behind the blonde man, silent. A bodyguard or an enforcer. Possibly both.

“Introductions are in order. I am the Galactic Sector President. Alexander Grant Hux. You are strangers to me, even though your genetic markers and faces are very familiar.” The President stood with his gloved hands clasped behind his back.

“Steve. That’s Jack.” Steve sighed, “But if you watched the recording then you already knew that.”

“Indeed. It is curious how much we resemble each other physically.” Alexander leaned over and peered at Steve, cataloging his flaws and strengths.

“I don’t think we look much like each other at all. I’m much, much bigger.” Steve grinned up at his twin. That earned him a ringing slap across the face. Red tinged his even wider grin, he sucked on his teeth and purred, “Oh you thought I was talking about my dick? Can’t help that I was blessed by God and science.” The two men stared at each other, predators who couldn’t allow the other to be superior.

Eventually, the President straightened up and returned to his parade stance. “I didn’t purchase your acquaintance to compare and contrast our similarities and short-comings. You are in possession of something I desire. Something precious. Asgardian technology.”

Not again, Jack thought. That tattoo would be the death of him.

“The Asgardians are a long dead race, but traces of their science, of their magic, still linger. And I am willing to do anything to possess it.”

Alexander addressed Steve, “You appear to be made of durasteel. Pain does not phase you, threats and cajoling are equally ineffective.” Steve shrugged in agreement. Alexander’s slight smile made the hair stand up on the back of Jack’s neck. 

“So, I shall turn my attention to your friend here. Hello Jack.” Alexander wound his gloved fingers in Jack’s hair, pulled back his head and exposed Jack’ throat. He traced the scar on Jack’s chin and narrowed his eyes to slits. “Did you enjoy your role in my attempted humiliation? You were very enthusiastic in your performance. You’re pretty enough, damaged though. I do like my toys to be less perfect than myself. Perhaps I’ll keep you as a plaything.”

Steve lurched forward and was stopped as if he’d impacted an invisible wall. His nose bled in a slow tickle and he promised, “If you hurt him, I will kill you.” A forcefield? So that’s why they were bound so casually.

Alexander caressed Jack’s face in a parody of sensual affection. “Oh, I’m not going to hurt him. My associate will.” He released Jack and the man clad in black stepped forward. “Take what I need from them. Do not be gentle with the mouthy one.”

“Yes, my Master.” His voice was electrically distorted by the grotesque mask. Jack and Steve lurched to their feet, hauled upward by invisible hands. They hung in the air, suspended by nothing.

“What the fuck is he?” Jack whispered in terror, securely bound, no matter how he thrashed.

“Do you not know of the Jedi? You will know soon enough.” Alexander glanced down at a data pad on his desk. “Unrest in the Correllian sector again. Pardon me, gentlemen. There is no rest for the Presidency. Scrape them of their secrets.”

Chapter Text

 

The enforcer planted his gloved hand upon Jack’s forehead.  It felt like electricity ran up and down his spine, he gasped in shock. Ice and heat flared in all his muscles and nerves. It felt like he was being turned inside out and a gibbering whimper escaped his lips.

“Jack!” Steve cried out, unable to move. He strained against his invisible bonds, muscles tensed and bulging. Alexander thumbed through his datapad, nonplussed. He wasn’t even paying attention to them as he went through the mundane minutiae of government. Jack couldn’t spare the moment to hate him.

Submit. The voice in his mind could not be denied. It crept into the crevices of his brain, rooted around and splayed his memories open. Show me your secrets.

It felt like fingers were rifling through the pages of his mind, flipping back and forth. They stopped suddenly and in Jack’s mind there was a memory. The cabin with Rumlow and Steve. The first time he had met Steve. The pain was sharp and as real as yesterday. He smelled blood, tasted bile in his throat, felt his broken nose, dislocated shoulder, the carvings in his skin and the pummeling, punishing rape. Tears streamed down Jack’s face and Steve redoubled his efforts to break free.

More searches through his mind, the intruder paused on memories of the oddest things. Kisses in the AutoDoc. Sleeping in the girls’ Triskelion. The bathroom on Purge Night. It seemed like the interrogator was looking more for emotions and feelings than concrete facts. The search paused. Drawing sessions. The fuckpile on the ship, Jack staring at Steve with infinite fondness in his heart as he writhed on his cock.

What do you feel for this man who has caused you so much pain? Jack sagged against whatever was holding him up and let the enforcer see what lay inside his heart. No barriers, no lies or justifications. Pure emotion, conflicting and harmonizing.

How can this be? The man in black recoiled as if his hand was burnt from the heat of Jack’s feelings. Jack fell to the floor, seizing, ghosts of his past pain still haunting his skin.

“Problems?” Alexander asked with mild interest, his leg crossed over his knee. He didn’t look up from his datapad.

“—No. They are not of this world. I will need— time.” The  mechanical voice stammered.

“Mmhm. Don’t take too long. Oh, and find out where their pickup location was scheduled for so we can blast that pesky pirate once and for all.”

Steve snarled as the man reached for his forehead, snapped at him with his teeth like a tethered, desperate beast. Jack watched helpless as Steve thrashed in pain. He panted on the floor, unable to form words after his violation.

“I— will— destroy you.” Steve promised before his jaw chattered too hard to form words. His face distorted with agony, the binders on his wrists strained and creaked ominously. Then he relaxed. A bizarre expression of contentment softened his chiseled features and Jack was terrified. Steve fell to the floor beside Jack, limp.

“Steve!” Jack whispered, he shook the super soldier with his bound hands. Steve looked up at him with glazed blue eyes. Jack glared at the man in black, unspoken menace promised in his eyes. He’d never met such a mysterious, powerful foe, but the urge to protect, to save his lover was stronger than his self-preservation instinct. To be honest, self-preservation was never Jack’s strongest characteristic. It explained a lot about his love life. “Don’t you touch him!”

The interrogator waved his hand dismissively and knelt in front of them both. He stretched out his arms and laid hands on Steve and Jack, then he gripped them tightly. Suddenly Jack felt an outpouring of desire, affection, lust and possession pour into his soul, it trickled through his mind and pooled low in his gut. It felt familiar, it felt like— Steve.

This is your chance to escape. Jack felt his cock swell and his head swam with desire. It was delirious, intoxicating. It was Steve. Steve funneled through the stranger, concentrated and flooding through every cell of Jack’s body.

Light flared from his tattoo, Steve chanted the traveling phrase and as Jack gave into unspeakable bliss they were falling… falling… falling…

 

They landed with a thud in the middle of the Hydra’s bridge. “Jesus Christ!” Janice swore in the pilot’s seat as she rubbed her eyes. “Give a girl some warning!” Jack groaned as Steve rolled off of him.

Captain Jack was seated in the co-pilot’s seat, his booted feet propped up on the dash of the ship. He stretched out his arms overhead. “Told you we didn’t need to pick them up, Jan. Nice to see you again boys. You certainly took your sweet time getting back. Was the Prez a good host? I’ve never enjoyed the parties he threw me, but there’s a first time for every—”

The man in black stood up from behind Steve’s bulk and Captain Jack turned pale. He reached for his blaster and with shaking hands, aimed it at the interrogator’s head. The man in black flicked his finger and the blaster flew away from Captain Jack’s hands and he said, “Oh fuck.

“He helped us escape.” Jack explained from the floor. It felt good to stay on the floor with his rapidly cooling semen-wet pants. Gross.

“Do you know who this is?” Captain Jack wheezed. Steve and Jack shook their heads and Janice shrugged. “You morons brought back the last Sith! A Dark Lord? Destroyer of the Jedi?  Genocidal maniac? BIG BAD FUCKING BAD GUY!?” His voice got comically high in his distress.

The Sith flicked the fasteners on his helmet, they hissed as the pressure equalized. Everyone unconsciously held their breath as he took off the grotesque mask.

It was a familiar face to Steve and Jack. Familiar even under the mop of long dark brown hair and an angry red scar that crossed his cheekbone and nasal bridge.

“Bucky fucking Barnes.” Jack said, he propped himself up on his elbows. Steve was shocked and speechless. “I should be surprised, but I’m not. I’m just not anymore.”

Janice frowned for a moment, but brightened. “Ah! Ours was called Becky.” She waggled her fingers at the newcomer. He looked confused at the gesture, then returned it. “Thanks for bringing back Jack and the big guy. Take the wheel, Captain. I’ll find the new guy some quarters.”

“I don’t think you understand Jan—“ Captain Jack stammered. “What part of bad, bad very very BAD don’t you understand?”

Janice appraised the young man standing in front of her. “Do you want to hurt us? Because I’ve got a baby on board and a bunch of people currently having a disgusting orgy that I love in spite of my better judgement and I won’t tolerate anyone trying to hurt them.” She crossed her arms and waited.

“I do not want to hurt anyone. Anymore.” He held Janice’s gaze and Jack found himself holding his breath.

“Well then, that’s good enough for me. What do I call you?” She held out her hand and he took it, she shook it and they smiled.

“— Winter. My name is Winter.” 

Chapter Text

 

Janice escorted Winter down the winding hallways like she’d lived there her whole life. He watched her curiously as if it were a new experience to be with someone who was not remotely afraid or intimidated by him. She pointed at the floor, “And don’t step there, something spilled and I think it might be sentient. I heard it whistling. Swear to God, there’s some freaky shit on this ship.”

A hint of a smile curled on the Sith’s lips. “Indeed.”

Jack caught Steve by the elbow and held him back in the hallway. When they were out of earshot Jack snapped his fingers and said, “Hey! Are you in there? Earth to Captain HYDRA.” Steve jerked as if startled out of a daydream. He blinked and ran his hand through his hair, then leaned against the hull.

“I— I— I’ve never felt so helpless, Jack. And I’m only telling you that—“ Jack grabbed his shoulder and then threw caution to the wind and pulled Steve into his arms. They slid down the hull wall and Steve leaned into Jack’s embrace. “He showed me every terrible thing I’d ever done to you. And I’m a bastard.” 

Jack nodded. “I got a repeat of your greatest hits too.”

“That’s why you were sobbing, wasn’t it? I knew it. No one can make you suffer as much as I can. As much as I have.”

“Why were you smiling at the end?”

“He showed me, fuck him, he showed me what I have to fight for. Kept saying some shit about Light hiding in the Dark. I couldn’t understand him, but I could feel what he was showing me. It felt like you. It felt like you, Jack. How can you feel like that after everything that I’ve done to you?”

“Stupid I guess. Are you going to say anything about his face?” Steve’s hair smelled sickly with sweat, it reminded Jack of the Brooklyn tenement where he had tampered with the past and sealed their futures. “He looks just like Bucky Barnes. But that scar—“ Jack paused, “Why would you keep that on your face if you had the ability to make it go away? They have the AutoDocs. They can fix damn near anything.”

“Two reasons. You want to keep it, to show it off as a warning or boast. Or— Or someone made you keep it as a punishment. As a warning to everyone that no matter how powerful you are, someone else holds your leash.” Steve wound his fingers in Jack’s shirt. “My Barnes is decapitated. I remember the way his spine felt under the edge of my blade as I ended him for good. He was just a man. This one? This one is something else. He feels fractured.” 

“I don't understand, Jack. He apologized to me in my mind. Not for making me hurt, but for looking like the Barnes that consumed so much of my life. He’s really strong Jack, stronger than I’ve ever dreamt of being, but there’s something wrong there. He's wrong like I am, I guess.” He tried to push away, but Jack stopped him. “Listen to me. Babbling away like a woman. I broke your rules and forgot that you don’t want me to touch you—“

Jack stopped Steve’s words with a deft touch on Steve’s pink lips. “I forgive you. Now let me kiss you, you complete asshole.” For a moment, nothing mattered except the feeling of their lips pressed against each others. Steve’s embrace tightened until Jack fought for breath.

“Get off me, need to breathe you bastard—“

“Never letting you go…” Steve murmured against Jack’s lips. “Till death do us part.” He relaxed his clench and Jack inhaled.

“Oh shut up.” Jack rested his forehead against Steve’s. “Man, what’s Brock going to think when that guy walks in on his orgy?”

Steve snickered, “I gotta see that.”

"Get off the floor you morons." Janice barked, her arms crossed. "Didn't you hear me when I was talking about the spillage? Don't blame me if your asses start to mutate!" She rolled her eyes at Steve’s sassy salute.

Winter stared blankly at them and Janice rubbed the back of her neck. “Sorry ‘bout that. They’re like horny dogs. Need a water hose and shouting to make them stop humping. Now as I was saying,” she casually touched his left arm to guide him, “This way to the mess hall, take a left at the shrieking eels and then a right.” Winter looked at her hand in bewilderment and Jack had the sudden realization that no one had touched Winter voluntarily in a very long time.

“Come on Steve.” Jack tugged Steve upwards. Steve copped a feel as Jack stood and Jack grimaced at him.

“Sorry. Old habits. Tight ass.” It was good to see him smile, but Jack was going to have finger print bruises on his butt after that grab. The more things changed…   

Chapter Text

Janice pounded on the mess hall door. “Okay! We’ve got a newbie! Cover up your junk, I don’t need to see that shit!” Jack stayed about two steps away from Winter, there was an odor about him that he couldn’t quite place, but it was unpleasant. His brain was obviously recovering from fight or flight and he felt exhausted. All he wanted to do was to climb into bed and pass out for a few days.

Steve put his hand on the small of Jack’s back and rubbed his thumb in small, gentle circles. Jack sighed. He’d get sleep after the inevitable make up sex.

The door opened and Brock poked his head out of the crack. There was something pink dripping down his face. Steve reached out and sampled the goo with his finger, licked it and said, “You’re supposed to eat the synth-goop, not use it as pomade.”

“Oh fuck you! The gravity in the mess malfunctioned and everything went to shit after Janice locked us in here to work off some of our sexual tension!” He scowled and Janice looked a bit guilty at the mention of the gravity. “Bruised my knees on the fucking ceiling—“ he stopped in mid rant as he saw Winter. His face crumpled as he remembered what that face had done to him. Brock quickly recovered and demanded, “Who is that?”

Janice patted Winter on the shoulder, the strange man flinched at her touch. “This is Winter. He helped Jack and Steve escape. You know how they’re always picking up strays, dear.” Brock chewed on his lip and looked from Jack to Steve for confirmation. They nodded. He turned and walked back into the room without another word.

The mess hall quite literally lived up to its name. Ration containers were scattered everywhere, crates of random crap haphazardly upended. “This is the worst orgy ever.” Steve quipped as he scraped something sticky off his heel.

“Tell me about it.” Bones grimaced, both he and Rumlow were covered in something blue and gooey. “It’s almost like we were sabotaged…” He shot Janice a glare.

“Who knows? This ship is a junk heap.” Janice didn’t give an inch. “Hope you all got some of your sexual tension out of the way before we add a new crew member.” Winter stepped out from behind Steve. It was odd how he so easily stepped into the shadows, blended in. Steve was built like a brick wall though, so pretty much anyone could lurk there if Steve permitted it.

Bones didn’t bother with the introduction, he whipped out a blaster hidden under a tabletop and shot at Winter. The bolt of blue energy hovered, shivered and was suspended in mid air. “Sith!” Bones spat.

Winter lifted up a crate with his powers and let the blaster bolt crash harmlessly into it. The silence in the room was broken by the wail of a baby. An angry baby. Ronnie walked in as she patted Bianca on the bottom and cooed.

“Quit it! You’re disturbing the baby! She’s never been like this. I do not know what’s wrong with her.” Bianca’s face was squished up and red, tears leaking from her eyes. Jack had no clue what to do between the weirdo magician and the crying kid.

Winter cocked his head to the side and held out his hand, Ronnie finally noticed him and hugged Bianca tightly. Brock and Janice edged close, ready to hurl themselves in front of the mother and child. Winter closed his eyes and in a dreamy tone proclaimed,  “Her ear is infected. She needs medical attention. And soon, she will have teeth.” He opened his blue eyes and asked, “May I go to my quarters now?”

“You can bunk with us.” Jack said. “Rumlow can stay with Bones. You okay with that?” It didn’t really matter, someone had to offer and the strange man had saved their lives.

“You better not talk in your sleep,” Steve muttered and Jack bruised his elbow on Steve’s armored ribs. “Fiiiine. This way.” As they left the room, Steve said loudly, “It’s kinda refreshing to not be the only person in a room everyone else is scared shitless of.”

 

“This is my side of the bed. You can have the floor if you want.” Steve proclaimed as he kicked off his boots and stretched out languidly on the bunk. “I still have no idea why you wanted to come with us but as long as you don’t snore or talk in your sleep we’ll get along just fine.” Steve’s bravado was comforting in its normalcy.

Winter nodded, his lank hair hung in his face.  “I am used to the floor.” Something about the resignation in his voice rubbed Jack the wrong way and his protective urges swelled up. 

“I know where we can get an air mattress. Might have to hose it off first though.” Jack rubbed the back of his neck. “Do you want a shower?”

Steve put his hands behind his head. An innocent pose unless you knew that one of his vibranium blade sheathes were nestled between his shoulders. “You smell of blood. And death. Not the usual scent, not all human blood or death.” His lids were heavy as he observed the newcomer.

Jack cringed. Steve was not subtle. “Yeah. That’s why I offered the shower option.”

“I don’t mind the smell of either.” Steve’s nostrils flared and he sniffed.

“I know.” Winter looked back at Steve.

“I mind.” Jack said, as he sat on the edge of the bunk.

“I know that too.” Winter didn’t stop looking at Steve. The cobra and the mongoose.

“You seem to know a lot of things. How about you tell us why you decided to run away? Seemed like you had a pretty sweet deal, being the President’s muscle and all. I mean, I’d get bored of it pretty quick myself. I don’t like taking orders from people less perfect than I am.”

Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose in exasperation. “Steve, do you even hear yourself talking sometimes?”

Steve shrugged. “Most of the time I’m the only one with anything interesting to say.”

“You are both very interesting.” Winter volunteered after a long pause. He sank down into a cross-legged pose and sat on the floor.

It forced Steve to adjust his posture to keep his sight-line and Steve yawned theatrically as he did so. It was ridiculous.  “No, really? Tell me more about myself.”

“You were made into a weapon against your will and you reclaimed yourself.” The staring contest between the two men intensified and Jack frowned. It was like he didn’t exist and normally he was fine with that, but if either of them tried to attack the other… Jack knew he wasn’t fast enough to intervene.

“Went poking around there, did you? Find anything else interesting?” Steve licked his lips.

“You were broken by a man who wore my face. He did unspeakable torments to you and yet, you invite me to your quarters.”

“I make bad choices on the regular.”

“No shit, Steve.” Jack grumbled.

Steve leaned forward on the bunk, “The guy who fucked me over, did you see what happened to him? Did you get a real close look?” His voice lowered into a growl.

“Yes.” Winter said. “He was over-confident and lost his head.”

Steve clicked his tongue and fired a finger gun at Winter. “Bingo. You seem to be a smart fellow. Weird as all hell, but smart. I can hear your heartbeat, you’ve been telling the truth. That’s why you’re not smeared into a shitstain on the deck.”

The corner of Winter’s mouth quirked in amusement.“You think that you could do that?”

“I’m confident in my abilities. You were inside my head. You saw my countless kills. I don’t lie. I don’t have to.”

“You do lie.” Steve raised an eyebrow and Winter continued, “You count every single one of your kills. You know all of their faces and they often visit you in your dreams.” Jack gripped the bedding in his fists in anticipation of Steve lashing out.

Steve laughed, a short sharp bark of derision. “— Yeah! So I can laugh at them for being dead!” He laughed again, loud and long.

“Another l—“ Winter began, but Jack cut him off. Steve stopped pretending to laugh and listened intently.

“So! What was so interesting about me? I’m nothing special. Just a regular human.” Jack pointed at his chest. “Was it my sniper skills?”

“You possess a strange talent.” Winter cocked his head to the side. It was unnerving to be the focus of that steel blue gaze.

“Yeah, the tattoo is Asgardian. I got it trying to be a hero.” Steve sniffed at that. “You saw the whole thing, thanks for making me relive that shit by the way.”

“That is not your talent.” Winter shook his head. “You bring people together, change their lives.” He waved his hand and in a dreamy tone explained, “Your Light is very bright. Yet you still let in the Dark and cherish it. It is very strange.”

“Winter? What is a Sith?” Jack asked.

“The past.” Winter said and looked at the floor. He began to undress and Jack looked away, then turned his back. Obviously personal space and privacy wasn’t a concern in this universe. Not even in their own minds.

The door opened and Captain Jack sauntered in without warning, tossing the compacted air mattress cube in his hand. “I was just passing by on my way to the crapper, so I just thought I’d make sure no one was dead or planning to slaughter my crew. You know, typical day on the Hydra.” 

“Do you have every room bugged or just ours?” Jack asked, annoyed.

“Oh, sometimes I have trouble sleeping and the sound of you two bickering puts me right out. I’m old and set in my ways and what the hell are you wearing son?” That was directed to Winter and Jack turned back around. Ratty black stained robes pooled around the man’s ankles. A bronze collar curled and wound in intricate swirls about his neck. A loincloth of thin red silk hung from a girdle of metal around his trim waist. The effect was provocative, erotic and Jack swallowed hard.

“My clothes.” Winter said in a small voice.

“Those are not clothes.” Captain Jack was more serious than Jack had ever seen, not a hint of his irreverent humor.

“If he wants to wear a dress, let him wear a dress.” Steve said, enjoying the view. “He’s got great legs—“

Captain Jack snapped at Steve. “That is Hutt slave garb.” He turned on his heel and stomped off, “I’ll go get you some proper clothing boy.” The door closed behind him.

Steve slunk off the bed, he circled Winter and then tapped on the collar. “This is pretty. Does it chafe?” He lifted up the edge of the metal, the flesh of Winter’s neck was red and abraded, the touch made Winter flinch. Steve smiled at that small display of weakness. “There are words engraved here. What do they say?”

“Property of Alexander Grant Hux.” Winter whispered in shame. A flush of red spread across his cheeks.

“Why haven’t you taken it off? You’re free now.” Jack didn’t find the costume erotic at all, once he understood the implications.

“It is made of Force resistant— I am not strong enough to break it.” Winter interlaced his fingers, the knuckles blanched white with tension.

Steve leaned in close, spoke with his lips almost brushing the Sith’s ear. “So you’re telling me that you can do all this crazy shit, but you can’t take off your dog collar?”

“—Yes.” Winter swallowed and sighed.

“Well good thing you met me.” Steve grinned and flicked the collar with his finger. “Because all I am is strength.

Chapter Text

 

The door opened and Captain Jack entered with an armful of clothing. Bones followed him and when he saw Winter, he swore under his breath. “Fucking Hutts.” Then he unconsciously rubbed at his throat.

“What are Hutts?” Jack asked.

“An unfortunate part of our line of business. They’re slavers. Kidnap folks, make them into sex slaves. Gladiatorial combat. Sell them to the highest bidder. Shit like that. They have a lot of credits to back up their threats and the right amount of money will buy you anything in this galaxy.”

“You’ve got a grudge against them.” Steve said.

Bones shot Steve a glare, “You might fucking say that.” Then he returned his attention to the collar and girdle. “You know there’s got to be a transmitter in there somewhere.”

“Yup.” Captain Jack put the clothing on the bunk. He carefully approached Winter. “So, we’re going to get this off of you. Pick out what you want to wear. We’ll figure out what to do with you later.”

“So, laser pick? Maybe the shears?” Bones squinted at the collar. “Don’t want it to heat up and burn him. Same with the shock nodes.”

“Yeah. Looks like they changed the construction on the lock. Bastards.” Captain Jack concurred. “This might take a while.” Winter stared at the wall, Jack wasn’t sure if he was even aware of what was going on around him or if he was so used to being the center of attention that it no longer phased him.

Bones gritted his teeth, “That’s time we don’t have. It’s broadcasting our location as we speak and this old girl can’t take on a Star Destroyer.”

“Oh please.” Steve rolled his eyes, reached out and with deft fingers snapped the collar in half. The pieces fell to the floor with an anticlimactic thud. Winter trembled violently and his hands rose to the skin of his throat, they fluttered like doves. He closed his wet eyes as he touched his own unencumbered skin. Steve placed his hands on top of Winter’s, their fingers encircled his throat. “That’s much better, isn’t it?” Steve’s thumb stroked a patch of pale flesh as Winter gasped.

Jack coughed and Steve glanced over at him. Then he smiled. “Peaches doesn’t like it when I touch other toys, even ones as pretty as you.”

Steve dragged the back of his fingers down Winter’s flank, the nails scratching without leaving a mark and broke the girdle metal. Captain Jack caught up the red silk before it fell to the ground, he pulled Winter’s hand down from his neck and put the fistful of silk in it.

Jack raised an eyebrow at the unusual display of gallantry. “Huh. Thought you were always up for a free show.”

Captain Jack said gruffly, “It’s his choice when he wants to show that now.” He glared at Steve. “His choice. You got that?”

Steve held up his hands in mock surrender, he pursed his lips in a small pout. “I’m wounded by your implication of impropriety.” He picked up a pair of trousers, a thin red line striped with black ran down the side of the leg and a white shirt with an open collar. “These look like they’ll fit. Let me guess, they were yours before you got all,” Steve patted his flat belly and smirked at Captain Jack. “Comfortable.

“You are an utter twat. Yeah, my old clothes.” Captain Jack said to Winter, “Do you want some privacy? I can make these nerfherders leave—“

“No!” Winter exclaimed, raising his voice for the first time since they had met. He wound the silk in his fingers. “I want them to stay.” Steve’s smirk widened and Jack knew he was going to have his hands full keeping this new distraction out of Steve’s hands. It wasn’t like they could play cards or anything normal like that.

Bones picked up the bits of metal, poked at the shredded remains of sensors and sighed, “He snapped it right in half. No signal now. We’d better make a jump to hyperspace, get away from these coordinates and find some backwater to lay low in. Who haven’t you pissed off while I was out?”

Captain Jack scratched his head. “Umm. I might need to think about that.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Just fantastic.” As they left the quarters Jack heard Bones say under his breath, “I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. But I know this for a fact, even a Sith doesn’t deserve what the Hutts do.”

When the door shut, Winter collapsed. He fell to his hands and knees. Jack sprang from the bed and Winter allowed himself to be gathered into Jack’s arms. His body shook with wracking sobs of relief and Jack felt the dizzying euphoria of Winter’s release leach out and wash over him in swells of unchecked emotion. Winter’s tears soaked the front of Jack’s shirt and they rocked back and forth on the metal floor, Jack stroked Winter’s unkempt hair and made soothing noises.

Steve sat on the bunk and watched. A flush of red crept up his throat and his nostrils flared. “What is that feeling? It’s not mine. How are you doing that?”

“I— apologize.” Winter sniffed against Jack’s chest. “I usually control that— better.”

“Oh I think you get a pass today, but now I have a special surprise for Jack when he wants it.” The leer in Steve’s voice left no question as to what this gift was. Steve held out his hands and after a moment, both Jack and Winter took them. He pulled them up with him upon the bed. “Right now, I bet you both really want a nap. I’ll watch over you. I’m the biggest, baddest and scariest thing on this ship, once again.”

Winter curled his nakedness into Jack. “Big spoon, huh?” Jack smiled and let the near stranger put his hands where he wanted. Jack heard a strange, faint whirring like tiny motors, but he dismissed the sound as something coming from the ship.

“Don’t get used to that,” Steve said mildly and he pulled the blanket over them. He lowered the lights in the room and sat on a crate across from the bunk.

Jack did his best to think of positive thoughts, happy memories. He wasn’t sure how this Force thing worked, but Winter seemed to be empathic, feeding on emotions and will. Jack got a whiff of his hair. He still needed that shower, but Jack had smelled worse. That bathroom on Purge Night for one.

He glanced over Winter’s shoulder. Steve was staring at them, his eyes glittered as they caught the glow of the environmental controls. Jack couldn’t read his expression, so he gave up and closed his own eyes, lulled into sleep by sheer exhaustion and the sound of Winter’s heartbeat.

Chapter Text

 

Yes my apprentice, rage, hate, destruction lead to power. Power in the Dark Side. Together we will bring down the fragile hypocritical Jedi order and establish the true path of the Force. Jack heard a soothing voice, slithering within the recesses of his brain. It was speaking utter gibberish.

You see the way they look at you. They do not know what to do with you. With your pain. Lost, lonely child. I will guide you to true power. All you need do is surrender to my wisdom. I will show you the true path to power. This wasn’t Jack’s dream. No one had ever spoken to him like this. How could he be in another person’s dream—?

I am proud of you, my apprentice. You have grown in power beyond their meek ways. No one can stop you. I have enlisted the help of a man. He is not Gifted in the Force, but he is useful to our cause. When the Jedi elders travel to meet with him, none shall return. You shall be the oldest, the most experienced. They shall all come to you, looking for guidance… A flash of red. The impression of violence. Savagery. The droning hum of a weapon. Pain slashed across the dreamer’s face. So many limp bodies, tiny bodies. There should be more blood, rivers of blood for this much death.

Then the sudden snap! A lost connection, a severed tether that anchored the dreamer’s reality. There was no more Master to whisper praise and platitudes, to coo poison into their ears. The dreamscape churned and swirled, the dreamer fell into an abyss of despair, black disillusionment melded with terror and the clamp of a collar about— Winter’s neck— it was his dream, no it was his memories.

Endless hands groped and probed him. Jack felt like retching as alien appendages forced their way inside his mouth, plunged away inside of him. The days and nights blurred together and one thought rang out, clear and precise.

I deserve all of this.

A hand seized Jack’s chin, wrenched it up. Alexander. “There you are. My little lost Sith. I’ve been looking for you. Now I own you and unless you want to come back here to this charming brothel, you’ll do as I say.” His left arm ached. It shouldn’t ache.

It doesn’t matter. You cannot change the past. You can only relive it. This is my penance. I deserve this. Winter’s voice was small, broken and resigned.

No! Jack screamed, he wanted to lash out. But it wasn’t his dream, it wasn’t his memory so he was powerless to change the outcome.

There is power in despair, I was told. I have long since lost the passion that rage or even hatred requires. I am the last, Jedi or Sith. When you are alone, nothing matters.

Jack felt himself drown in the despair and sadness and he floundered, grabbing about for anything to anchor himself. A small light in the dark, he swam towards it. A casserole, of all things, bubbled away in the oven. Sunlight streamed in the kitchen window, warmed Jack’s face. Strong arms curled about his waist and Steve silently held him. They enjoyed the silent peace of the moment. No fighting, no death, no destruction.

I never had this. Winter sat on a kitchen chair, lost in a sea of oversized tattered black robes. Then he looked up and pinned Jack with his gaze. But you didn’t have it for long either, did you?

Jack felt Steve’s grip tighten around his body, tighter and tighter until he couldn’t breathe, until everything hurt and nothing made sense and there was only pain, death and destruction—

“Nope. No nightmares on my watch.” Steve gently shook Jack awake, patted his cheeks. “Wrong kind of moaning for happy sexy fun time dreams starring yours truly.” There was something insistent poking into the small of Jack’s back. “Mmm. Good morning. Good afternoon. It doesn’t matter, it’s all good with you.” Steve purred in his ear. “Told you not to get used to being the big spoon.”

“Christ. How long was I out?” Jack smacked his lips, Steve handed him a bottle of water. Jack took a swig and swished his mouth, swallowed. “I feel like I slept for a week.”

“About six weeks.” Steve said and Jack’s eyes widened. “Kidding. Six hours or so. The kid is off getting clean. Figured you wouldn’t want me assisting him given that you’re such a jealous little thing. Mmmm.” Steve nuzzled into his neck. “He’d have let me, you know.”

“I’m just as tall as you are, by the way. He’d have let you do what?” Jack drained the bottle. “This isn’t going to be a terrible ‘drop the soap’ thing is it?”

Steve laughed against his skin, grazed his teeth against Jack’s throat. “Well it’s not going to be now.” He kissed his way up Jack’s bearded jaw and claimed his lips. You didn’t need to be a Force user to feel the heat of his desire, of his want and yearning. No, that was what was poking Jack in the back.

“We can’t do this right now. He’ll be back—“ Jack protested as Steve kneaded the globe of his ass through his clothing.

“I can be quick, but I don’t want to be. I want to see you trembling with desire beneath me, red and flushed. My good boy.” He slipped his hand under Jack’s waistband and Jack startled at the tapping of Steve’s finger. “This pretty little hole is just begging for my attentions. It’s been too long since I tasted every part of you Jack.” Steve crooned in his ear and Jack felt his resistance weakening.

“Shall we be naughty? Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t love to be speared on my cock, moaning with pleasure. What could happen if he walked in?” Slow circling caresses that promised pleasure, that promised to wash away the remains of the dream terror. “He’s already seen, already felt what we do together. And if a man has been inside my head and still can look me in the eyes—?“ Steve laughed, “Then he’s made of stern stuff. Imagine what he could do with those powers of his.”

Jack stiffened, his whole body seized up at the memory of what Winter had done with his powers. “Is that what you were doing? I thought you might be having thoughts about how he looks so much like… you know.” Steve misunderstood Jack’s tension, he began to knead the muscles in Jack’s shoulders.

“It’s odd, but I can’t see Barnes when I look at him. Must be because I felt that bastard’s life end beneath my blade as I ripped off his fucking head. Good times. Good times.”

“This is not good dirty talk, Steve.” Jack rolled off the bed and Steve put his hands behind his head. “I— I think I shared his dreams. It was not pleasant. He’s pretty messed up and considering our present crew, that’s saying a lot. Maybe this weird cuddle dream thing is because I was completely exhausted after being brain-raped. We know nothing about him. Seriously.” Except what he feels.

“He helped us escape. And he’s fascinated by me.” Steve licked his lips and Jack sighed.

Jack rubbed his face. “It’s never that simple.” He picked up Winter’s robes from the floor. Something fell out and dropped on his toe. “Motherf—!” It was a long cylindrical metal cylinder. Jack peered at it, turned it over in his hands. “What’s this?” There was a button, a switch?

The door opened and the tube flew from Jack’s hands into Winter’s. “It is a weapon from more elegant times. A lightsaber.” Winter was dressed in Captain Jack’s old clothing, his hair clean and combed back from his face.

Steve squinted, “Nice hair.” It was neatly braided. “Who did that for you? No wait, don’t tell me. It was Janice the Mama Bear.”

Winter shrugged with one shoulder, “I do not know all their names and they have the same faces with only small differences… It is very confusing.”

Jack buzzed his lips. “No shit. You look better. Comfy?”

Winter nodded. “I— I have interrupted you. I should leave. It is meal time.”

Jack bent over to get his boots. “I’m starving. And the questions I have for you will be better over a ration cube of indeterminate savory goop.” He put on his boots and Steve grumbled. “We’ll have time for fucking around later.” Jack admonished.

“Yes dear,” Steve said petulantly. “You know, I thought I’d be getting laid more when we got married.”

“We are NOT married.” Jack pointed at Steve. “Let’s be clear about that.” Steve shrugged and said nothing, but his smirk spoke loudly. Jack said to a mildly bewildered Winter, “Come on kid, I am not doing this on an empty stomach.”   

Chapter Text

“I’ve got this place all figured out.” Rumlow set down his meal. “It’s Star Wars.” He grinned in triumph, his scars crinkled around his eyes. “But there should be a lot more crazy alien creatures. Tons of them. You’ll see when we land.”

“Star Wars?” Ronnie burped Bianca, “Is that supposed to make sense?” She glanced over at Janice who shrugged, Brock and Jack looked blank as well.

“It’s a bunch of movies! There’s like six of them. You don’t know Luke Skywalker? Han Solo? Princess Leia?” Rumlow gesticulated in frustration. “Darth fucking Vader?”

Janice said, “Must be something specific to your world.”

“Sounds stupid.” Brock chimed in, then he smiled in nostalgia. “We had Star Trek.”

“Aw yeah. That was the shit.” Ronnie nodded in approval.

“I had such a crush on Captain Uhura.” Janice said dreamily.

“Captain Kirk, you mean.” Brock corrected her.

“Nope.” Janice shook her head. “Kirk was the communications officer. The eye candy in the mini-shorts. Uhura was the best—“

“Well fuck you all. I know what I’m talking about.” Rumlow interrupted with a scowl. He directed his attention to Winter. He pointed at the young man. “You use the Force, don’t you?”

Winter stared at Rumlow through his eyelashes. Eventually he answered, “Yes,” and looked down at the table. Both Rumlow and Steve shifted their shoulders, leaned forward, predators scenting prey. Jack kicked Steve with the side of his boot under the table. One corner of Steve’s lips curled up in amusement and he squeezed the inside of Jack’s thigh in acknowledgment. 

Rumlow sucked on his teeth and cracked a predatory smile. “Prove it. What am I thinking about, boy?”

Winter shifted in his seat next to Jack. “You think very loudly about very unpleasant things.” Jack glared at Rumlow and his former paramour smirked in response.

“Character flaw.” Rumlow leaned towards Winter. After a moment, Jack realized that this was how Rumlow had behaved towards him way back when they’d first met. Too familiar, too forward. Jack felt stupid for falling so hard and fast for Rumlow. He tried to think supportive, safe thoughts, but his mind kept reverting to sweet lies mixed with kisses in the cabin. He couldn’t let Winter make the same mistake he did.

Rumlow crooned, “You just look so much like someone I used to know intimately. We got along so well. He was so good at taking orders. Hrgk!” He clutched at his throat as unseen hands lifted him high in the air. Brock dropped his spoon. Janice and Ronnie’s mouths hung open in shock.

“I like this kid better and better.” Steve licked his spoon and grinned. Rumlow turned a light shade of purple as he fought for breath.

“Winter— Winter, please put him down.” Jack cajoled.

Steve added, “Yeah, if anyone is going to strangle him, it should be me.”

“You are not helping, Steve!” Jack admonished, “Please.”

“He hurt you. He hurt the man who wore my face. He is a bad man.” Winter gave Rumlow a little shake of disapproval. It reminded Jack of the time Steve had shaken Brock into unconsciousness by his fuck-handles— harness straps.

“Please. Please put him down. He knows better now. He won’t try anything.” Rumlow’s eyes were wide and he nodded frantically. Winter dropped him, hard.

Rumlow lay gasping on the mess room floor.

“I have so many questions.” Brock whispered, in terrified awe. Winter sipped at his ration box and Steve shook with suppressed laughter as Rumlow coughed and gagged.

“Okay everybody strap in! We’re kicking on the hyperdrive. Jan if you wanna get your ass up here, you can see what faster than fucking light travel looks like.” Captain Jack’s voice crackled over the intercom. “God knows you haven’t shut up about it since you got here.”

Janice stood up, stepped over Rumlow and rushed out the door squeaking, “Ohmigod FTL! Ohmigod FTL!” Brock and Ronnie shook their heads as they left to secure Bianca and themselves.

“Can you walk?” Jack said to Rumlow, he nodded and glared at Winter from the floor. Rumlow staggered off to go strap into his harness.

“I bruised his larynx. It will be a while before he speaks.” Winter scraped the bottom of his meal box. “I was not as gentle as I should have been. I am out of practice at being gentle.”

Steve propped his chin on his hand and smiled at Winter. “Can we keep him Jack? Can we?”

“It’s not up to me! And he’s not a stray dog!” Jack shrugged into the wall harness and closed his eyes in anticipation of the hyper jump. Captain Jack hadn’t been real specific about when he was going to take off—!

Hyperdrive felt a lot like a cheap carnival ride, all acceleration for a few moments and then a very sudden stop, which is when Jack’s stomach caught up with the rest of him. He leaned his head back and tried to quell his queasiness with short, quick breaths through his nose.

“Well, that was a rush.” Steve said. Winter was asleep in the harness between them. “Little guy was all tuckered out. Guess he knows that he’s safe with me watching over him. Always wanted a pet. One that doesn’t die as easily as a goldfish. Paper trained too, I bet.” 

“You disturb me.” Jack panted through his nausea, “That was so much worse than jumping with dick magic.”

Steve leered at him, “Maybe we should practice more?”

“Oh you shut up.” Jack struggled with the harness and unlatched it. His ration was not staying down. Nope, it had a roundtrip ticket to Upchucktown.

“I didn’t say a word, Mr. Rollins. Not a single word.”

“You can say a lot with a look. Volumes in fact.”

Steve winked at Jack as he retched into the disposal. “Oh look, our first encounter with one of Rumlow’s mysterious aliens. You’re so adorable when you’re green.”

Jack flipped him off. The antigrav chose that moment to fail and Jack found himself in midair. The ship veered hard and Jack shielded his face and head from impact with the wall— Shiiiiit! When he stopped. Jack peeked out from behind his arms. Winter yawned and flicked his hand, Jack found himself floating towards Steve’s open arms.

“Come here, you.” He wrapped his iron arms around Jack, stronger than any safety harness. “Never let you go. But if you puke on me, there will be punishment.” Steve nuzzled into Jack’s neck as Jack protested his groping and Winter closed his eyes with a very slight smile.

 

“Well that was a bit of a rough ride, sorry about that. Not too sorry, you should really blame Jan for that antigrav failure because I distinctly said the blue button, not the blue-green button- Ouch! You bloody harpy. Anyway welcome to the glorious planet of Jakku. Hope you like sand.” The intercom crackled.

“I hate sand.” Winter whispered. “Gets in all my servos.”

“What?” Jack said as he extricated himself from Steve’s handsy grip, but Winter didn’t elaborate.

“I’m going to need volunteers to go make some sales. Magic Dick, Muscles, New Guy. So nice of you to volunteer. The crates are on the turbo lift in the aft docking port. They might smell a little bit, but delicacies are delicacies and it’s not our place to judge other species’ palates. Just don’t let the ooze touch your bare skin and you should be fiiine.

“Nothing about that speech inspired any confidence.” Jack grumbled.

“Go team!” Captain Jack chirped. “Any better?”

“No.”

“Eh, it was worth a shot. You’re looking for a Gree by the name of— fuck it. You’re looking for a grey slimy looking dude with a massive breathing apparatus. Just deliver the crates and get your asses back on the ship. A child could do this mission. In fact, if you fuck this up I’ll send the girls and the baby, because there’s no way they could fuck this up.”

“So, why don’t you do it?” Steve stretched, his muscles rippled under his black tactical suit. You could barely tell where he’d made repairs to it. “Let me guess, you’re wanted for something or you owe someone money, right?”

“Looks like you’re the pretty and the smart one, Muscles. Not that that’s saying much considering this crew—“ There was a muffled skirmish and something bounced agains the microphone. “Woman! I will not be disrespected on my own ship!”

Bones cut in, “Just get a move on. The sooner we can get out of here the better. There’s nothing to see here, trust me.” Jack doubted that, but he grabbed his vest and made sure there was a round in the chamber of his gun. Extra caution was never regretted.

“This is like our honeymoon, isn’t it Jack?” Steve said as he pressed the button on the hatch release. “Visiting some exotic new locale, getting frisky on the beach.”

The hot dry scent of desolation swirled into the ship’s hold. “We. Are. Not. Married.” Jack said slowly and with great deliberation. His eyes grew wide as they adjusted to the brightness of the double sun’s glare. “Holy shit, Steve. Aliens.” One of the group of purple bipedal creatures gurgled and pointed a blaster at them.

Jack. You dare show your face here, after what you did to the Syndicate?” The alien’s voice was filtered through a vocal synthesizer.

“I’m not Jack. I mean, I’m not the Jack that you’re looking for.”

All you humans look alike, but this is the Hydra and you are Jack and now you will pay—“

Winter took a step forward and Steve held out his hand, stopping the Sith. “Let’s try to negotiate, like civilized folk.” He showed all his teeth in a gleaming white smile, “You’ve got the wrong man, buddy. And you don’t want to provoke me. I don’t like it when people point guns at my mate.”

“Your mate?” Jack sputtered.

Steve circled the lead alien, “I’ve never seen your species before, tell me, can you survive having your throats cut? I’m honestly very curious, that’s one of the delights of travel you see. Meeting new people and deciding how to kill them.

“You call this negotiation?” The lead alien scoffed, “Kill them and be done with—“

It was over so quickly. A flash of vibranium. Steve flung himself at the aliens, slashing and hacking. Fluids sprayed out, spattered on the sand with a wet plop. Steve brushed off some goo on his arms and shook the hair out of his face. He grinned at Jack, “Oh sweetheart, we’re gonna have such a good time in the Honeymoon Suite—“

Blasters rang out,  Jack dropped to his knees and took cover behind the stinking crates. Steve looked annoyed as an errant blaster bolt sizzled the flank of his suit. “I just repaired this. Savages. Can you do something about this?” He gestured at Winter and then went back to inspecting his suit, “No respect for craftsmanship these days.”

Winter grasped the weapon at his waist. He ignited the lightsaber blade with a hiss of ozone. It was red and it was—

Beautiful.” Steve breathed in awe, his mouth open and his eyes soft with adoration.

Winter’s killing rictus grin wasn’t that different than Steve’s, Jack thought absently as he watched the slaughter. It was almost balletic in grace the way Winter hacked and slashed his way through his enemies. Steve picked up a blaster and started executing stragglers as he walked behind Winter.

The two maniacs stopped when the last combatant was dead, then they turned to Jack. They were waiting for his praise. He flashed them a trembling thumbs up and half a smile. Steve nodded and slapped Winter on the back, the strange young man looked up at Steve with curious adoration.

Oh no, Jack thought. His life had just become twice as dangerous and twice as complicated.

He was well and truly fucked.

 

Chapter Text

Captain Jack stepped out of the docking bay door and surveyed the smoking corpses littering the sand. He scratched his nose and nodded to himself. He whistled a short sharp signal and hollered, “Yo! Got your package!” The Gree whistled back from behind some cover and Captain Jack smiled in satisfaction.

Steve flicked a bit of alien innard off of his arm. He held out his vibranium knife to Winter and waggled his eyebrows, “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.” The Sith thought for a moment and then they exchanged weapons. Jack gulped.

“You keep dangerous company, Captain.” The Gree said, bubbles rose and fell in the breathing apparatus upon his back. “But a job well done.” He placed a credit chip in Captain Jack’s hand. “For the crate of delicacies and the elimination of our mutual competition.”

“Well you know me, I never leave a job half done. It’s why I’m so wanted.” Jack glared at Captain Jack who flapped his hand at the others. “Oh don’t look at me like that. See how happy they are?”

Jack watched Steve’s face light up as Winter showed him how to activate the lightsaber. His beatific grin of delight morphed into a snarl of murderous anticipation. Steve mouthed the words, I want one! Jack shook his head and Steve nodded, his eye alight with the promise of mayhem.

“Now isn’t that worth all the hassle? Happy crew, happy Captain.” Captain Jack gave a small half bow to the Gree. “Pleasure to do business with you.”

The Gree returned his bow, “I will let the others know of your new…” He watched Winter levitate and fling debris at Steve, who blocked and chopped it with the lightsaber. “Specialists.”

“Just leave off the Jedi part, okay? He’s got a cranky ex-boyfriend who just can’t deal with the fact they’ve broken up.”

“Oh, I am the soul of discretion Captain. Good day.” The Gree slunk away, patting the crate with smacks of appreciation.

Captain Jack pocketed the credit chip. “Come on, get back on the ship the lot of you. And go hit the refresher, you two both smell like a Saarlac Pit. But not a spot on you, Jack. Mr. Magic Dick, did you even get a shot off with that slug thrower of yours?”

Jack’s pride rankled and he shot back, “I’m a hell of a lot better with a rifle. How about you find me something like that before turning us loose as your own personal execution squad?”

Captain Jack rolled his eyes, wrinkled his nose and waved his crew back onto the ship. Steve stalked up to him and said something too soft for Jack to hear. Captain Jack nodded and made a thoughtful noise. “I’ll work on that.”

“He’ll work on what?” Jack asked Steve as they stripped down in the refresher. Winter was waiting outside their quarters, their honorary guard dog. He had gotten clean first with Steve standing guard. They seemed to be getting along... well.

“Oh, I asked for a tiny little favor. He owes us. Don’t worry your pretty little mind about it.” Steve held up his suit top and made tsking sounds as he wriggled a finger through the blaster damage. “I finally fixed all the holes from our last adventure. We might have to make a jump back to HYDRA base so I can pick up another patching kit. Protecting your delicate ass is terrible for my wardrobe.” 

“Or you could just wear normal clothing instead of a skin-tight fetish uniform.” Jack said peevishly. His ego was still smarting from the Captain’s jab. He wasn’t just a magic dick, he had skills. Not that he ever got to use them these days surrounded by bad asses. 

Steve cocked his head to the side, “Now why would I want to do that? My tactical suit is masterpiece of engineering, a marvel of sartorial perfection. And black goes with every occasion. Meeting the leader of the Galactic Sector? Black. Going to the funeral of said leader? Black. Getting married? Black.” He set the suit aside.

Jack chose to ignore the marriage comment. “Well as long as you can figure out what the cold water, no bleach, tumble dry low settings are on all the weird worlds we jump to, I guess you’re golden.” Jack still wasn’t used to the sonic, it made his skin prickle and crawl. “Give me a good old-fashioned water-based shower any day.” They both smelled decent now. Jack pulled on his pants.

“You still remember.” Steve beamed at him. Jack took a step back. “I can’t believe you still remember.”

“Remember what?” Jack asked, confused.

Steve swooped in and gathered Jack into his arms. “You remember how to do my laundry!” Steve gave him a fond peck on the cheek and Jack felt his face get red. “Gonna make you into a good housewife.”

“Get off! Get off!” Jack pushed at him, but Steve was in a mood. He carried him over to their bed.

“Oh I plan on it. Admit it. You like my suit. All those secret compartments and pouches. The light up emblem that puts fear into the hearts of lesser men. The way it clings to my ass. You like the way the buckles rub against your skin when I fuck you in it.” Steve crooned in Jack’s ear. “Why do you fight me so hard, Jack? You know I can turn you inside out with pleasure. Make you come so hard you travel to alternate universes.” Steve’s lips nipped at Jack’s earlobe, suckled at the hollow beneath it. “I know how you respond to me, so eager. I know you’re hard right now, I don’t even have to look. I can smell you.”

“That’s leftover alien guts.” Jack gritted his teeth as Steve’s cold hands trailed over his nipples and tweaked them. His cock leapt to attention.

“The sweetest perfume, the scent of victory.” A strangled groan escaped Jack’s throat as devious, clever fingers strummed his skin. Steve knew every inch of his body, all of his sweet, delirious secrets. The sensual assault on all of Jack’s inhibitions suddenly stopped and Jack whimpered in frustration.

“So, you make the rules Jack.” Steve sat back and stroked the buckles on his tactical suit pants. “You have to tell me what you want me to do.” His voice went low and rumbly. “Come on Jack. Tell me. Order me. I’m yours to command.”

Jack stammered, “I— I—,” then he took a breath and blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Want a back rub?” He was prepared for mocking laughter, but Steve stood up and gestured at the bed. Jack adjusted his hard on in his pants and lay on his belly. Cold hands stroked up and down his spine.

“Why are your hands always so damn cold?” Steve found a knot in the middle of Jack’s shoulder blades and pressed his thumbs into it. Jack groaned in obscene pleasure.

“Because all my blood goes straight to my cock. That’s all your fault.” Steve’s voice was breathy.

“I still don’t know why.”

“Why what?”

“Why you think about me like that.”

Steve’s hands never stopped moving, kneading the knots and lumps in Jack’s flesh. “You’re special, Jack. Merciful. Sweet. Optimistic. I find myself holding back on some of my more pleasurable and destructive impulses when you’re with me. I don’t change, I’m already perfect, but I want to be better in your eyes. And I think— I think that your biggest flaw is that you can’t understand that. You have no idea how wonderful you are.” A hand slipped under his waistband and caressed his ass.

“Oh that’s cheating.” Jack mumbled.

“Quit your protesting. As I was saying, it’s my job to make you understand how special and frustrating you are. And if I have to beat it into you, I shall.” A small fond slap on his butt for emphasis and Jack felt his softened cock twitch with interest again. Oh no, he was not going there.

“That’s not how that works.”

“Metaphorically, silly. I’m not a literal creature all the time.” Steve paused and inquired, “Are you drooling?”

“No.” The bedding was damp with Jack’s drool. “Don’t stop.”

“Magic fingers. Magic fingers that know every inch of this body. Remember that the next time you’re alone with Rumlow.” Steve pressed his thumbs into the dimples about Jack’s ass and rotated them in small circles. His fingers stroked the Asgardian tattoo. “Always saving strays. How can something so irritating be so endearing?”

“I fucked up bringing him here. I should have—“ Jack wiped his mouth on the bedding.

“Drowned him like a litter of unwanted kittens?”

“No and that’s disturbing shit, Steve. I like cats.” Jack sighed, “I can time travel. I should have tried to take him back to his Jack. Like before the Triskelion fell. He’d still burn, still suffer and go bugfuck nuts but he’d be happy if he could have his Jack back.”

“Seems like something a very merciful person would do. To care about someone so vile’s happiness.” Steve peppered the nape of Jack’s neck with kisses. “Perhaps an unwanted kitten could be found a new home.” He wiped the side of Jack’s mouth. “You are drooling like a St. Bernard. And not even on my cock, which seems a terrible waste.”

“I thought this was all about me.” Jack smiled.

“It is Peaches. It is. You’re always happier with my cock in you. It’s one of the perks of being a very special person.” The distinctive sound of Steve’s tactical trousers being unzipped.

“Perks, huh? Do I get a punchcard? Give nine blowjobs, get fucked for free?” Jack was so relaxed, he couldn’t put up a protest. He didn’t want to. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth, extended his tongue in anticipation.

“Darling, for you, I’ve even got coupons.

Chapter Text

 

Jack bobbed in and out of slumber, sleepy with orgasm and fatigue. He was forgetting something. Someone. He elbowed the nude slab of muscle that was coiled about him, “Is Winter still sitting in the hallway?”

“He better be, he’s on guard duty.” Steve buried his face into the crook of Jack’s neck and sighed in contentment.

“Let him in. He can’t sleep out there. It’s not right.” Steve took his time getting up from the warm bedding, cracked his neck back and forth and pressed the door release. Winter rose from his cross-legged crouch as Steve wordlessly beckoned him inside.

Steve got back in bed and drew Jack close to him. Jack tucked the sheet about his hips for modesty and patted the space on the bed beside him. Winter shook his head from his chair. “I shall sleep on the floor.”

Jack was too warm and comfortable to take that nonsense. He buzzed his lips. “Oh fuck that, come on up here. There’s plenty of room if Steve doesn’t do that starfish thing— Ouch!“ Steve bit down on the red scarred star on Jack’s shoulder, then soothed the sting with his tongue.

“My dreams leak out.” Winter insisted.

“Oh, that.” Jack shrugged, “I’ve had bad dreams before.”

“I don’t like sharing them. They are memories of weakness.”

Steve asked, “Do they transfer to everyone? I don’t remember any dreams.”

“You are not Force sensitive. At all.” Winter said.

“Like a rock?” Jack said.

“Perhaps less so.” Winter quipped.

“Was that a joke?” Steve smiled against Jack’s skin. “Good for you kid, humor is one of the few ways of dealing with shit that people like you and me have. People aren’t clamoring to be our friends. Mostly because of our body count.” He sucked a small bruise into Jack’s back, “Sucks to be them. They’re missing out on all the good times.”

“It was exhausting to probe inside your mind. If you were sensitive— with your willpower and focus, you’d be unstoppable. But you are not and while—” Winter paused and then stammered, “I— I enjoy your company, Steve, I could not train you.” Finding pleasure in companionship seemed to be something that he hadn’t contemplated in a very long time.

“See, he likes me.” Steve was smug. “So what that I can’t do his magic tricks, I’m the pinnacle of human physical perfection. That’s enough for me. What about my pretty Peaches here?’ He gripped Jack’s hip and ground his pelvis up against Jack’s ass, then dragged his fingertips up and down Jack’s flank to see him shiver.

“Jack is very Force sensitive. Empathetic. No wonder the Asgardian technology chose him.” Winter folded his hands on his lap, pale birds. A lock of hair escaped his braid, curled against his scarred cheek.

Steve’s roaming hands stilled and he took a deep breath, held it and exhaled. “That’s right, you saw that. Our first encounter. Not my finest hour.” He pulled back his hand from Jack, hesitant as if he didn’t deserve to be there.

“Understatement of the fucking year, Steve.” Jack grumbled, then he grabbed Steve’s hand and put it back on his hip. Steve’s grip tightened and relaxed, Jack felt Steve exhale in relief against his skin. “What does it mean, I’m Force sensitive?”

“It means that you need a Master.”

“He’s got one.” Steve declared.

“Excuse you?” Jack countered, twisting around to fix Steve with a glare, indignant at the claim. “You are not my fucking Master.” Steve’s lips quirked in a wry smile.

“Whatever you say, darling.

“I will be your Master. I will train you in the Force.” Winter’s blue eyed gaze was steady and clear. He spoke with utter conviction.

“Aren’t you, um, one of the Dark Side dudes? Captain Jack was mentioning that and I’m not sure I’m down for being a—“

“A villain? A monster? A Sith?” Winter lowered his eyes, his fingers tightened their grip. “Training is what you make of it. I was not always trained in the Dark Side. Not in the beginning.”

“It’s more powerful, isn’t it? The Dark.” Steve said, “It’s so much easier. None of those pesky things like mercy, kindness and charity. It’s such a pain in the ass to be a good guy, you know?” Jack’s elbow jab bounced off Steve’s stomach, “Oh that’s cute Peaches, but I’m not wrong. Think about all the times you’ve suffered because you did the right thing.

Winter nodded. “It is different. The Light favors luck and precocious beginners. The Dark is for the users who have learned that there is much too suffering in the universe and they have been given the tools to snuff it out.” His gaze grew dreamy, “Like blowing out a candle flame.”

“Yeah, still not into that.” Jack shook his head, haunted by the memory of secondhand screams.

Winter blinked, “Then we shall see where your talents lie.”

“Why do we have to do that?”

“Because there is always a Master and an Apprentice.”

“That’s not an answer.” Jack protested.

“It is an inevitability.” Winter said with sudden ferocious intent, “And I need— I need to share my knowledge, I cannot let the Jedi go extinct!”

“Aren’t there other Force sensitive people out there?” Steve asked, a bit bored because the conversation wasn’t about him.

“Perhaps. If they haven’t been cleansed.”

“Cleansed?” That did not sound good to Jack.

“The AutoDoc machines. They strip out what makes someone sensitive to the Force. Over generations of medical care, they’ve weeded out the wild sprouts in the central worlds. Perhaps there are others like me out there, but I cannot sense them. You were the first I could feel in so very, very long. I’d given up hope.”

Winter’s yearning was pitiful and nonsensical, yet Jack felt himself moved.

“You know he’s telling the truth. Positively chatty about this whole thing. I told you, you’re special. Such a fucking softie.” Steve wrapped his leg over Jack’s, pinning him to the bed.

“And you’re a rock.” Jack snorted.

Steve pressed his groin against Jack and smirked, “Only in one particular place, darling. Feel like having another go of it?”

“Not with an audience, thank you.”

Winter said, as if they were discussing the weather or what ration flavor to have for their meal. “I do not mind. Your pleasure, it bleeds out from you when you connect. It is pure. Refreshing.”

“You were getting off on us? You could have knocked, joined in.” Steve offered, always the adventurous one.

Winter shook his head. “I do not like to be touched. There is too much anger and hatred inside of me to hold in, it poisons anyone who tries to touch me in that way. It was my way of protecting myself when I was owned by the Hutts.”

“A defense mechanism.” Jack said.

“No one wants a sex slave who makes you feel like vomiting or wetting yourself in fear anytime you touched them. Some of them died from it. I was very angry and unfocused those times. It took a very long time for them to perish.” A ghost of a smile. “The President acquired me soon after that.”

“But they kept you dressed as a slave?”

“Humiliation was one of the last weapons they— that he had to compel my services. Physical pain did not work well. Pain leads to fear. Fear leads to rage. Rage— makes the Dark Side stronger.” Winter touched his scarred face. “I was feared. I was loathed. And that was normal, I did not fight it. Because I was alone. The last of my kind. The only Force user left. Despair is empty fuel.” 

“But you are are both the same as me. Unique.” He gestured at Steve, “A perfect human created by science.” And then at Jack, “A universe jumper created by fate. I will bind myself to you and together, perhaps, we can make sense of why we were thrown together.”

Jack stared at Winter, wide-eyed and overwhelmed by the Sith’s confessions. Winter sensed his tension and after a few moments of hesitation he offered with a cheery brittle smile, “You won’t have to be called my padawan. You don’t have to wear a braid either. Or a robe.”

“Ooh. Kinky dress up.” Steve said, completely missing the point. “But first, nap time. Get the light will you?” He made himself comfortable, curling around Jack. Winter flipped off the lights with his Force powers and sat in the dark, watching them.

It was a long time before Jack was able to close his eyes and as he drowsed off, he heard a familiar voice say in his mind, Sleep well. For tomorrow we train. How do you feel about swamps?

Chapter Text

 

"For the last time," Jack gritted his teeth. "I cannot move shit with my mind!" He'd stared at the small grey rock on the table for the past four hours. It had sat there as stubbornly as… "Maybe you're wrong about me." That wouldn't be so bad, he'd had his fill of being special.

"Clear your mind. Become one with the rock. Breathe." Winter said again. "I am not wrong. You have potential."

"Maybe he's not as gifted in the ways you are." Steve yawned from his perch on the edge of the bed. "Maybe he can't move things with his mind. He did hear your dreams."

"More than hear them. It was like I was there." Jack rubbed his temples. He had a headache from concentrating. "That guy who you called Master, what happened to him? Why did he leave you alone?"

"He went to meet with the Galactic Sector government and never returned. Hux's predecessor blew up his shuttle after we destroyed the Academy. He was a great, powerful man but not even he could survive that." Winter tapped his fingers on his knee. "It felt like an elastic cord drawn thin and tight until the inevitable snap. The snapback hurt me. Hurt my mind and my grasp of the Force. He should have Foreseen it."

Jack remembered the slimy, oily texture of the cajoling voice in Winter's dream and shivered. "How old were you when he-- offered to train you?"

Winter blinked and tilted his head to the side. "I was a child. He sensed my potential and I was grateful. The others-- the others were not as generous with their knowledge and praise as he was. I remember when he lured the teachers at the Academy away and dispatched them so that I would not have any resistance when I executed the rest of the students."

"You killed your classmates? When you were a kid?" Jack heard echoes of their screams in his memories.

"I was a bit older then. Strong enough to wield a lightsaber. Strong enough to shut my ears to the pleas of my fellow padawans. They were not a part of my Master's plan." Winter's voice grew soft and distant. "Then there was no plan and I had nothing and that was my punishment. But you understand, don't you Steve?"

Steve was silent, his jaw set firm. Then he spoke in a low, slow tone as if speaking to a child. "I didn't volunteer to become like this. This was done to me against my will. No one seduced me into becoming a perfect monster, I had to adapt to survive. I have a lot of practice at adapting, changing myself to fit new worlds and times. We're not the same. I would do anything to protect my team. And if you become a threat to Jack, I'll take care of you too." He put his hand on Jack's shoulder, squeezed hard enough to bring tears to Jack's eyes.

"Understood." Winter smiled. "Am I a part of your team now?"

Steve raised his eyebrows and smirked. "Well, I have seen you mostly naked, so that's usually a good sign."

I just don't see how this mumbo-jumbo Force shit works. I don't want to be a Jedi. Pick someone else.

"There is no one else." Winter replied.

Are you reading my mind again? Because I didn't say that aloud. Jack crossed his arms and frowned.

"You didn't have to. You were broadcasting hard enough for a Jedi to hear you on Hoth. If there were any left. You are all raw power, no finesse."

Steve scratched his chin. "Could you two work together to fine-tune our jumps? We know that you can funnel and focus the pleasure that Jack needs to get off and trigger the dick magic--"

"It's not dick magic!" Jack protested.

"Oh yes it is. And stop interrupting me, do you want a spanking?" Steve chided with a devilish smile. "What if we try a little experiment?"

"Hey Captain!" Steve shouted, "I know you're always recording us, so if you don't mind interrupting your private jacking off time tell that weasel Rumlow to get his ass down to our quarters."

The intercom crackled, "If you kill him, you get to clean up the mess."

"We're not going to kill him," Steve cracked his knuckles, "We're going to send him home."

 

"So, let me get this straight. You're offering to jump me back in time to before the Triskelion collapsed on my world, so I can grab my Jack Rollins and make a run for it?" Rumlow leaned foward, his hands on his knees. He looked tired, weary beyond his years. Faint bruises still speckled his throat.

"Yes. You'd still suffer horribly but I think that's something you've earned." Steve sneered. "What do you think? One time offer."

"Why would you do that for me?" Rumlow's scars crinkled about his eyes as he squinted. "You hate me."

"The sooner I get you off this ship, the sooner I don't have to look at your fucked up face. No alturism needed for that. Just pure aestheic motivations. You are ugly." Steve flicked a piece of lint off his suit sleeve. "Inside and out."

Rumlow snorted. "You have no idea how much worse I was. Does he Jack?" He nodded thoughfully. "You think you can do it Jackie-boy?"

Jack chewed on his lip. "I'd need you to focus on the moments before the Triskelion fell, so you'd have enough time to run in and grab your Jack and not get caught." Rumlow pondered that and Jack added, "You can't change the outcome of the battle, but if your Jack died in the battle, maybe you could go off grid and make a life together."

Rumlow ran his thumb over the melted wedding ring in his hand. "Why do you keep doing these things for me? Saving me. Healing me. Why?"

"Because that's just who he is. Tick tock. Is it yes or no?" Steve rapped his fingers on the chair arm. "Tick tock Rumlow."

"Yes. Of course it's yes." He looked at Jack with fondness and gratitude. Steve glanced at both of them and the corner of his lips quirked up in a smirk.

"Then go say your farewells and meet up at 0800." Steve stood up and left the room with Winter in tow.

Jack cracked his fingers. "So who's going to miss you the most? Bones?"

Rumlow tilted his head to the side and licked his thin lips. "I was hoping you would miss me the most. Like to think I've made an impression."

"This whole crazy ride is your fault." Jack snorted. "You're the reason we're on a space ship on an alien planet. You're the reason I've seen armored octopi, state sanctioned murder holidays and worlds where people are way too into coffee. I've watched Steve kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex and get in a fight with his female twin." Jack rubbed his arm and smiled. "Sometimes, I hate you because you started all of this and sometimes I think you're the best person I've ever met because of all of this."

"Jack, a long time ago when I was trying to seduce you in that ratty trailer home I said a lot of things about your strength, your conviction and your courage. That was all bullshit. I was trying to get my dick wet." Rumlow held up his hand, "I was fucking wrong. I don't know how you did it, but you tamed the monster. You're one of a kind in a multiverse full of Jack Rollins'. It's pretty crazy." Rumlow wiped at his eyes. "Look at me. I'm a mess."

"I guess I thrive on crazy. You ready to go home?" Jack extended his hand and Rumlow took it. He raked Jack up and down with his gaze and arched his eyebrow as he pulled Jack close.

"Think I'd survive one for the road?" Rumlow's breath was hot on Jack's skin. He felt a flush rise up to color his cheeks. "Just a kiss for luck, Jackie-boy. That's all."

"You never learn." Jack's lips parted and he leaned in. 

"Nope." And Rumlow kissed him for the last time, determined to sear the memory into Jack's brain. "There. Never forget who gave you this." His fingers pressed into the tattoo at the base of Jack's spine. "Never forget me."

Chapter Text

"Well, the one thing I regret is that we never got to have that orgy." Ronnie said after Rumlow announced his departure to the gathered crew in the mess hall.

"Damn fucking shame that is." Brock agreed and Bones made a grunt of agreement.

"So what's stopping you?" Janice burped Bianca, "I'll watch the baby, Cap will fly the ship and you can go fuck your wee brains out." Everyone blinked at stared at Janice in surprise, "What? I'm not a total wet blanket. And I don't want to hear the other two babies," she nodded at Ronnie and Brock, "Pouting about their missed opportunities."

"That's very practical of you Janice." Rumlow said.

"I'm a practical lady. Now fuck off, the lot of you." Janice waved the foursome off. "Go get it out of your system."

Bones leaned over and whispered something to Captain Jack, who snorted in response, "Of course. Don't be stupid. Hi def holofilm." Bones punched him in the shoulder with a grin. 

"The Captain just volunteered his quarters. There's a chest in there."

"Well you are pirates." Steve quipped.

"More like a toy chest." Bones winked.

"The best kind." Ronnie laughed, then she grew serious. "They aren't alive, are they? No creepy little insertable aliens, right?"

"You'll just have to find out." Bones chucked her in the shoulder. "Got the guts, girl?" He rested his hand there as he laughed.

Ronnie snagged his hand off her shoulder and in a blink, had Bones' offending fingers in a one-handed submission hold. His eyes watered as he looked up at her. Her lip curled back in a sneer, "I think I've got the balls." Brock started a slow applause and Captain Jack whistled. "Now, if you're ready to get down to business, like a good boy--"

"Yes ma'am!" Bones gasped out. Ronnie released him and he tried to rub feeling back into his hand. "I thought you were just a doting mama. My mistake."

"Once a STRIKE commander--" Brock started.

"Always a STRIKE commander." Rumlow finished. They sized each other up. "You and me, we have a lot of unfinished business Commander. I can't tell you how many times I cursed your name while Captain Crazypants was torturing me."

Brock shrugged. "Really bad idea to curse your own name, dude. The way I see it, if you hadn't interrupted the Asgardian witch's spell then you wouldn't have jumped to my world with the rune tattoo. Then Jack and I wouldn't have fucked with the timeline figuring this jumping shit out and Steve wouldn't have had such a massive boner for you. Really, you brought it all on yourself."

Rumlow winced at the memory of Steve's massive boner. "Yeah, that was the very last dick I'll ever have up my ass."

Steve propped his chin on his hand. "That's so sweet. I remember how you begged for me to stop," he traced a trail down his cheek, "Tears. So many tears."

All of the variations of Brock Rumlow scowled at Steve and Jack grabbed his hand. "Maybe not the right time or place, Steve."

"But I want to set the record straight--" Steve pouted as Jack led him away from the mess hall. Captain Jack and Janice followed them.

Captain Jack snorted, "There's not a lot of straight on this ship." Janice grinned and adjusted Bianca's sling. "Anyway, they're gonna be hashing this shit out for a while. So if anyone wants to join me in the auditorium as I set up the recording equipment?"

"Hard pass." Janice shook her head. "I'm going to put lil' one down for a nap and take one myself.”

“I’ll make a copy for you!” Captain Jack called after Janice and she flipped him off without looking back. 

"Is the auditorium a couple of disgusting couches in a crate filled loading bay?” Steve asked, rubbing his thumb over Jack’s finger as they held hands. “Are the floors mysteriously sticky?”

Captain Jack looked wounded, “I am really hurt that you’d think I’d stoop to such vulgarity.” He pressed a button and the hydraulic door slid open. Inside was exactly the opposite of what Jack had been expecting. It looked like a very posh private screening room, something that wouldn’t have been out of place on a private yacht. The floors were squeaky clean, the upholstery on the couches was plush and vivid red. Murphy the vectorbeast meeped at them and curled back into his basket on the floor.

Jack sat down and bounced experimentally. “This is really nice.” Steve sat down beside him.

“I take my hobbies very seriously.” Captain Jack gestured at the screen. “Holographic or flat vid. Depends on if you want a truly immersive experience. I could also get out the Illiurian photon worms, those have to be inserted—”

“No thanks.” Jack screwed up his face in disgust. “So, this is your wanking place?”

“My lounge of personal audiovisual sensual pleasures. My Spank Palace.” Captain Jack adjusted buttons and dials, humming gently under his breath. “There. Now we should be able to hear and see everything—“

“—And that’s my superpower!” An image of Brock flashed up and he grinned with pride. Jack covered his face with his hand and shook with laughter.

“What’s his superpower?” Captain Jack fiddled with the balance of the screen.

“Taking it up the ass. Brock’s what we called, um,—“ Jack weighed his words.

Steve took over. “A huge slut. A cheap man whore. A fuck toy.”

“I was going to say, a power bottom, but thanks for completing my sentences.” Steve curled his arm about Jack’s shoulders and pulled him close, like they were a couple of teens about to make out in the living room. Jack didn’t fight it. It felt good.

Captain Jack raised his eyebrows. “That’s a descriptive term. I like it. So we’ve got a bossy woman, a power bottom and what is Rumlow?”

Steve nuzzled into Jack’s hair with soft snuffles. “A sadist. Someone who sexually enjoys inflicting pain.” He nipped at Jack’s earlobe and Jack yelped in response. “He likes it when he makes people scream just as much as I do. Maybe more. You knew that, didn’t you Jack?” Smug superiority dripped from Steve’s lips, but his arms were so warm and the way his breath tickled the short downy hairs behind Jack’s ear was so distracting.

“I do now. Makes sense, I guess. But he was so good at making me— in persuading me to— “ Steve rested his hand on Jack’s thigh and the breathy sigh of contentment that escaped Jack’s lips was disgusting. Who’s the huge slut again?

“Believe in his sincerity? That’s the best part of being a monster. Building up trust and betraying it. I’m no monster, not anymore, no matter what the multiverse says. That one? That one is.” Steve pointed at a laughing Rumlow on the screen. The smile never truly made its way to the scars around his eyes.

“And he never really loved you. You just look like his Rollins. If he loved you, he’d have fought harder for you. He’d have trusted you with his true allegiances. I trust you, Jack.” Jack swallowed hard at that admission and Steve pulled him onto his lap. “You’re not paying attention to me, Captain.”

Captain Jack was staring at his first mate on the screen. Bones was flexing his tattooed muscles and telling his appreciative audience the story behind each one. The tattoos appeared to cover extensive scars over his chest, back and arms. “What? No. I guess not.” Captain Jack’s voice was soft and distant.

“What’s Bones’ story? Why’d you jump through time and space to save him?” Jack asked to distract himself from the gentle teasing caresses of Steve’s cold fingers up underneath his shirt hem.

A shrug. “He’s my first mate. That’s reason enough.”

“Bullshit.” Steve scoffed. “B-u double L shit.”

“I bought him at a Hutt auction for discount goods. He was barely able to stand on that platform, beaten and battered. But there was still fire in his eyes. He was cheap. I’d just made a profit on a delivery run. He stared me down and dared me to buy him. I figured he deserved a chance at a new life.” Captain Jack rubbed his chin and settled back in a padded chair. He reclined back and pressed a button on the arm. It began to buzz with vibrations like a seedy motel bed. ”Seems to be doing pretty well with it. Pisses off the Hutts a lot. Steals shit with me. Saves my ass and pretends like he doesn’t know that I stare at his.”

“Does he know about your crush?” Steve murmured against Jack’s skin, then he nipped at the junction of Jack’s throat like a vampire.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s here, I’m here. We’re a good team and I’m happy with that. A good team is worth more than—”

“Bullshit again.” Steve interrupted.

“What’s more pure than unrequited passion, Rogers? And I don’t like being touched very much. Now this—“ Captain Jack gestured at the screen as the participants began to explore each other. “This is art.

It was difficult for Jack to concentrate on the foursome because Steve kept pinching him on the flank or flicking his earlobe with his tongue. He demanded Jack’s attention and Jack began to deny him the satisfaction of a response just to see how the distractions would ramp up in intensity.

Ronnie had her fingers wound in Bones’ hair as she pressed his face to her crotch, her heels dug into his back, her head tossed back with a ferocious smirk of pleasure. His eyes peeked out above her pubic curls, agleam with lust.

Rumlow and Brock were arguing about something as a pretense to start grappling in their shorts. They fought dirty. Jack winced as Rumlow kicked Brock’s feet out from under him and he hit the bulkhead floor with a thud. Ronnie didn’t bother to look over as she was suffocating Bones with her orgasm and thighs.

“Out of the whole lot of them, only the woman knows what she wants and she takes it.” Steve approved. “Just like me.”

“What do you want?” Jack asked as Steve ran his nails down Jack’s back, scraping against the name Brock Rumlow carved into Jack’s skin.

Brock sank his teeth into Rumlow’s ankle and earned himself a kick in the ribs. Rumlow’s hair dripped with sweat and his white teeth gleamed in his thin lipped grimace. Both of them were tenting their shorts with their erections. Rumlow ground his heel into Brock’s crotch and Brock’s reactive groan was not distressed in the least.

“I want you, of course. It’s always been about you.” Steve kneaded the flesh of Jack’s thigh. “I could give two shits about that parade of fornication up there, as long as I have you on my lap, son.” The way Steve purred out the last word was more pornographic than what was on the screen in front of them.

Captain Jack swung his chair around. “No.”

Steve’s questing fingers did not pause or falter. He tweaked Jack’s nipples with icy fingers. “Think very quickly about the consequences of telling a fellow Captain no.”

“You’re not fucking on my couch without throwing on a tarp. That is vintage Naboo velveteen you uncultured savages.” He stood up and huffed over to a cabinet. He took out a folded piece of fabric. “Scoot! Scoot! No manners. None at all.” He chided under his breath. When the blue protective fabric was secured to his liking, he nodded and returned to his chair. He swiveled about and returned to watching the orgy.

Somehow Jack managed to focus his eyes on Ronnie riding Bones, he clutched at her small breasts as they bobbed and ran his fingers over the thin white scars tracing over her body like leaf veins. It was difficult because Steve was systematically stripping off all his clothing and suckling at the exposed skin he uncovered.

“All of this,” Steve licked at a ticklish spot on Jack’s ribs. “Belongs to me. Mine. Because you gave it to me.” Jack gasped as Steve ground against him. Steve held his gaze with hooded blue eyes. “What a precious gift. Worth a king’s ransom in vibranium.”

A slap rang out. Jack’s attention flashed back to the screen. Rumlow was smirking in satisfaction. Brock’s nose was bleeding in a trickle down his chin. He wiped it on the back of his hand, smearing crimson against his cheek. Then he grinned.

Jack felt his stomach lurch in disgust and confused arousal. The look of lustful sadistic triumph on Rumlow’s face reminded Jack too much of the trailer in the woods. He felt the ghost of the pain of a dislocated shoulder, a broken nose, skin flayed off his back in the shape of stars… His brow furrowed, he swallowed back his bile and Steve stopped his seductive assault.

“Jack.” Steve said, “Jack. Look at me.” He took Jack’s chin in his hand and made Jack look at him. Another ringing blow echoed in the screening room and Jack flinched. Steve nodded as if his mind had been made up. “Okay then. I think we’re going to call it a night.”

Captain Jack flipped them a lazy salute. “Bye.” He turned up the volume as Steve helped Jack into his shorts and then scooped him up in his arms, bridal style.

Jack let his head rest against Steve’s armor-plated chest. He tapped at the HYDRA emblem, turning it off and on as Steve walked to their quarters.

Winter was meditating, cross-legged on the floor. “I felt your distress, my padawan.” His eye were closed and he was infuriatingly calm.

“I wasn’t distressed.” Jack protested.

Steve set him on the bed as if he were made of fine porcelain. “Yes you were. Now get under the blankets and let me hold you. Or I will do it regardless.”

“Why give me the choice?” Jack grumbled as he pulled the bedding over him and Steve joined him.

“You like choices. I enjoy providing you the illusion that you have them.” Steve buried his face in Jack’s neck. “Now shush. I want to listen to your heartbeat.”

“Creepy.” Jack said, but his heart wasn’t in the rebuke. He closed his eyes and let himself drift off, secure in the knowledge that perversely he was safe under the watch of the most dangerous men in the galaxy.

Chapter Text

“I feel ridiculous.” Jack muttered. He sighed and pivoted a quarter turn and raised his arms above his head.

“Oh shut it. This is some of the finest cargo strapping that credits could buy.” Captain Jack pulled on a buckle, cinched it tight around Jack’s chest and made a groping motion with his hands. “Now you bastards can loop your hands in this harness and there won’t be any whoopsie moments when you jump. And just in case one of you gets a little hurt or a little unconscious or a little dead—“ He slapped Jack on the back. “You can strap the corpse on like a meat backpack.” He grinned with pride.

Steve nodded in approval. “Good work, old man.” He tested one of the hand-loops and murmured in Jack’s ear. “Your very own fuck handles Peaches. Never going to let you go again.”

Winter took his place on the other side of Jack, securing himself. They waited for Rumlow as Brock and Bones said their goodbyes.

“Hope you find your Jack.” Brock said with a slight lisp from his swollen split lip, then he clapped Rumlow on the shoulder.  “Now fuck off before I decide to kick your ass for giving me this black eye.”

Rumlow leered, “You loved it. You’d jizz in your pants if my Jack got ahold of you. Drop by anytime.”

“This is a one way trip.” Steve declared. “Get over here and let’s get this over with. The sooner you get out of my life, the happier I will be. For utterly esthetic reasons, you ugly bastard.”

“Aw sweetheart, why you gotta talk so mean?” Rumlow cooed as he secured himself behind Jack. He grabbed a handful of Jack’s ass and kneaded it. “Mmm. For old times sake.”

“You know, we don’t have to drop you off on the correct world, right?” Steve slapped Rumlow’s hand with a ear-splitting crack. “Think about how you’d do living with vampires or dinosaurs or that stinky place where the guys’ dicks swell up like overinflated balloons—”

“Fine, fine.” Rumlow made a face and rubbed his hand. “So what do I have to do?”

Winter replied, “Focus your thoughts on the last moment you saw your lover. Focus all your rage, your hate, your anger on that one moment. I will do the rest.”

Rumlow nodded and rested his forehead against Jack’s back. “I’ve seen this moment so many times, watched every security tape, every news report, internet clip. I know when I could have,” Rumlow shook his head, “When I can save him. Pierce had a secret escape elevator to the airstrip.”

Winter put his hand upon Jack and regarded Steve. “Now you  think about how you feel for Jack as you hold his hand,” Steve’s fingers interlaced with Jack’s, rough with calluses and always cold. “There.” Winter closed his eyes and Jack was flooded with overwhelming passion. His cock swelled and the tattoo on his back glowed with a eye-blistering light. It was too intense, he wept from pleasure and he heard Steve chant the magic phrase and they were falling— falling— falling—

 

Panic! Fear! Alarm!

 

Jack felt Winter’s distress like a icepick in the back of his brain. They hit the ground and Jack crumpled beside Winter. The Sith was convulsing and writhing in the dirt. Jack gathered Winter into his arms and tried to project soothing thoughts and feelings but there was a numb blankness where the shape of Winter’s mind had been.

“Fuck!” Rumlow cursed. “We’re too late!” He stared up at the sky, three massive airships hovered above the Triskelion. He took off at a sprint, running as fast as he could towards the airstrip. Winter shook in Jack’s arms, a thin drooling foam dripped from the corner of his lips.

“What’s wrong with him?” Steve crouched down, peeled back one of Winter’s eyelids and then slapped the young man’s face. “Hey, snap out of it!” Winter gurgled weakly and his eye rolled back in his head.

“Jesus Christ Steve. Where’d you learn your bedside manner? This is bad. This is bad. I can’t feel him. I can’t feel anything here.” Jack bit his lip. “I— I don’t think the Force works here. And that’s hurting him! Maybe killing him!”

One of the airships fired upon the others. Then the sky was alight with destruction and chaos. Jack and Steve stared at the carnage and Steve pointed. “Look!”

A Quinjet darted into the sky, away from the fray. It flew over them, flashed its signal lights and took off towards the horizon. “Well, at least one part of this plan worked.” Steve leaned over and unzipped Jack’s fly. “Think you can get hard, sweet thing?”

“I don’t know! I can try? Fuck! It’s too soon. He’s going to die because I can’t get a boner. No! No! Oh god,” Jack stammered. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but you have to use the sex pollen.”

Steve cocked his head to the side. “What makes you think I brought any with me?” He patted his pockets as if he was looking for his reading glasses.

“Quit playing coy with me Steve, just dose me and be done with it!” Jack demanded. He didn’t have time for fun and games, not if Winter was going to make it.

“You don’t have to beg me, Jack.” Steve blew a puff of sex pollen into Jack’s face and the intense physical reaction was instantaneous. “But I won’t stop you.”

“Oh god, I’m going to die if you don’t fuck me.” Jack moaned with Winter still in his arms. The heat, the yearning was unbearable. Coherent thought was replaced by needy instinct. Steve had a cock and Jack needed to be fucked.

“It’s not you dying I’m worried about darling,” Steve said, concern knitting his brows. “Winter really does looks like shit.”

“This was a terrible, terrible, terrible idea!” His head swam with desire and the crotch of his pants tented with his insistent erection. Steve guided out Jack’s swollen member with delicate precision and swallowed Jack down to the root. Jack fucked Steve’s throat with frantic, eager thrusts. It wasn’t enough, maybe it was, oh god—  The tattoo’s light glowed and flared as Project Insight exploded, plunged into the Potomac river below. Steve stroked Jack as he chanted and they were falling— falling— falling—

 

Jack bounced off of a red velvet couch and landed with a thud on the floor. The stone was cool against his feverish skin and he whimpered. Steve landed behind the couch and Winter landed on top of Steve. Jack’s skin burned with need, he gritted his teeth and crawled over to Winter.

His color was much better, pink and rosy. His breathing was calm and Jack heaved a sigh of relief. Then his dick throbbed and he rubbed his exposed cock against Steve, rutted up against him like an animal in heat. Steve rolled Winter off of him, stood up and loomed above Jack, a lewd black-clad god.

Jack clasped Steve’s legs in his arms, clung to him and rubbed his dick against Steve’s boot. Steve lifted Jack’s chin with a finger, spoke soft and low, “You look so beautiful when you’re like this, almost bestial with need for me.” He thrust his fingers into Jack’s mouth and stroked his tongue, “Make me wet.”

Jack slavered and drooled upon Steve’s fingers, coating them with dripping spit in a parody of fellatio. He shuddered and gagged until Steve withdrew his fingers and drew a wet, glistening line of saliva down the bridge of his nose.

“At one time, that’s all the slick I’d let you have. I’d make you take me dry and rough, until you cried.” Steve’s eyes glimmered as he looked down upon Jack. “But love means lubrication and I do so love you. Do you love me, Jack?”

“Not. Right. Now.” Jack gritted his teeth and Steve knelt beside him. Whisper-gentle fingers ghosted through his hair, curled under his chin, stroked his beard. The sex pollen magnified the sensations to near unbearable levels and Jack choked back a gasp.

“You never tell me you love me unless you’re spitted on my cock. And I will have you, do not despair. All I want is your adoration, your worship, your love.” Steve crooned. “Tell me you love me and I’ll make the torment stop.”

“You— fucking—“ Jack began to curse, but Steve darted his pink tongue from his pornographically pink lips and kissed Jack. He head swam and he clung to Steve, a drowning man in a rippling torrent of heat and passion and he heard himself babbling, “I love you I need you I have to have you oh please God just fuck me—“

Steve unbuckled Jack’s pants, pulled them down around his knees and pressed Jack down with one impossibly strong hand between his shoulder blades. Cool liquid dribbled down Jack’s cleft and he began to pant in anticipation, obscenities bubbling up from his lips mixed with prayers and blasphemies. “Oh my fucking GOD!”

“I am.” Steve said with husky satisfaction and he pierced Jack, speared him through and through. Jack’s vision whited out and the sudden, sweet relief from the sex pollen’s burning grasp was merciful and divine. Steve had to close his eyes to avoid being blinded by the light flaring from Jack’s tattoo.

Jack came untouched, spilled onto the stone floor and he gasped, shuddered like a winded steed. It felt appropriate for being ridden that hard. Steve pulled out and gathered Jack into his arms. “Are you okay?”

“You— you didn’t finish.” Jack mumbled.

“This wasn’t about me.” Jack blinked in disbelief at Steve’s unexpected altruism. “You think you’re okay now? I only gave you a scant pinch.”

Sweat plastered Jack’s hair to his forehead and he felt his breathing and flush ease. “I— I think I’ll be okay. Good thing we didn’t fuck on Captain Jack’s couch, he didn’t have the tarps down.”

Steve combed back Jack’s hair, kissed his forehead. “When did the Hydra have stone floors?” Jack blinked blearily and finally looked about him. There were red velvet couches, but they were not in the screening room. Jack shimmied his pants back up his hips and crawled over to Winter.

He shook the young man’s shoulder. No response. “Winter!” The Jedi’s face was calm, serene. His lips were parted and pink. For a moment Jack had the sudden urge to kiss him awake like the faerie tales of old, then he put his hand on Winter’s forehead and thought as hard as he could, WAKE UP!

Winter’s eyes shot open as if Jack had just dumped ice water in his face. He sat up, his face stricken with horror. “I was dreaming that I was dying. The air was gone from my lungs and the Force— the Force was gone. How could the life-blood of the universe be gone?” Winter asked in a small, tired voice.

Steve zipped up his tactical suit pants. “Rumlow’s world didn’t have it, I guess. Maybe that’s why he was so fucked up? I dunno. Our first mission here is figuring out where we are and if it’s safe enough to rest here for a bit. I wasn’t really concentrating that hard on the location while Jack was fucking my tonsils, so be alert.” Steve helped Winter to his feet. “You worried me, son. Don’t do that again.”

Jack put himself in order, he reeked of semen, but that couldn’t be helped at the moment. His head hurt from the sex pollen and he swallowed an aspirin from his kit. He offered one to Winter who shook his head. “Suit yourself.” Jack felt like he could sleep for a year.

Steve walked over to the sole window in the stone room, pulled back the heavy drape and was curiously silent. He dropped the curtain and turned around, tapping his fingers on his thigh.

“So, we’re probably safe in here, but we’ll have to go outside eventually.” He grinned with devilish delight, “Because I’ve never killed a dragon before.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Steve peered out the window for the twentieth time, he shut the curtain and shifted his weight from foot to foot bouncing like a boxer. Or a hyperactive toddler, Jack thought. Jack was still exhausted from the sex pollen and its cure.

“Let’s just rest here. Then we can jump back.” Jack said, “Be reasonable.”

“Oh I am. I am. I just—“ Steve threw up his hands in frustration, “There’s dragons out there! I’ve never killed a dragon before! That’s a dinosaur with fire breath!” Jack stared at him, stone-faced as the castle walls. “Oh come on! Can’t you hear the screaming Jack?” Steve pleaded, “So many innocents out there, suffering, I could help them Jack. I could save them. I could be a literal knight in shining armor. A hero, Jack. A hero.”

“Sit down. Let me rest. And shut the fuck up.” Jack ordered, his tone echoing an old drill sergeant. “I am not in any shape to deal with your shit right now.”

Steve glanced over at Winter, his eyes narrowed in concern. “You do know he’s only pretending to sleep, right?” He snapped his fingers twice. “Your breathing is completely different when you’re meditating. I thought you’d found the Force again.”

Winter cracked one eye. “I have. But it’s different here. More powerful and more wild. I have to concentrate so I don’t do anything reckless.”

Steve crouched down, brushed a stray hair from Winter’s forehead and whispered, “Reckless like killing a dragon?”

“I fucking heard that!” Jack snapped. “What is wrong with you, can’t you just play it safe for a teeny little bit? Why do we always have to be in mortal peril all the fucking time!?”

“We wouldn’t be in any danger. Now the dragons would be completely fucked.” Steve smiled with all of his neat white teeth. “It would be so much fun. Just like the Cyclone on Coney Island.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Winter said and Steve took Winter’s hand and placed it on his cheek. Steve nestled into Winter’s palm and Winter closed his eyes. His whole body jerked and spasmed as he absorbed what Steve was feeling, what he was remembering. When his eyes opened, they were dilated wide. Winter’s nostrils flared and he panted, “Yes! That! More of that!”

“What did you do to him?” Jack asked, he took a step backwards as his deep seeded survival instincts kicked in. Two predators on the hunt, that’s what he saw. Winter had fed on Steve’s insatiable blood-lust, his passion for adrenaline-fueled conquest and carnage.

“Nothing, I merely shared my feelings. He is a Sith. That’s where he gets his power from. He understands such things on a much deeper, more primal level than you ever possibly could.” Steve offered Winter his hand and hauled him upright off the couch. Steve kept staring at Jack, Jack took another step back, up against the door.

“And I love that about you, my sweet darling boy. You redeem me with your guileless innocence, your innate utter goodness. But right now, you need to step away from that door. I have urges that need to be satiated and if I’m not stabbing a dragon in the fucking eye, then for a moment—“ Steve tilted his head and took slow, measured steps towards Jack. He closed the distance between them in a matter of heartbeats, “I might forget how much I care for you and take out my frustrations upon you. Oh I’d regret my actions, I would. I’d be so remorseful and penitent for my lapse. But you would remember and I don’t think you want anymore memories like that.” Steve stroked Jack’s beard with the back of his hand.

“You are such an asshole.” Jack slapped Steve’s hand away from his face. “Fine. Go kill a dragon. Go get yourself killed. Kill Winter too. Maybe I’ll wait for you, maybe I won’t. Depends on how fucking frustrated I get, doesn’t it?” Jack stepped away from the door. “You’ve got an hour. Make it snappy!”

“Yes sir!” Steve snapped a crisp salute, clicking his heels with regimental precision. “Move out! We’ve got a schedule to keep! And fuck the door. Let’s take the window!” Steve threw open the drapes, “Think you can make it?” He challenged Winter.

“Does a Wampa shit in the snow?” Winter quipped back, color high in his cheekbones. He waved his arm at the window and the thick, bubbly glass exploded out into the courtyard below. Winter leapt out the window, propelled by the Force.

Steve grabbed the window sash and prepared to vault out after Winter, but paused. He leapt back towards Jack, caught him in his arms and dipped him low. He kissed Jack with pulse-searing passion and when their lips parted Jack said, “Fifty-eight minutes.” He held up his wrist and pointed at his watch.

Steve grinned, “Wait for me, my love.” Then he loped off, sprang through the open window and left Jack alone in a strange castle on a strange world, half dressed and plenty pissed off. He didn’t notice that he wasn’t really alone until something very sharp poked him in the small of his back.

     

“We found him lurking in the antechamber, my Queen.” The knights pushed Jack to his knees. He was stripped to the waist, his arms bound behind him. He looked up at a regal, elderly woman who looked down upon him with resigned interest.

“Introductions appear to be in order. I am Queen Margaret and you would be?” Her hand had a slight tremor, but her voice was steady and stern.

“Jack Rollins.” He thought very hard about needing a rescue, but Winter seemed to have his Force telepathy on hold. The one time I actually want him to be listening to my mind. Figures.

“Mister Rollins. Is it Sir Rollins? It’s always good to refer to one with the proper title. For example, I am usually addressed as your Majesty.” She tilted her crowned head to the side.

Jack took the hint and bowed his head. “Agent Rollins, your Majesty.”

“And have you come alone to infiltrate my castle? Or are you affiliated with the two knights that are currently slaying the Hydra outside of our gates?” Jack’s head jerked up in alarm. That was different than a simple dragon. The queen smiled, “Fear not. They are making steady progress, eventually they will learn that once you cut off one head, two more will take its place. We rarely are graced with fearless slayers, I thought perhaps only once in a lifetime, so I must ask,” She leaned forward and pinned Jack to the spot with her clear-eyed gaze. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“We are travelers, your Majesty. We came here accidentally, one of us was injured.” Jack answered as honestly as he could. He didn’t want to get burnt as a witch.

“Travelers who do battle with monsters?”

“For fun.” Jack sighed. “They— they like to fight.”

The queen raised an incredulous eyebrow. “If they survive then I shall thank them with the pomp and honor that such a feat deserves. Until then, join me in the shrine Agent Rollins. You are a visitor to our country and you must observe our customs.” The men at arms hoisted Jack to his feet. The queen rose from her throne. “Perhaps three fearless dragonslayers will bring us luck.”

   The hall was lined with embroidered tapestries. They told a story. As the Queen walked beneath them, she narrated the tale. “Once, a great many years ago there was a good, kind King. He ruled with justice and compassion and that bred envy and hatred from those less exceptional than he.” The king was blonde, had wide shoulders, a narrow waist and a familiar profile— Oh no. The queen gestured at the tapestry. “King Stephan. My husband.”

The next tapestry had a dark-haired man with black livery and armor adorned with a red star. “The Paladin. My husband’s closest friend and greatest fighter.” Her voice was steady, but tired as if she spoke the same speech for the thousandth time. “They did battle against the Crimson Skull and his horde of monsters. The worst of his creation was the Hydra.” A dragon with nine heads. What Steve and Winter were battling. It loomed above the armies and spewed fire.

“My king fell in battle, struck by a treacherous curse from behind. The Paladin took up my husband’s sword and his mighty shield and he defended his king.” The knight bled from many wounds, but stood defiant over his unconscious king. “He perished, of course. But not before driving back the monster, he saved us. He saved our King Stephan.”

A shield with a star upon it. How many times had Jack seen that, on how many worlds? Jack gulped in apprehension.

The queen appraised him, the red stars and words carved into his flesh. “You wear the emblems of the Paladin and the name of the traitor who flung the curse at my beloved carved into your skin.” Her eyes narrowed. “How peculiar.” She picked up the hem of her robe and strode to the end of the hall. She unlocked the door with a key from the chatelaine that hung from her waist.

She entered the room and the guards pressed Jack forward. The room was dark and windowless. A candle flickered alight and the queen lit an ornate series of oil lamps. The greasy light cast deep shadows upon the shrouded body lying upon a gilded shrine.

“The curse was simple, but insidious. Eternal youth and life in the guise of endless slumber.” She pulled back the heavily embroidered shroud and Jack couldn’t hold back a gasp of recognition. It was Steve— no it was a version of Steve. A beard framed pink lips. Long eyelashes dusted his mole sprinkled cheeks. His face was soft in sleep.

“The curse could only be broken by True Love’s Kiss. That is what the traitor Rumlow confessed as I had him drawn and quartered upon the rack.” She combed her wizen fingers through his hair. “Imagine my surprise when my love wasn’t true enough.” She closed her eyes in long-suffering grief for a moment, then opened them and stared at Jack. The lamp light flickered and gleamed on her eyes. “Imagine my despair when I realized that our only hope of breaking the curse had died defending his King.”

“I— I’m so sorry.” Jack’s apology sounded hollow in the shrine. “How— how can I help?”

“We believe that souls of the dead can come back in new bodies. All young men and young women of the realm come here on their sixteenth birthday and kiss their sleeping king. For luck. For blessings. For the impossible chance of wakening him. All visitors, even criminals and miscreants, must do the same.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. The queen huffed in impatience. “Go on now.” He leaned over, the resemblance was uncanny. He half expected the king to sit up and laugh at him after he wet himself in shock. It would be something Steve would do. Come back from the dead just to see Jack freak out. Jack pressed his lips to the king’s, they were cold just like Steve’s. When he took a step back, the queen let out a sigh, as if she had been holding her breath.

There was no response from the sleeping king. He was beautiful and inert. The queen covered his face and whispered, “Until next time, my darling.”

The guards pushed Jack out of the shrine and the queen extinguished the lamps, then snuffed the candle. She locked the door behind her and brushed her hands on her skirt. “Well. Shall we see how your fellow travelers are doing against the child of the monster that slew the mightiest warriors in my land?” Her expression was pitiless. “There’s always hope.” 

Chapter Text

Jack was allowed to sit at Queen Margaret’s feet on the stone dais of her throne. It might have been an honor, but his ass wasn’t made for sitting on marble for hours at a time. Especially after Steve’s hips had been slamming into him, it hadn’t been tender love-making. Jack shifted his weight and that small movement attracted her attention.   

“Do you need a cushion?” Her tone inferred that taking her up on her offer would be less than manly. Well fuck that.

“That would be lovely, your Majesty. Truly a kind and generous offer.” Jack bowed his head to hide his gritted teeth.

She crooked her finger and an attendant brought a pillow. Jack settled gratefully upon it. “Your fellow travelers are taking a great while to slay the Hydra. Are you concerned?”

He was. It had taken half this amount of time for Steve to slay the T Rex and he’d taunted the huge beast to prolong his enjoyment of the hunt.  He was’t going to admit this to the queen. “No, they enjoy a leisurely sport. Unique beasts deserve careful planning.”

The queen remarked, “My scouts informed me that this careful deliberation involves a near constant stream of oaths and blasphemies in several odd languages and improvised weaponry. Several of my siege engines were used as bludgeons. One of your friends appears to possess superior strength and the other can make objects fly. Are they sportsmen or are they witches?”

“What is the official royal policy on witchcraft?” Jack did his best to appear meek and the queen snorted.

“As long as the wielder is loyal to the crown, I do not care if their hair turns blue or they spew toads from their lips. Expediency, Agent Rollins. I am too old to coddle the sensitive and too my time is too valuable to be trifled with. Stephan was the kind monarch. Sweet and honorable. I was the blade hidden in his sleeve.”

“So, you’re telling me not to mess with you. Got it.” She quirked her lips and Jack added, “Your Majesty. We weren’t planning on staying but Steve saw the dragon and he changed the plans.” Jack shrugged as best he could with his arms bound behind him. “He’s persuasive. One of his charms, I suppose.”

“Steve.” Queen Margaret leaned her chin on her hand. “How long have you known this man?”

“Not long at all and forever, it seems.” Jack cracked a wry smile.

“Ah. Then you would not be the person to vouch for his quality of character, having known him for so little time.” She arched her eyebrow at Jack’s squirming. “Or was that a romantic euphemism?”

“What’s the official royal policy on that?” Jack asked. He was determined to not be burnt, drawn and quartered or locked in a dungeon.

“Love who you will. As long as I reign.” She gestured at a portrait of the sleeping King that hung in the throne room. “If I had known.” She paused and then smoothed the skirts over her knees. “Secrets are weapons that cut both ways. The traitor who cursed my husband exploited this. May his soul never rebirth.”

“Rumlows are good at doing that.” Jack murmured.

“Rumlows? Plural? Speak up, explain this.”

“There are more worlds than just this one—“

“Yes, yes. The World Tree has many branches. That is nothing a child is not aware of.”

This might be easier than I thought. “Each of those worlds has people with the same faces but different lives. We can travel between those worlds, your Majesty.”

“Fascinating. Possibly utter rubbish. You mean that there is version of myself out there who is not a queen?”

“An infinite number of variations.”

“A Margaret who has children, even grandchildren playing about her skirts? Who has the true love of her king?” Her resigned sadness was heartrending. “Seems like a faerie story concocted by a particularly cruel bard.”

“I’m not that creative.” Jack shook his head. “It is what it is.”

“And that is ever what it shall be.” The queen added. She rapped her fingers on her throne and then commanded a guard. “Sir Wilson, cut his bonds.” The guard paused for a moment. “Sir Wilson. I do not enjoy repeating myself.”

“Yes, my queen.” The guard cut the rope that bound Jack’s wrists. Jack’s hands tingled with pins and needles, he rubbed circulation back into his wrists. The guard stood behind Jack and did not sheath his knife.

Queen Margaret pinched the bridge of her nose. “You do not strike me as a threat, Agent Rollins. My guard may not be as easily convinced.” Jack glanced back at the strong young man who eyed him suspiciously. He held the sharp blade easily and with a great deal of confidence.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, your Majesty.”

“You are amusing, Agent Rollins. Eventually I will decipher your mysteries. Until then—“ The massive doors that had to be pulled by four strong men slammed open as if blown by a gust of wind. Queen Margaret gripped the arms of her throne and Sir Wilson sprang up to shield her.

Steve and Winter were drenched in ichor, thick red gore covered them like dribbles of candle wax. strode into the throne room, dragging something dripping with blood behind them. They were surrounded by guards and instantly the guards were repelled, their swords clattering on the stone floor. The taller man flung the net into the center of the throne room. Nine Hydra heads rolled and bounced against the dais.

“Approach the throne!” Queen Margaret proclaimed, her voice clear and strong in the silence of the room. They obeyed and Jack’s eyes grew wide as Steve knelt in front of her. That wasn’t like him at all. “You have slain the Hydra and done a valuable service to our kingdom. Who do we address?”

Steve’s white teeth were a slash in the red goo that obscured his face. “Captain Steven Rogers, your Majesty! And my squire, Winter. I see you have met my consort, Jack. I pray that he hasn’t been too much of a bother.”

“Get the man a towel, I wish to see his face under all that.” The queen ordered and a servant handed Steve a wet cloth. He scrubbed at his face as he knelt and when he took the towel away, Queen Margaret went pale. “This cannot be.” The hall echoed with exclamations of shock and wonder.

Steve brushed his filthy forelock away from his face and preened in the awe of the crowd. “It was nothing. Nothing that a hero wouldn’t do.” Jack schooled his face into stillness at the ridiculousness of the whole situation.

“Bathe them. Clothe them. I am most sure that we will have some livery that will fit both of them like gloves.” The tremor in the queen’s hand grew stronger. “We shall have a celebratory feast tonight to honor our newfound brave heroes!” There was rejoicing from the crowd. Steve stood and bowed to the crowd, prompting a new round of cheers.

“This is far crueler than any tale any bard ever dreamt of,” Queen Margaret said to Jack as she stood, her eyes damp with unshed tears. “Go to him. Give him his victor’s due. For tomorrow you could be alone with only your memories of his smile.” Sir Wilson offered his arm to her and she refused it, a pat of her gnarled hand upon his shoulder.

 

Chapter Text

 

Winter and Steve left a trail of gore in their wake as they descended into the depths of the castle. Their escorts gave them a wide berth due to the mess and smell. “Gimme a kiss.” Steve leered, his massive arms outstretched. Jack ducked his sticky embrace.

“You stay away from me until after you’ve bathed. You smell like—“ Jack wrinkled his nose.

“Like victory.” Steve laughed and Winter echoed him, a hollow imitation. “My boy here and I we had a grand time. The dragon had some kind of armored scales, I didn’t plan for that. It took so much longer because I had to rip the damn things out by the roots before there were soft spots to penetrate.”

Steve itched his nose, “And then there was that pesky regeneration, but Winter here,” Steve grabbed Winter about the shoulders with one arm and squeezed in camaraderie with a wet squelch. “He figured out that the lightsaber cauterized the neck stumps and then it was a cake walk. I must have pulled out a mile of that creature’s intestines.” He looked dreamy with pleasure. “This was best jump we’ve ever made. Thank you, Jack. Since I can’t touch you, prissy Peaches—” Steve kissed Winter on the cheek with a loud smack. “There. Use that mind link thing you have and pass it on.”

“Speaking of that mind link thing,” Jack snapped, “I called for help!”

“I heard you. But from what I saw through your eyes, it did not seem too urgent.” Winter smiled with too many teeth. “You were very safe with the queen. And I was having too much fun.”

“What is wrong with you?” Jack asked, concerned at the rapid change in Winter’s attitude and mannerisms. “Is it the Force? Did you get accidentally dosed with the sex pollen? Please tell me you didn’t.” 

Winter hummed a jaunty tune. “No one knows Jedi or Sith in this world. No one knows what I’ve done. I am a hero.” He grinned up at Steve, who was still clasping his shoulder as they walked. “We’re both heroes. I have so much living to do.”

“This seems like something you came up with.” Jack accused Steve.

“Of course I did. It’s a flawless plan. And from the look of it, these people might need a new king sooner rather than later.” Steve murmured into Jack’s ear.

Sir Wilson looked back at them in impatience and disgust. “The bathing chambers are beyond that door. The feast will be served at the third bell. Clothing will be brought to you.”

Steve walked up to the knight and bowed his head, in a gesture of respect. “My thanks to your generous Queen and yourself, Sir. Your hospitality is surpassed only by your sincerity.”

Sir Wilson’s brown eyes narrowed in suspicion and he pulled open the door. “Be sure to scrub behind your ears.”

“Always making new friends, aren’t you Steve?” Jack groused. The bathing chamber was a grotto of steaming water, a natural spring. A separate stream of cool water from outside reduced the temperature from scalding. A scullery boy pointed at at tubs of water, separate from the soaking pool. Thick slabs of rough hewn soap were stacked up beside the tubs.

“I’m a people person.” Steve unzipped his suit, dribbles of red slipped down his pale skin. The servant boy was thin, scrawny and trembling with fear at the blood covered strangers. He held out his arms for the laundry and Steve paused.

“I don’t suppose you have cold water, no bleach, tumble dry low here, do you?” The lad shook his head. “Then I’ll take care of my own laundry needs. My squire’s clothing can be washed. Thank you kind sir.” The servant boy got the same small bow that the knight had and a huge grin grew in the child’s smudged face.

“Scrub off here. Rinse there. Soak there.” The boy pointed at the pools. “Towels there. If you need anything else my Lord, I am here for your needs.” He scampered off and the three of them were left alone.

“Truly a lovely facility.” Steve and Winter stripped down. “Jack, Jack my sweet. Come on over here.”

“What do you want Steve?” Jack peered about the lamplit grotto. There were many places for spies to hide. “You know, discretion is a part of valor, right?” Steve’s knees stuck out of the tub, the water turned a pale sickening pink. Winter sunk down to his nose, his dark hair floated on the top of the water.

“Remember our first bath together?” Steve crooked his finger.

“Yup. Purge Night. You were covered in blood then too. Not dragon blood either.” Jack made a face. “There’s no bubble bath this time.”

“Can’t have everything. Wash my hair Jack.” Steve dipped down and wet his hair in the pink water. “Distract me from the fact that I had to kill a dragon with huge hard on in my pants because you finished before I did.”

Jack turned red and gritted his teeth. “You know we’re probably not alone down here, right?” He lathered up a bar of soap, it smelled of lavender.

“Oh I’m sure of it. I can hear their heartbeats. They were impressed when we got naked by the way. That was nice. Sometimes I think you don’t appreciate me— Oh!” Steve groaned in pleasure as Jack lathered up his scalp, pressing in with his strong calloused hands.

“You were saying?” Jack muttered and Steve relaxed into the water, putty in Jack’s hands. “That’s what I thought.” He scrubbed until the lather was clean and then rinsed Steve’s hair with an ewer of warm water beside the tub. Droplets beaded in Steve’s long lashes and Jack thought about the sleeping king. “Be on your best behavior. The queen is no joke.”

“I know her face from somewhere.” Steve poked his toes up from the water and wriggled them. “Oh yes! The English lass with the right hook and delightful screa—!” Jack covered Steve’s mouth with his hand.

“Shut the fuck up about that. Remember heroes don’t brag about their exploits.” Jack hissed in Steve’s ear. Steve turned his head and easily caught Jack’s hand in his, pulled Jack down for a fierce kiss.

“And that is why I love you,” Steve stood up, water dripped down his scarred chest and rippling muscles. He gleamed in the lamplight like a oiled statue, heroic in stature if not in heart. “Wash Winter’s hair too.”

Jack huffed a sigh and leaned over Winter’s tub of bloody water. “Want me to wash your hair?” Winter’s eyes peeked out from behind his wet hair and he nodded. Jack grabbed the soap and lathered it up. Winter made soft noises of pleasure at Jack’s touch.

Winter leaned back into Jack’s hands. “You are good at this.”

“Practice.” Jack grunted. “You don’t seem to be as, how do I put this, as intense as you usually are. I thought I’d be puking and pissing myself touching you.” Jack said, fishing out a gobbet of dragon flesh from Winter’s hair.

“I do not usually like to be touched. But I— I like you, my padawan. And you mean me no harm, you have only concern and warmth in your heart. I could bask in that warmth as easily as I do in this water. This world’s Force is so unruly. Wild and passionate. Intoxicating.” Winter cupped Jack’s hand against his cheek and sighed. “Feels like a realm of second chances.” 

Steve emerged from the rinsing tub and shook his hair away from his eyes. He gazed at Jack and Winter through lazily slitted eyes that glittered in the lamplight. Jack watched him as he strode to the steaming hot water of the soaking pool.

“Ohhh.” Steve moaned in pleasure. “I finally feel warm. This is amazing. Join me boys. You won’t regret it.”

“If you feel warm, then that will probably make soup out of us.” Jack poured water over Winter’s head, rinsing it clean.

“I’d lap up every drop of Jack-soup. Sop it up with bread and eat you up.” Steve laughed, “That was stupid. Really this feels great.” He held up his hand and beckoned.

Jack shrugged and kicked off his boots, his pants. He dipped a toe in the pool and cursed, “Fuck that’s hot.” He inched into the water, slowly acclimating to the heat when Steve lost his patience and seized Jack about the waist. He dragged him into the water and Jack wildly thrashed in his arms.

“Funny. That’s what I was thinking watching you.” Steve purred in his ear. “It’s so cute when you struggle.”

“I think I just burnt off all my skin you jackass!” Jack settled down once he could breathe. Winter laughed, a chime of mirth as he dipped into the hot water. “Yeah, yeah. I’m a sensitive flower next to you two monsters.”

“Monsters?” Steve opened his mouth in mock offense. “How dare you accuse us of less than heroic character!” He gripped Jack’s cock in his hand and stroked. “He should make it up to us, shouldn’t he Winter?”

Winter slid close to them. He brushed a droplet off of Jack’s cheek, a delicate butterfly touch. “He should service us to show how contrite he is.”

“I am not getting fucked in here.” Jack said, “Let me sit between you two.” The two warriors bracketed him with their thighs and Jack took them both in hand. “Hand job. Easy, efficient and we won’t be late for dinner.”

“You’re so practical Peaches.” Steve leaned his head back and luxuriated in Jack’s caresses. “Little faster, little harder.”

“Excuse me, I’m multitasking!”

Winter squeezed his eyes shut and his breath came faster, quicker. Jack projected all the affection, warmth that he could at his teacher, it wasn’t perfect, but it had the right effect. Winter shivered, gasped and came in the water. His eyes opened and stared into Jack’s. Thank you, the thought sprang into Jack’s mind and he sent back, Welcome.

Steve snapped his fingers. “Excuse me, back to the hand job at hand please.” Jack twisted his wrist and Steve bit his lip. “Better. But I like it better when you’re coming with me. On my lap, love.” Jack obeyed and he rubbed his cock against Steve’s. They thrust into his fist and Steve claimed Jack’s lips, fucked his mouth as eagerly as they ground against each other. Jack gasped in pleasure, the light from his tattoo flared under the water and illuminated the entire grotto with incandescence. Steve wound his fingers into Jack’s hair, pulled back Jack’s head to bare his throat and as he orgasmed, bit into the soft flesh there.

“Ow! Holy fuck!” Jack squealed.

“That’s so you remember who you belong to.” Steve kissed the bruise, tender and sharp. “We’re in a new world, but some things remain the same. You and I.”

“You could have warned me!” Jack rubbed at his throat. Winter was floating on his back in the water, serene in his post-orgasmic state.

“Now where’s the fun in that? You’re a big boy, you can take it.” Steve stood up, Jack fell off his lap with a huge splash. He could hear Steve laughing as he rose from the water. And at that moment, he decided to make the inevitable visit to the shrine a special surprise.

Steve was a big boy, after all. He could take it.

   

Chapter Text

The servant lad brought them bundles of clothing. Steve held up a tunic and squinted at it. “Red, white and blue. I like black.

“Red for courage. White for valor. Blue for loyalty.” The boy said, “These were the king’s.” His big brown eyes shown with awe under a shock of black hair. “I can— I help you put them on.”

“You think I need help, lad?” Steve said.

“Well, my lord, you do have that upside down.” The boy said and Jack stifled a snort.

“What’s your name kid?” Steve bent down and stared him in the eyes.

“Antony.”

“You’re not a Stark by any chance, are you?” Steve raised his eyebrow.

“I’m an orphan. Don’t know my parents’ name. I fixed the water pipes in here though, so people didn’t get burned so often. I’m good with my hands.” He held them out to Steve and Steve put the tunic in them. “Arms up, sir.”

Jack watched the boy step on a stool so that he could reach above Steve’s head. There were a lot of straps and ties, but no buttons. Jack scratched his bearded chin and watched as Steve transformed into a knight from the days of old. He grinned. “It’s like going to the Ren Faire with Murphy all over again.” The rest of them looked at Jack as if he were babbling nonsense. “You wouldn’t get it. We don’t all have a lot of shared life experiences. Hey Steve?”

“Yes?” His voice was muffled by the surcoat over his head.

“Did you kill Murphy?” Jack asked. He didn’t really want to know the answer. “My CO you tortured to get the location of the trailer in the woods?”

“Who? Oh! That guy. I’m wearing my own boots. And do you have anything with pouches? I like pouches.” Steve directed Antony. “Didn’t have to torture him. Remember, I had my moles in the organization. Just shot out his tires and left him for dead. I’m sure he made it. It wasn’t that bad of a crash. Air bags and very little fire.” Steve held out his hands, displaying his outfit with a wide smile. “So what do you think?”

Jack spat, “You’re a real prince.Murphy. Fuck.

“Ooh! That’s what I was going for.” Steve ruffled Antony’s hair, “Better help them out too. They’re even more helpless than I am.” A bucket of soapy water rose and hovered ominously behind Steve. Jack shook his head and the bucket returned to the floor.   

Winter looked down at his garments. He fingered the red stars that spangled down his black sleeves. “I like this. I’m not sure why.”

“You’ll match Jack.” Steve said, his nostrils flared and he inhaled, “Can you smell that? It smells delicious.” He busied himself secreting away items upon himself that usually were hidden in his tactical suit.

“The feast in your honor. It was over half a century since the last time we ate dragon meat.” Antony helped Winter into his garments. He peered at the scar on Winter’s face with great curiosity. “You are great warriors.” Winter hid behind his hair. “I can plait your hair for you, sir. I’ve practiced on the horses.”

Winter nodded and Jack picked up his own bundle of clothing. It wasn’t nearly as complicated as what Steve and Winter wore, certainly it was more comfortable. The fabric wasn’t as fine as he was used to and it reminded him of the technological differences between the last two worlds they had jumped to. He was dressed before Antony was done plaiting Winter’s hair into two neat rows. The boy put his hands on his hips and proudly surveyed his work. “There. Now it won’t snag in your helmet when you joust.”

“Thank you.” Winter murmured. His stomach growled, he put his hand on his belly to silence it.

Steve laughed. “Let’s not keep the food waiting.” 

“Oh you must first visit the shrine. The Queen will be waiting for you there. Come, I will take you.” Antony beckoned.

“So we have to say Grace before dinner here as well?” Steve quipped and Jack put his hand on Antony’s shoulder before the child could explain.

“Something like that.” It would be great to see the smug bastard taken down a peg. He cared for Steve, but he didn’t like him all the time.  Winter was too engrossed in his new wardrobe to notice any change of emotion from Jack. His mind was his own again. It felt great. Seeing Steve’s face when he met the king would be better.

 

“The curse was simple, but insidious. Eternal youth and life in the guise of endless slumber.” Queen Margaret said in the lamplight of the shrine. She pulled back the shroud and Jack watched the blood drain out of Steve’s face. “All visitors must give the king a kiss for the curse can only be broken by True Loves’s Kiss.” She gazed imperiously at Steve and Winter. “Well, go on now.”

“Uh,” Steve said, at a loss for words for the first time Jack could remember. “He’s not dead? I can’t hear a heartbeat.”

The queen frowned. “It would be so much simpler if he were. From the tales of your exploits in the bathing chambers, kissing a male should not be such a difficulty. Your consort had no trouble fulfilling his duty.”

“Oh he didn’t mention anything about this to me. I do so adore surprises.” Steve gripped Jack’s shoulder tight enough to bruise. “Perhaps my squire would like to go first.” Jack gritted his teeth in pain.

Winter stepped forward, the queen stared daggers at him but said nothing. “He is beautiful.” Winter said and placed his hands on both sides of the king’s face, like a lover would. The queen inhaled, a hiss of breath between clenched teeth. Winter closed his eyes and kissed the king’s cold lips. A sudden blast of Force driven thought knocked Jack back, he fell to his knees from the kickback.

Holy shit. Jack’s eyes blurred and Winter patted the king on the cheek. There was no response from the sleeping king.

“Is your consort unwell?” The queen asked, still not speaking to Winter.

“He’s better now than he will be.” Steve laughed, a brittle peal. “So how many people have kissed the king over the years?”

“Every man and woman in this kingdom. Countless visitors. Perhaps you will be the lucky hero who will awake him. Come now. The food will be cold if you dawdle.”

“I’m so honored.” Steve gave the King Stephan a quick peck on the lips. It had about as much passion as the kisses Jack got from his elderly Aunt Bertha. There was no response from the king. The queen covered up his body with the shroud.

“Until next time, my dearest.” As she bent over the body, Steve wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.


 

Steve stopped as Sir Wilson escorted them towards the feast. He put his hand over his face and sighed heavily.

“Is there a problem?” Sir Wilson inquired.

“I— I am simply overcome with exhaustion and the honor of meeting the sleeping king.” Steve’s shoulders slumped. “Is there a place where I might sit and rest for a moment? I would be ever so grateful.”

Sir Wilson pointed to a side hall. “There’s an alcove there. I’ll let Her Majesty know that you’ll be keeping her waiting.”

Steve nodded, “Thank you kind Sir. I will be but a moment, until this fit passes. It vexes me.” He grabbed Jack and leaned upon him heavily. “Help me, my dear. You know how weak I get after I’m emotionally overwhelmed.” Jack felt himself propelled into the alcove whether he wanted to be emotional support or not.

When they were out of sight and earshot, Steve hissed into Jack’s ear. “What the fuck was that? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t think you’d have such a problem with it! You're a big boy after all.” 

“When’s the last time you kissed your own corpse?”

“He’s not dead, he’s sleeping.”

“There was no heartbeat, Jack. I just kissed my dead doppelgänger and did you stop to think if they ever cleaned those lips? We just kissed every fucking person in the whole kingdom. It isn’t sanitary.” Steve finished with a huff. “Now my immune system can take it, but mark my words you’re going to have a very bad time of it. And that’s your punishment. Ha ha. I win.” He composed himself. “Now let’s go out there and make a good impression, because I like being the hero for once and you’re not going to fuck this up for me. You got it, Jack? You hear me son?”

“Yes, sweetheart.” Jack rubbed his shoulder and glared at Steve. “Ten four.” I hope you get royal herpes.  

Chapter Text

They were seated next to the queen, at her right hand as a sign of honor. “Agent Jack. Please sit next to me. Then your consort. And the squire.” It was a deliberate dig at Steve, but he was too busy smiling at the curious onlookers who clamored for a view of the monster-slaying heroes.

“Thank you for the honor, your Majesty.” Jack bowed.

“You seem to be the only member of your party who comprehends honor,” Queen Margaret sniffed, then she sat in her chair and the rest of the party followed. “That was petty of me.” She sighed and took a drink from her chalice, “Perhaps I was blinded by hope. A selfish hope.”

Jack looked at his hands. “Sometimes hope is all we have to light the darkness.”

“Oh? Are you a poet now too? Hope is the flip side of disappointment, the coin of life.” She joined in the applause as the cooks brought in a huge roast haunch of meat. “Shall we see if Hydra tastes as bitter as it did the first time I ate it?” She closed her eyes in weariness.

Jack looked away to give the queen a moment of privacy and caught Sir Wilson doing the same thing. Jack hazarded a nod and after a moment, Sir Wilson returned it.

Steve laughed too loud and too long at a joke told by a courtier and Jack winced at his acting. He wasn’t going to fool everyone for long. He just wasn’t that good at pretending to be well-adjusted. Everyone waited until the queen had been served and then she raised her chalice high.

“Our thanks to the travelers who slew the monster outside our gates. May they enjoy their respite and our hospitality until they choose to return to their own lands. We are certain that such great warriors will be missed by their own people. To our champions, long shall they be fond memories in our hearts!” She took a drink and the crowd cheered.

Sir Wilson’s lips quivered in a desperate attempt to avoid smiling and Jack started coughing as he tried to do the same. That was the prettiest way of saying, don’t let the door hit you on the way out he’d ever heard. Steve clapped him on the back.

“You okay?” Steve was glowing in the admiration of the onlookers.  “So, this is what it feels like…” He blinked and snorted to himself. “No wonder there’s so many of me out there in the hero trade.”

“No one said you had to go back to the status quo, Steve.” Jack said quietly, knowing that Steve could hear him over the cacophony of revelers. “This could be you.”

Steve poked at his meal and sighed, then he brightened. “Today, I am the conquering hero and my exploits will be sung of in legends.” He stood up and raised his goblet high. “To the Good Queen! Long shall she reign!” A chorus of cheers. Spots of pink colored Steve’s cheeks, but the wine couldn’t effect his super-powered metabolism. He was drunk on their gazes.

Jack took a bite of his meat, it was bland and he couldn’t quite stomach the idea of eating a dragon. “Winter, can you pass the salt?” Winter waved his hand and the saltcellar levitated to Jack in front of Steve. Jack snagged it out of the air and muttered, “Thanks.” He sprinkled salt on his meat and the sudden silence finally hit him. Everyone was staring at Winter, including the queen.

“Winter.” The queen addressed the former Sith. “Pardon my curiosity, but how did you get that distinctive scar on your face?” She traced the path of the scar on her own face, her voice loud enough to be heard in the far corners of the hall.

Winter reached below the table, unclipped his light saber and ignited it with a snapping, crackling pop. He waved it in the air, the humming and throbbing of the red blade held everyone’s attention. Then he whipped it and neatly cut the stem of his water goblet in half. Winter shut off the lightsaber and clipped it to his belt. “That is how.” Winter said and returned to his meal.

The hall erupted into applause. Jack choked down his mouthful of meat. For the love of fuck, do not do anything else in here like that, Jack thought fiercely and Winter blinked as if he’d been slapped across the face with the thought.

Steve bit his lip, realized he was no longer the center of attention, frowned and sat down.

“Dinner and a magic show. How droll.” Queen Margaret said, her tone unimpressed by Winter’s display. “Do you know how to make a coin appear from behind my ear?”

Winter shook his head. “I— can hear thoughts. If I touch the person.”

The queen leaned towards him, “Then what am I thinking, kind sir?”

Winter stood and placed his fingers on her hand. Then he shook his head and said in her ear. “No. He loved you too.”

The queen yanked her hand back and held it against her chest as if she were scalded. “How would you know that?” Her tone wavered between hope and incredulity. “How could you possibly know?”

“I— can hear thoughts. If I touch the person.” Winter repeated as if that answered her question. “You can’t hear me, you’re not Force-Sensitive.”

“It doesn’t really get much easier to understand.” Jack interjected, “Really it doesn’t.” He plastered a reassuring smile on his face and the queen opened her mouth to ask another question.

The massive hall doors flew open, slammed against the walls and a lone man walked into the hall. He approached the throne and a gasp echoed against the stone. A memory. A ghost. A relic from the past.

“Where is my Queen?” King Stephan bellowed.

Queen Margaret clutched at her wedding ring, her eyes wide with shock.

“Answer me!” King Stephan shouted.

“I am here.” Queen Margaret stood. He voice rang clear and strong. “I am here, my King.”

He scowled. “More trickery. More Skull lies.”

Steve decided that he was the person to defuse the tense situation. He easily vaulted the table and approached the king. King Stephan stared at Steve in incredulity.

“Now, now. Listen here old boy. You and I? We have more in common than just this gorgeous face.” Steve pointed at his. “You’ve got questions. And I know how terribly confusing it can be to come out of the ice. Just let me explain and everything will become crystal clear. Got me, sport?”

King Stephan nodded in agreement and Steve took his eyes away to address the crowd. “See, that wasn’t so hard. All it takes is a little compassio—“ The king shifted his grip on his broadsword, grasped the pommel like a set of brass knuckles and struck with all his might. He caught Steve right under the chin and the super-soldier went down.

“No more tricks.” King Stephan said icily and he ran towards the queen. Jack and Sir Wilson vaulted the table to defend Queen Margaret. King Stephan parried Sir Wilson’s blade and punched him in the face hard enough to knock off his helmet. Jack ducked in from behind and struck with his fists, his knuckles bruised on the chainmail beneath the king’s tunic.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck can’t let him hurt her no no no, Jack thought as he kicked at the king’s knees. He was so rusty with his hand to hand, it was pathetic. What he wouldn’t have given for a stun baton or a handgun or a fucking tank! He ducked a slash that would have taken his head clean off and that opened him to a vicious kick to his ribs that propelled him back across the table. Jack took most of the cutlery, plates of food and the table cloth with him. He couldn’t breathe, the wind was knocked clean out of him.

He stared in horror as King Stephan mounted the table, stood with his sword pointed at his queen and proclaimed, “I will finish this, witch.”

“As you wish.” Queen Margaret lifted her chin. “I already died inside when you abandoned me.”

The king swung his sword and Jack wanted to scream, but he couldn’t get there fast enough and it was too late and oh god NO!

Winter blocked King Stephan’s strike with his red lightsaber, sheared the sword blade in half. Sparks flew and bits of molten metal dripped down upon the table. The king dropped the useless handle with a clatter, he was stunned at the sight of Winter’s face. “Jakob?”

“No.” Winter raised his hand and propelled King Stephan off the table with a Force blast. The king hit the floor hard, his chainmail clattered on the stones, he rolled and recovered.

He rose on one knee and proclaimed, “More trickery. More spells. This will end Crimson Skull. If it takes my last breath to snuff out your evil then so be it—!”

Steve lunged from behind the king and knocked him to his knees. He wrenched the king’s arm behind his back and King Stephan said with venom, “Do your worst, demon. I could do this all—“

Steve’s punch echoed in the hall and the king fell to the floor, motionless. Steve cracked his neck and stood over the fallen king, “All that fuss about waking you up just to put your ass back to sleep.” He grabbed the king with one hand by the back of his chainmail collar. “When he wakes up, again, he’s going to be pissed. Better break out the manacles and not the fun kind.”

Chapter Text

“This wasn’t how I pictured our reunion.” The queen said as Sir Wilson and Steve fastened manacles about the king’s wrists. “Bring in more lamps, he’s not a prisoner, he doesn’t deserve to wake up in the dark.” She combed back his hair with her gnarled hand. “I wish I looked like you remembered me, my darling.”

King Stephan jerked back from her touch. “Do not pretend to be my beloved, foul witch.” The queen’s shoulders slumped for a moment, then she braced them and her dark eyes gleamed with intensity in the lamplight.

“Stephan, I plucked you from the dungheap when I married you and I shall put you back there if it will jog some sense into your thick head!” He blinked at her rebuke and a whisper of a smile drifted upon his lips, then was gone.

“You put up a good act, I’ll give you that. Did your research. Release me Jakob.” He called to Winter, “Unless you’re under her spell as well.”

Steve crossed his arms, rolled his eyes and huffed. “This is getting old. Winter do that thing that you do. You know, the mind share thing.”

Winter approached the king and queen, he knelt down between them and offered the queen his hand. “He doesn’t know how much time has passed. He has been fighting the Hydra while he slept. In a loop of nightmares.” The queen gave him her hand. “Think about what happened after he fell. Show him with your thoughts.” He looked at their interlaced fingers. “Sometimes it is easier if you close your eyes.”

“What are you?” Stephan asked, realization dawning. “You’re not my Jakob, are you?”

Winter shook his head and planted his other hand on King Stephan’s forehead. “I am not. This will not be pleasant for either of you. Forgive me.” The king jerked as if he were electrocuted and tears streamed down the queen’s cheeks.

Jack glanced at Steve who was chewing on the tip of his thumb, more invested in the drama unfolding in front of him than he’d ever admit. Sir Wilson stepped forward to protect the queen and Jack put his hand on Sir Wilson’s shoulder. “It won’t hurt them, I mean not physically.”

“And that’s supposed to be comforting?” The knight shot back. “You all need to leave as soon as possible.”

Winter took his hand from King Stephan’s forehead and carefully placed the queen’s hand on top of the king’s. The king clutched at his wrist for a moment. “I heard you. I heard you in my head. You told me to wake up. You shouted at me on the battlefield and everything started to melt away like sugar in the rain.”

With a heavy exhale, Winter stood up and stumbled. Jack and Steve caught him up in their arms before he fell. Winter rested his head against Jack’s chest, bits of dark hair escaping from his braids. “Just lived another lifetime. Better another life than my own though.” 

Jack watched as the king picked up Queen Margaret’s hand in his. “How could you ever forgive me?” He ran his thumb over her wrinkles, the tops of her arthritic knuckles. He pressed her hand to his lips over and over, as if she were made of moonlight and would vanish. 

“Forgive you? You’re the most stubborn man I’ve ever known. You couldn’t even die properly. All these years, the only thing that kept me waking up in the morning was the hope that you’d wake up and I could kick your shin and kiss you senseless at the same time! And now I’m old. My kicks and kisses don’t have the same sting.” She wiped her face on her sleeve. “I had to dissolve our union, so I could rule. You weren’t dead, you weren’t alive. I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about so many, many things.”

She sighed, “And I’m sorry about Jakob.” The queen leaned her head against King Stephan’s chest. “You should have told me how you two cared for each other.”

King Stephan choked back a wracking sob. “Did he— did he die well?”

“He was holding your sword and your shield as he protected you with his last breath. Such a fierce warrior, devoted to his king since childhood. I buried him in the family crypt, next to where you and I will be interred. I resented him, the way you cared for each other, but I could not dishonor him or his memory.”

King Stephan slumped forward in his chains, buried his face in the queen’s gown and said wretchedly, “He— he didn’t know. I never told him.” He looked up at Queen Margaret, “And now I never will. Forgive me, my love.”

She patted his face and shushed him, “Shhh. He knew. I was the clueless one. The curse must have required more than one true love to break. My kiss on the day you fell and the man who wears the face of your other beloved.” She stood, clad in decades of hard won dignity. “Release him from these chains. My thanks to you, Sir Winter. Oh, I know you’re a squire, but I feel you deserve to be elevated. A knighthood is the very least thing I can give you in gratitude.” Then she bobbed a small curtesy to Winter. Jack’s eyes nearly boggled out of his head.

“I did well?” Winter asked. “The Force here is so unruly. It takes so much effort to control and focus it. I feel—“ he sighed, “worn out.”

“You did very well.” Jack confirmed.

Winter smiled. “Good.” The king and queen embraced each other and as they parted, he said “Thank you, your Majesties. And my sincere condolences on the loss of your child.”

Queen Margaret stiffened in Stephan’s arms. The king took her hand and looked down at her. “What does he mean?”

“So you saw that too. I was trying to hard to hold that back. Such needless pain.” She appeared lost in her memories, in the past. The king held her close again and she said against his broad chest, “You were already asleep when I discovered that I was with child.” She whimpered and began to sob, “I lost our child, Stephan. I lost him.”

Steve held Jack a little tighter, moved by the Queen’s grief. Then the queen spat with venom, “It was the fae. They took him from his cradle and left a changeling in his place. When I went to gather him for Naming Day, the changeling vanished in a puff of blue smoke at my touch. I heard a voice say, “Payment due for services rendered.” And I never knew what had been so precious as to warrant the theft of our first-born, of our only child.”

King Stephan kissed her forehead and stared at the four men watching them. “I know, my love. And it’s all my fault.” 

Chapter Text

 

“What do you mean, your fault?” The queen pushed the king away from her. “What do you mean!?” Her face contorted in grief and accusation. “Did you? Did you sell our child!?”

King Stephan clutched at her hand and fell to his knees. “I did not. But my mother did.”

“Your mom sold your kid to the faeries?” Steve asked, scratching his head. “What?”

King Stephan frowned at Steve. “I wasn’t always like this.” He slapped his powerfully built chest. “I was a small, frail young man, prone to fits and wheezing. I could barely lift the slops for the hogs.”

Steve laughed, a sharp bitter bark. “Oh, that’s something else we have in common. No, don’t stop. I like to see the parallels develop.”

“Could you stop being an asshole for three minutes?” Jack snapped. “Go on, Your Majesty.” 

“I was a swineherd. I took care of the pigs. Sometimes other boys would throw me into the trough and Jakob would come rescue me before the hogs tried to eat me. That’s where we met, a stinking sty.”

Queen Margaret nodded. “I was a rebellious child. Sneaking away during embroidery lessons to go watch the knights spar. I knew that a needle would never change the world as decisively as a sword. I learned there was a shortcut past the pigpens and as I paused, a voice rang out from the trough. ‘It’s about damned time you got here, help me out.’ I jumped, because I thought you were a kobold or a filthy troll.” The queen smiled fondly. “You ruined the sleeve of my dress, but I got you out. And Jakob dragged you into the moat by your collar to rinse off the slops. We were inseparable. You were hired as a scullery boy because my father was irritated by how I’d destroy my shoes to visit you.”

“Remember when I was ill? So ill that you were forbidden to visit me? The weeping pox. They called it that because all your family could do was cry for your inevitable death.”

“But you survived! You thrived, when you came back to us you were hale and hearty and— oh no.” The elderly queen trembled and King Stephan caught her up in his arms.

“I was delirious with fever, but I remember my mother, mad with grief, calling out to the Fae. I tried to stop her, but my mouth was dry and my tongue thick. I had lost the ability to move and the touch of air upon my skin burnt like fire. I heard her say, ‘Agreed. And the bargain is set.” I thought it was a dream. But when I saw what my body looked like, what it could do, I knew. I knew my mother had bargained away something precious.

“She kept me away from the village for long enough that people would think that perhaps I had finally grown up, become a man. When I saw the way you looked at me—“ King Stephan lowered his eyes, “I thought that my mother had gotten the better of the dealing.”

“On her deathbed, she told me what she had given up. Her firstborn grandchild. She begged my forgiveness. She never thought that anyone would want me as a husband, she thought that I’d run away with Jakob. But the Fae cheated her with blessings.”

“Your mother died immediately before the Hydra attacked. You had no time to tell me and I did not know I was with child.” Queen Margaret wearily rested her head upon his shoulder. “A tragedy of lost chances. What was your plan? Surely you had one.”

“I was going to give myself up instead. You know the Fae can’t resist royalty.” King Stephan smiled, tears in his eyes. The queen slapped his face, her frail hand tapping his beard.

“So stupid my swineherd. So utterly stupid.”

“I know. But I know you’d have come up with a better one. If we had time.”

“That is the one thing we do not have. At least our child is still an infant in the land of the Fae. Time doesn’t pass there, like it does here. Part of us will live on. Now, carry me to my rooms. I’ve done a bit of redecorating over the past sixty years and you’ll adore what I have done to the the carpets.” Her cheer was brittle and Jack felt uneasy as the king carried her to her quarters. Sir Wilson followed them after wavering between guarding the royal couple and keeping a close eye on the interlopers.

Steve muttered something unintelligible.

Jack helped Winter to his feet. “What was that?”

“I said, this will not stand.” Steve gritted his teeth. “You told me that I could change things, that I could be a hero. Right?”

“Err— yes? I meant more like not slaughtering people, making a throne out of their corpses and bathing in their blood. I know that’s a tall order, but do you think you could manage it—?”

“Shut up.” Steve said with intense sincerity. “I know what I have to do. I have to go rescue that baby. I’m already Bianca’s godfather, I know how to deal with children.”

“Wait? Since when were you Bianca’s godfather?” Jack was curious.

“Well I did have to bend Brock’s arm a little, but he agreed that I was the strongest and most capable of keeping that little nugget from harm.” Steve shrugged, “And I like her. I’m allowed to like babies. So all we have to do is find this Fae land, march right in and steal back the kid. Seems simple.”

“Why do you care?” Jack asked, there wasn’t anything in these heroics for Steve to profit from.

“Because it’s not right. And I never got the chance to stick it to the bastards who changed me and stole my life from me. It was a shitty life, but it was mine. So are you two in?”

Jack rubbed his face. “Well, yeah. I guess. Someone has to stop you from doing countless stupid things. Like getting turned into a frog. Magic is real here, guys.”

Winter yawned wide. “It’s all the Force. It flows through us, binds us, makes the universe whole… Trust me. There’s SO much of it here. I believe that I can train Jack much more effectively here. So where my padawan goes, I go too.”

Steve put out his hand. Jack looked at it. Steve frowned and grabbed Jack’s wrist, then placed Jack’s hand upon his. “God, I’m trying to do something like a real team here and you have to fuck it up, Jack.” He put Winter’s hand on top of Jack’s. “Go team!”

“Right.” Jack snorted. “Go Team Rogers.”

“Damn right. Now lets go rescue that baby.” Steve glanced at Winter. “He’s sleeping on you.” Winter was asleep on his feet, which was impressive and odd.

“Maybe we should rest for a bit before we go. Gotta have our wizard in top form to go with our paladin.”

“What does that make you, Jack?”

Jack grinned. “I’m the one that actually read all these stories. I guess that makes me a bard. Remember, I can sing. I know that this is Sleeping Beauty mashed up with our world. I bet there are trolls under every bridge, beanstalks that climb into the heavens and you better be nice to every horrible old woman you come across.”

Steve shrugged. “I was very pleasant to the Queen.”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” King Stephan said from behind them. Winter startled awake and the two men shared an awkward moment. The king looked away first and said, “A wizard, a paladin and a bard. You’re only missing a king for a proper quest. Rest up. We ride out at dawn.” He turned on his heel towards the queen’s rooms.

Sir Wilson beckoned to them. “Follow me.”

Winter tapped Jack on the shoulder. “I don’t know how to ride a horse.”

“That makes two of us.” Jack replied. “Could you show us how?”

Sir Wilson smiled. “Wouldn’t miss that for the world.”

Chapter Text

Jack looked to his left, then his right. He stepped into the shadows of the stables. There was something in there that he wanted to look at. Something that pricked at the edge of his memories.

A huge bulbous shape on wheels, covered in canvas. Jack pulled back the edge of the protective drop cloth and ran his fingertips over the lumpy, bumpy surface. It couldn’t be.

“Boo.” Steve said in Jack’s ear and Jack yelped in surprise. He was wearing his black tactical suit that blended into the shadows.

“Stop that you bastard!”

“Now now. Why did you run off? Are you scared of the ponies?” Steve curled his arm around Jack’s chest. “Find something interesting?”

“Yeah, I think I did. Help me with this.” Jack and Steve pulled off the drapery and Steve flicked on a flashlight. “What does that remind you of?” They peered at the carriage, gilded and glittering under the flashlight.

“A pumpkin?” Steve ventured.

“A pumpkin.” Jack breathed. “This is Cinderella’s carriage, Steve. Another damned faerie tale.”

“Looks like it has good shocks for being a gourd.” Steve kicked at the wheels. “Not too light,” He made an appreciative noise and opened the door. “Seats five at least. Comfy seats that fold out. Lots of places to stash weapons. My thought, now hear me out, is that you hop up on that plush upholstery and let me fuck you senseless. Seems like a good plan.” Steve leered and Jack kicked at his ankle.

“That’s the queen mother’s coach.” King Stephan said from behind them. Steve wasn’t the only person with a light tread in their group.

“Was she named Cinderella?” Jack asked.

“No.” King Stephan touched the gilded wall. “Ellanor.”

“And I gotta ask, were there special slippers? Maybe made of glass? And a kingdom wide search for the girl missing one shoe?” Jack grinned.

“My in-laws were odd people. The king was intensely interested in ladies’ footwear and Ellanor insisted on cleaning her chambers herself. No one could get them clean enough. Margaret got me a scullery job because her parents did not like what she tracked in with her shoes. I suppose they thought of me as one more stray kitten that their lion-hearted daughter had rescued, until I won the tournament.” He shut the door to the carriage with a click. “But that’s a tale for another time. Jack, you need to get back on the horse.”

Jack’s inner thighs quivered in protest. “That’s not a horse, that’s goddamned beer commercial mascot. Can we just take this instead?” He pleaded, fuck it, he even batted his eyelashes. Hell, it worked on Steve sometimes.

“Rolling down the road in this will attract some pretty seedy characters. Rogues, bandits and highwaymen looking to rob and maim unsuspecting gentry.”

“Sounds like a damned good time!” Steve chortled, “And if we take those bad guys out, then won’t you be doing your kingly duty to protect the travelers in your land? Easier to transport a baby in this too.”

King Stephan pondered and as he was about to reply, a huge uproar and commotion occurred outside the stables. Jack felt a stab of secondhand annoyance and he groaned, “Oh no. Winter.”

Winter was glaring at a huge charger and the horse was glaring back. Winter waved his hand and declared, “You will obey my commands.” The horse snorted in response. “This is a stubborn pluga.” 

“What are you doing?” Steve asked, “I don’t think your Force tricks work on animals.”

“They work on many, many species.” Winter waved his hand again, “You will do my bidding.” The horse knocked Winter to the ground with a nudge from its massive shoulder.

“We’ll take the carriage.” King Stephan announced. “It seems like the best plan.”

Jack offered Winter his hand and as he hauled Winter to his feet he was struck by a wave of malevolence. “Whoa. Whoa. It’s just a horse. Save it for the bad guys.” Winter blinked wild eyes at Jack and seemed to slowly return to his senses.

“I need to train you. I need to focus. Do you understand!?”

Jack nodded and patted Winter on the shoulder. “Yeah, sure, sure. Why don’t we go over to that clearing? I can try to move things with my mind while the twins get the provisions together.”

“You don’t understand your potential, Jack.” Winter mumbled as Jack escorted him to a peaceful clearing upwind of the stables.

“I’m glad you think I’ve got potential.” Jack smiled. “But you’ve got to stop getting in arguments with horses.”

“You argue with Steve.” Winter quipped and Jack laughed.

“Good point. Very, very good point.”

Winter stared at the king as he directed servants. From time to time, he’d shake a hand or blow a kiss to a young lady. They’d all kissed him after all. Every single person in the kingdom. “He calls me Jakob. In his thoughts. Every time he glances at me.” His voice was far away, melancholy. “Do you know what it feels like to be immersed in that kind of devotion? To be loved as truly as that? I’m not Jakob. I’ll never be Jakob.”

“Nobody is asking you to be. It’s been less than three days since we jumped here. You’ve killed a Hydra, revived a sleeping king, saved his queen and pissed off a warhorse. That’s a lot for anyone to process.” Jack plucked a blade of grass and rolled it in his lips.

“You seem to be adapting.” Winter griped, “Why is it so easy for you?”

“The way I look at it, the only thing I have to do is keep that man— the tall one all in black with the killer ass— from murdering as many people as he would if he were on his own. Everything else is gravy.” Jack stretched out in the grass and pointed at a leaf dangling from a branch. “He wants to save a child and really, you’d have to have a heart blacker than coal to not be moved by that.” Jack flicked his finger and the leaf popped off the stem. It floated down, drifted in the eddies of the light breeze. Winter watched it until it landed and then he picked it up, twirled it by the stem.

“Nicely done, padawan.” Approval flowed out from Winter, a warm caress of satisfaction.

“That— that was just coincidence.” Jack sputtered. “It was about to fall.”

Winter flopped back in the grass, his borrowed black and red livery stark in contrast against the green. “We are all about to fall. The question is whether or not there is someone waiting to catch us.” He closed his eyes. “I am not Jakob. He was a good man.”

“I swear, you and Steve. No one said you had to be villains. We’re in a faerie tale world, make it your story.” Jack squinted at another leaf and flicked his finger. He watched in horror as it dropped from the tree and landed in his hand.

Winter sat up. “He is in distress!”

“Steve?” Jack was confused.

“No.” Winter dashed off towards the stables. Jack shoved the leaf in his pocket. He ran after Winter.

He finally caught up, damn, the Jedi could sure haul ass. Jack stopped at the sight of King Stephan and Winter in the hayloft. The king had his arms wrapped about his knees and his shoulders shook with sobs. Winter raised a hand, tentatively and then took it back. The king looked up at Winter in misery.

Winter’s face contorted in discomfort and he placed his palm on King Stephan’s chest. Breathe.

King Stephan obeyed, one shuddering breath after another. Then he pulled Winter into his arms, held him tight. It wasn’t an embrace of passion, but it was nearly as intimate.

Jack stepped out of the barn and as he was backing away, he ran right into Steve’s chest.

“He has lost everything.” Steve said dismissively, “That’s enough of an excuse to have a pity party.”

“You don’t mean that. You’re not that much of a heartless bastard.”

Steve draped his arms over Jack’s shoulders and rested his chin upon Jack’s head. “You sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Wanna bet on when they’ll finally kiss? I give it a week.”

Jack picked the leaf out from his pocket and twirled it by the stem. “Five days. You’re on.”    

Chapter Text

 

Jack didn’t intend to play by the rules. Oh no. Not when there was a bet to win. Steve rolled his eyes when Jack insisted that he had to be inside the carriage with Steve due to his delicate stomach. “Oh no, there needs to be two drivers, get up there.” Jack ordered Winter who obediently climbed up on the seat beside King Stephan. The king was dressed in plain clothes, Winter cast an imposing shadow beside him in his borrowed black and red livery.

Steve shut the door to the pumpkin and settled back on one of the cushions. “You’re a cheater.”

Jack shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Steve snorted, closed his eyes and was snoring before they’d left the castle grounds. Jack watched the castle shrink and dwindle in the distance until the tallest spire disappeared beneath the horizon.

The queen hadn’t been happy to hear about their quest, but she couldn’t say no either. Finally she had spread maps over a table and helped them plan their route. “I can’t talk you out of this fools errand, but I cannot help but hope. Bring our son back Stephan. The land needs an heir and I— I want to hold him one last time.”

At that, Jack had gathered up Steve and Winter and shoved them out the door. The royal couple needed privacy for yet another farewell. Jack let the sway of the carriage lull himself to sleep and he congratulated himself for devising a way to avoid riding a warhorse the whole way there.

Smug satisfaction was an irresistible lure to the mischief-makers of any universe.

“Halt! Please stop!” A shrill tiny voice cried out.

Steve sat bolt upright and Jack rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. The carriage lurched to a stop. Jack stuck his head out of the door and sighed.

A talking cat wearing bright red boots and a tiny hat pleaded with King Stephan. “My master, the Marquis de Caribas was robbed by bandits and he needs your help! Oh if you could find it in your infinite mercy to aid my poor, poor master!” The cat peered inside the carriage, “You don’t happen to have a princess in there do you?”

Steve ruffled Jack’s hair, “Just this one.” Jack knocked his hand away and Steve smiled nastily at the strange animal.

Steve stepped out of the carriage and approached the cat. “So are you talking? Or is someone else pulling your puppet strings?” The cat’s eyes widened as Steve loomed above him, a tiny pink nervous tongue darted out and licked its nose. “Tsk tsk. You were going to lure us into an ambush, weren’t you? I can hear your heartbeat, kitten. Pitter pat. Pitter pat.” The hair bristled on the back of the ginger tom’s neck as Steve crooned, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

“On second thought, my apologies for interrupting your journey and my master will be quite fine until the next carriage arrives—“ The cat dodged Steve’s lunge, jumped clean out of his boots and scrambled up a tree.

Steve picked up the tiny red boots and snorted. “Bad kitty.”

“Sir, please do not take my boots. They are all that I have. They were a gift from my master.” The cat’s pleas were a pitiful wail.

“But they are so tiny.” Steve put a boot on each of his index fingers. “Look, I have finger boots!” He waggled them at Jack, bemused at his own antics.

“Please sir. I beg of you. I have nothing else.”

Winter waved his hand, plucked the cat from its perch with the Force. All the hair rose on the cat’s back and it screeched in alarm. Winter set the cat on the footboard of the carriage in front of Stephan and himself. He asked the cat, “Is your master kind to you? Is he a good master?”

The cat’s furry brows knitted and it rubbed its paws together in a very human gesture of anxiety. In a tiny voice, the cat whispered, “No… But he gave me my boots.” Winter looked away from the cat, at the horizon as if he were contemplating an uncomfortable truth.

“There’s no such person as the Marquis de Caribas.” King Stephan said.

“Of course there is!” The cat blinked wide green eyes. “He’s very noble. Very very royal. More noble than you!” King Stephan cracked a smile and the cat repeated, “He gave me my boots!” 

“And what did you have to do to earn those boots?” Winter waved his hand again, Jack felt rather than heard a change in the timbre of Winter’s voice.

“— Lure travelers to ambushes!” The cat clapped its paws to its tiny mouth, shocked at the words that just came out of it. “I— I don’t want to! But if I don’t, they’ll make me into dinner and gloves!”

“What if you didn’t have to have a master? What if we could help you?” King Stephan asked, kind and patient. Steve rolled his eyes.

Hope kindled in the cat’s eyes and it said, “You’d have to destroy an entire camp of bandits. But I’d show you where to look as long as you give me back my boots!” 

King Stephan held out his hand. Steve sighed and put the tiny boots in the king’s hand, “Fine. Invite the little lying furball to tag along.” 

The cat shimmied into his boots, licked its shoulder and sniffed at Steve. “I am not a furball! My name is Murphy.”

Oh of course it is. Jack covered his smirk with his hand.

“Stephan. Winter. Steve and Jack.” The king gestured at each of his companions.

Murphy began to loudly purr and he settled himself in-between Winter and Stephan. “That’s the name of the sleeping king. That’s a good name. Are you two brothers? You look like brothers. Too much like brothers. Sometimes I talk too much when I get excited. Are you on a quest? You seem like you’re on a quest.”

“We’re going to steal back a child from the fae.” Winter was befuddled by the cat kneading his paws upon his livery.

“Fae. Very nasty, very nasty things. You cannot defeat the fae king with only big muscles. You’ll need a guide.” A flick of ears. “Me.”

“We have maps.” Steve said as he got back in the carriage.

“Yes, but a map won’t tell you which one of the bridges has the fewest number of trolls or where the bandit camp is!”

“A map would be quieter, however.” Steve grumped.

“I can be quiet.” Murphy protested, “I can.

“No one deserves a bad master.” Winter looked off into the distance again.

“Did you have one? Like a wizardry teacher? You’re a wizard.”

“In a way. Yes. It has taken much time and literal space for me to understand that perhaps the path I chose, wasn’t the right one. No matter what my Master told me.” Stephan tilted his head, listening.  “I wanted power. I thought it would fulfill me.”

“There’s always a cost. That was the worst part of ruling. I was glad that it came easier to Margaret because I was not a good king.” Stephan urged the horses forward with the reins and Murphy curled up on the seat, with his head on Winter’s lap.

“Your people seemed to think otherwise.”

“Most of the people who knew better have died. I’m coasting along on a wave of nostalgia and kind feelings.” The king looked back over his shoulder at his lands. “It’s hard to live up to your own legend.”

“… Yes.” Winter agreed.

Jack closed the curtain and settled back on the cushions. Before he could get comfortable, Steve plopped his feet in Jack’s lap. He wriggled his toes and Jack set to work kneading the flesh. “We’ve acquired a talking cat. A lying, duplicitous enchanted feline.”

“It’s named Murphy. Have we ever met a villainous Murphy in any of our travels? I’m surprised the cat isn’t a vegan.”

“You make a compelling, yet astoundingly stupid argument.”

“That’s why you keep me around. For my brains.”

“Mmm. Think lower.” Steve crooned. “You better hope there’s some bandits to maim because I’m getting all pent up and emotional.” Jack rubbed harder and Steve sighed, “This hero business is so annoying. Let me know when there’s someone to hurt.” He held up a finger, “Someone to righteously correct. See, I’ve got the lingo down, son.”

“You’re certainly giving it your best, Steve.” Maybe they wouldn’t end up covered in gore today.

Chapter Text

“This is so slow.” Steve grumbled. “I could run faster than this, for longer. I could carry you while I did it.” He knocked his head against the carriage wall.

“We could sing to pass the time.” Jack remarked with casual innocence. He began to sing a show tune and Steve mashed his face with his hand.

“You’re doing that on purpose. And I will not lower myself to react to your needling.” Steve stuck his nose in the air and crossed his arms.

Jack replied by repeating the verse and King Stephan joined in, a smooth confident baritone. Even Winter haltingly sang a few lilting bars. Murphy sang the way a cat would, a mixture of screeches and howls that made Jack fight to control his laughter.

Steve unsheathed his vibranium blade and rolled it over his knuckles, the silvery metal glimmered like a fish over rapids. He didn’t say a word as he spun the blade in intricate patterns. Jack finished the verse and didn’t start a new one, he didn’t have that much of a death wish. They rode in silence for a few miles until Steve perked up.

“There’s a rider coming up fast on us.”

“Highwayman.” King Stephan urged the horses faster, but they weren’t built for speed and the rider easily caught up.

He wore a wide floppy hat and brandished a saber. The carriage was still moving as the robber pulled his steed up to the carriage door and shouted, “Yield your valuables to Westfahl and you may yet survive with your lives—!”

Steve lunged for the door, threw it open, cocked back his fist and punched the robber’s horse in the head. It reared up and fell over, knocked out. The highwayman was trapped beneath his steed and they could hear his swearing and cursing as he struggled to free himself.

Steve slammed the carriage door shut and returned to his seat. His cheeks were pink and flushed with satisfaction. “I feel better now.”

“Did he just punch out a horse?” King Stephan asked. Murphy, his tiny cat jaw hung open in shock, nodded. Winter raised an eyebrow in appreciation. 

“Come on now! Quit dawdling!” Steve called out and the king clicked his tongue to the horses. Steve put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes to nap. Jack hummed a few bars and Steve pointed a warning finger at him. The tune died in Jack’s throat and Steve returned to his nap.

 

The woods thickened and night crept in, deepening the shadows. King Stephan lit lanterns upon the coach that illuminated the path. “We have to slow down. We’ll find a place to rest and start up again at first light.” They plodded down the narrow path. Jack and Steve stared out the carriage windows.

“Wait! I think I saw a light.” Jack said, “There it is again!”

A small green flame flickered and danced in the gloom. Then it winked out and appeared a few feet farther away. “That’s a will-o-the-wisp.” King Stephan said. “The soul of a child buried without prayers. They’re harmless unless you follow them into the woods and get lost.”

“That’s awful.” Jack murmured. “Why are there so many of them?” The forest was now alight with tiny green specters, enough to cast the carriage in a eerie green glow. The lights began to rhythmically blink on and off, in a pattern urging them on. “Are they trying to tell us something?”

“Well that isn’t Morse code.” Steve snorted. “But I think they want us to go that way.”

“That is the way we were already proceeding.” Winter said, Murphy had wriggled up into his livery and fallen asleep against his skin. “We shall have an answer soon enough.”

The wisps blinked faster as they traveled down the path, urging them onwards. Then they flared, bright as Jack’s tattoo and vanished. Jack rubbed his eyes and blinked away the afterimage, Steve was already out of the carriage.

“Winter stay here with the cat and the king. Jack, you’re with me.” Steve commanded. Jack raised his eyebrow. “You’re my escape plan, remember? Anything goes south or something pops up that I can’t handle? Dick Magic.”

“Please don’t call it that.” Jack groaned and unholstered his pistol as Steve scented the air.

“Do you smell something?”

“I do. And it is ridiculous.” Steve stalked off into the night, Jack did his best to keep up.

As they went into the woods, Jack heard King Stephan ask Winter, “What do they mean by dick magic?” And Jack was grateful that he wasn’t there to hear Winter’s explanation.

“Oh no.” Jack groaned as they approached the faint light. “It can’t be. Don’t eat anything. Just don’t. We have to shove her in her own oven like Hansel and Gretel did.” A cottage made of candy appeared in the clearing front of them. The roof was shingled with slats of taffy, the walls plastered with meringue and the pathways cobbled with suckers. It was the stuff of nightmares.

“That seems inconvenient.” Steve sneered. “There’s worse things out here in the dark than witches.

“Like what?” Jack flattened himself in the bushes. 

Me.” Steve threw his optical camouflage cloak on and when he activated it, he vanished. Except for his grin. It hung in the darkness like a lopsided crescent moon. 

“Stop that!” Jack hissed and Steve pulled the cloak down. Jack watched his footprints in the blades of sugar-spun grass. A hunk of peppermint brick wrenched off from the doorframe and dropped to the ground.

“Nibble nibble little mouse. Who is nibbling at my house?” The door cracked open with an ominous groan. “Little children, come out, come out. Granny will make sure you never starve again.”

The woman who emerged from the candy house didn’t look like the crone from Jack’s childhood stories. She was clean, her eyes were bright and her face unlined. Granny looked younger than Queen Margaret. She sighed when she saw no one at the door, then her gaze swung over to Jack in the bushes. “Oh, I have a gentleman caller.”

Jack stood up from his crouch and he hid his gun in his belt behind his back. “Um, hi.”

“Did you take a bite from my cottage? Nibble on my door? Are you a hungry boy?” She stepped out from the doorway and approached Jack, beckoning. “You look tired, weary from your travels. Come, let me soothe you.”

Jack felt himself take one step, then two towards her. When he was within arms reach, she caressed Jack’s beard. “You reek of magic. Strange magic, powerful and cool to the touch.” She licked her finger and giggled. “Ah, sex magic. The oldest, most primal sort.”

Jack swallowed hard, his feet were rooted to the ground. “Are you a witch? Do you eat children?” Granny blinked innocently and dimpled. She pressed her finger to her lips.

“Shh. Such questions.” She took Jack’s hands in hers and led him back to the cottage. “What would you do if I said yes to both?”

“Fight you.” Jack murmured, his mouth felt dry and weak.

Granny giggled again and pressed herself up against Jack. “Oh, my brave knight. You have no fight left in you.” She tipped Jack’s chin down for a kiss. “Didn’t your parents tell you not to go out in the woods alone?” Jack slumped as he began to black out.

“He’s not alone.” Steve’s voice rang out. “He’s MINE.” A boot caught the witch in the gut and propelled her into the candy cottage. A flicker of red light followed her. Steve slammed the door shut and picked Jack up off the ground.

“Tick tick boom.” Steve said as he loped through the woods with Jack over his shoulder. A huge fireball exploded behind them. The air smelled like burnt marshmallows.

“It smells like s’mores around the campfire.” Jack moaned, groggy from the bewitching. “Kumbaya, my lorddddd—“

King Stephan and Winter stood beside the carriage, weapons drawn, their faces lit red from the glow of Winter’s lightsaber. Murphy was puffed up, every cat hair standing on end, as he hid behind Winter’s leg. “What was that?” Stephan asked, “Dragonfire?”

“About 100 grams of plastique, actually.” Steve grinned as he loaded Jack into the carriage. “Took care of your child-eating witch problem.” He held out a handful of very small, unmistakable bones.

Winter turned his lightsaber off. The group was surrounded by hundreds of flickering green lights, swirling about them in a maelstrom. “Fire cleanses, but so does royal benediction.” King Stephan laid his hand upon the bones in Steve’s palm and muttered a simple, solemn prayer. “And rest. Rest in peace.” He flicked his wrist in a gesture of blessing.

The lights waned, as if they were candle flames burning out and then snuffed, one at a time. The final light hovered above Steve’s  hand, Steve’s eyes grew wide and he sputtered, “You’re— you’re welcome.” The will-o-the-wisp winked out and the bones disintegrated into dust.

Chapter Text

 

Jack woke up on the carriage floor, his face mashed against the side of Steve’s boot and with Murphy sleeping on his stomach. “Did you get the license plate of the truck that hit me?” It hurt to move his head. It hurt to move his eyelids. “This is the worst hangover ever.” Murphy began to knead his stomach with tiny pricks of his claws. “Ouch.”

Steve was staring off into the distance, his hands folded in his lap. Jack studied the planes and curves of his face. A masterpiece sculpted by the hands of God and science. The man doesn’t even have a nostril hair out of place.

“Why are you staring up my nose?” Steve asked, he jostled Jack with the toe of his boot.

“Ow. You bastard.” Jack protested, feebly.

“That’s what you get for kissing strangers.” Steve chided as he dug in a pocket. “Take some aspirin. I’m not sure if it works on magical witch hangovers, but it’s worth a try.” Jack swallowed the pills with a swig from their collapsable canteen. “That damn cat has been sleeping on you for the last four hours.”

Jack poked Murphy on the forehead and winced as the cat sunk in his claws. “Wake up kitty.” Jack sat up and the cat rolled into his lap, scratching him the whole way. “Ow again. Bad kitty.”

Steve was staring out the door again, lost in his own thoughts.

Murphy’s ears flicked up. He hissed, “We are close to the camp.”  Steve knocked on the carriage wall and King Stephan reined in the horses. Murphy scrambled out the window and perched on top of the carriage. “I hear it.” The cat leapt to the ground.

Jack lurched out of the carriage and stumbled. Steve put his arm out for Jack to lean against and Jack blinked in surprise at the casual gesture of compassion. Steve squinted into the distance. “At least forty men. And something I don’t—“ He glared at Murphy. “Forget to tell us something, cat?”

Murphy took off his hat and kneaded it in his paws, guilty. He ground the toe of his little red boot into the dirt and mewed, “There’s a troll. Old Stone Face.”

“I’ve killed a dragon, a troll won’t be any trouble.” Steve sniffed.

“Oh dearie, dearie me.” Murphy chirped, “There might be trouble.”

“Why is that?” King Stephan asked.

“The troll is enchanted.”

“Oh of course it fucking is! Everything in this damned place is crammed up the ass with magic and pixie dust!” Jack groaned, then he whimpered, “That was a mistake. Why is my breathing so loud?”

“How do we kill the troll?” Winter knelt down to the cat’s level.

“I don’t know!” Murphy wailed, Jack winced at the sound. “I thought that you mighty knights, dragonslayers, punchers of horses— I thought that if anyone could kill the troll, you could.”

King Stephan rubbed his shoulder. “The bandit camp is directly in our path to the fae borderlands. If we go around it, we could lose many days and we’d have to leave the carriage. Ride the horses.” Winter’s eyes widened at that thought and Steve snorted.

“I’ve never met anything I couldn’t maim or murder.” He cracked his knuckles. “Let’s kick some troll ass.”

 

“That’s a lot of ass.” Jack craned his neck. “Sure you can reach that far?” The troll was at least eight feet tall and it rested on a massive club made from a tree trunk bound with metal.

“I’ve killed bigger things.” Steve squinted and his lips curled in a sneer.

“You came to challenge me?” The troll laughed and the rest of the bandit horde joined in. The laughing was not going to help dissuade Steve from doing something very stupid.

“They do!” Murphy squawked. “They are champions and they will defeat you!” He cowered behind Winter’s leg as the troll leaned down to examine them.

“There you are, you runaway ratbag. You were a waste of money.” The troll’s breath smelled like musty old socks and Jack fought to suppress his sudden nausea. “Four fools and a feline.”

“He bought you?” Winter’s eyes narrowed. “As a slave?”

Murphy nodded, his ginger fur bristled. “Old Stone Face bought me from the fae. They got tired of me and sold me.”

“You were going to be dinner. A snack. I’ll eat you last cat so you can see your saviors crushed beneath my foot.” The troll tossed aside his club. “I won’t even fight back. Do your worst.”

Steve didn’t wait for the troll to finish the challenge, he lunged with his vibranium blade at the troll’s legs. He slashed, tried to hamstring the monster, but the blade glanced off in a shower of sparks. He stabbed and the blade bounced off the troll’s grey hide.

“Oh, didn’t the cat tell you?” The troll picked up Steve with two fingers, raised him to eye level and snorted, blowing snot all over Steve’s spotless black tactical suit. “I cannot be harmed by weapons made by man or wielded by man.” Steve spat in the troll’s eye and flipped out of his grasp, he landed with his thighs around the troll’s throat. He squeezed, tried to throttle the life out of the monster or break its neck, but the troll laughed.

“You’re a spry one. Jumping around like a rabbit in a snare. Maybe you should let someone else try, maybe they won’t be such a failure.” The troll flicked Steve off his neck and Steve flew through the air. He landed in a crouch in front of Jack, blood dripping from his nose and his pupils wide with fury.

“Steve!” Jack grabbed his shoulder. Steve seized his hand and Jack cried out as he felt the small bones grind together. Steve snatched back his hand at the sound as if he’d been burned. “What I was trying to tell you is that you were made into a weapon by mad scientists, you complete asshole! You’re not going to be able to do anything here!” Steve wiped his bloody nose with the back of his hand.

“Oh, take your time. Contemplate your demise. I take prayers, begging and coin.” The troll picked at his teeth. “No man can best me. No man.”

Jack tried to rub feeling back into his hand. “No man, huh? Wish we’d brought Queen Margaret with us.”

“That wouldn’t have been a fair fight.” King Stephan said, the corner of his lips quirked. “Not for the troll.”

Winter unclipped his lightsaber, he knelt down next to Murphy. “Remember how it felt when they were cruel to you? When they treated you as something less than an animal?” Murphy nodded, terrified. “How did that make you feel?” The cat’s tail started to swish, bushy with agitation.

“Angry. Really angry. I wanted to claw their eyes out.” Murphy hissed. “I wanted to be free! I want to be free!”

“Remember that feeling. Harness that rage.” He held out his hand, offered the lightsaber to the cat. “Press the stud to ignite it. This is the dangerous end. Made by a Togruta girl a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Murphy took the lightsaber in his paws, it was heavy and he stumbled. “But I’m just a cat—“

Winter shook his head. “No. You’re our champion.

Murphy nodded his tiny head once, firm with conviction. He walked with Winter to confront the troll.

“They’re going to die.” King Stephan whispered and before he could intervene, Jack held him back.

“Just let the mystical space wizard and enchanted talking bipedal cat take care of business, Your Majesty.” Jack said. “I cannot believe those words just came out of my mouth.”

Stephan’s face contorted in fear. “But I can’t lose him again.”

Winter glanced back at Stephan and Jack raised an eyebrow at the yearning in that brief exchange. If they all didn’t die from being crushed by the troll in the next ten minutes, he was totally winning the bet.

“Come to beg for your nine lives, cat?” Old Stone Face snickered and the bandits echoed his derision.

“I’m going to defeat you!” Murphy yowled. There was a chorus of rude laughter from the bandits. The troll made a show of cleaning out his ear.

“I didn’t quite hear you. Let me get closer.” The troll knelt down and was low enough to look the furious cat in the eyes. “Tell me again, what you were going to do to me? Going to scratch my eyes out?”

Murphy ignited the lightsaber, red plasma lit his fur and he screeched, “YES!” The little ginger cat plunged the lightsaber into the troll’s eye up to the hilt. The blade pierced the troll’s skullcap and  after a moment, the troll began to collapse into stone bits and pieces.

Winter grabbed Murphy, rescuing him from getting crushed by the boulders as he hissed and spat at the troll. “I am not dinner!” The lightsaber flew into Winter’s hand and he extinguished it with a flourish. Pride and satisfaction flowed out from the Jedi in a warm wave of emotion and it made Jack woozy with its intensity. Murphy mashed his muzzle into Winter’s livery and, with tears in his green eyes, began to purr. King Stephan rushed to their sides and embraced them both.

The bandit horde was stunned. So stunned that Steve had to clear his throat to get their attention. He grinned at them with blood stained teeth, his blade glittering in the dappled light.  “Excuse me. Does that protection spell apply to all of you bastards? Because I am fucking dying to find out.”

Chapter Text

 

“You will walk to the nearest village and turn yourself in to the sheriff.” Winter waved his hand.

“I will walk to the nearest village and turn myself in.” The bandits echoed, one after the other, then they turned on their heels and marched south. Winter turned around after he finished with the last of the brigands and saw his companions staring at him in wonder. “What?”

“You can do that with the Force?” Jack asked, “Control people’s minds?” Steve stalked back and forth, eyeing the departing bandits.

Winter rubbed the back of his neck. “Only the weak-minded. These men are scared witless right now. Can’t you feel the terror oozing off them? Steve makes an indelible impression. Close your eyes, reach out.”

Jack shut his eyes, doubtful. Suddenly he shivered as the fear coiled around him, greasy-cold and oily. Steve put his arm around Jack and Jack leaned into his strength. He felt the oddest warmth and fuzzy-softness leaking from Steve— Jack opened his eyes. “That’s fucking weird.

Winter nodded, “Indeed. We should get moving.” King Stephan was still staring at Winter and Winter ducked his head as he walked by.

“What is he?” King Stephan murmured.

All Jack wanted to do was crawl back in the carriage and sleep for a week, so he blurted out as much as he knew. “A man. I think? I don’t really know him all that well, but he’s got a good heart. Huge martyr complex, huge. Thinks I’m a much better student than I am. Oh, and he’s got these god-like powers. He’s been through a lot to get those powers. You should probably talk to him about it.” Jack yawned. “Get to know each other really well.” Steve squeezed him, a warning. “Ack! You know what I mean.”

“I don’t know any of it. I’m just coasting along here. I’ve been asleep for so long, the world has passed me by and I don’t know if there’s a place for me in it.” King Stephan sighed, “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

Steve cocked his head to the side. “I’m going to use small words you can understand, Kingy.” He spoke slowly as if to a child, “Instead of falling asleep and having every single person in the whole kingdom make out with me, which is completely disgusting, I was frozen in a big metal box by evil wizards. When I woke up? We’d lost the war that I’d been conscripted into and I wasn’t even allowed to leave the castle.”

“Everyone thought I was dead and the man I’d developed feelings for, before I was frozen, the Commander? Well, now he was my mortal enemy and hated my guts. I don’t deal with rejection well so I tried to get him to love me with questionable tactics that I won’t go into now, because I’ve changed and Jack doesn’t like it when I talk about fucking other men.” Jack’s mouth fell open as Steve’s refused to stop talking.

“I was so confused and all wound up in myself. I was a person who did terrible things. For fun. I’ve changed. I’m better now. I hardly kill the people who need it. But because we hadn’t traveled back in time yet or jumped to the future, I didn’t know that my special boy was right in front of me the whole time—“ King Stephan looked bewildered and Steve held up his hand, “All I’m saying is that I’ve been there too. And there’s always a place for us. For every version of us. In every universe.” Steve smiled, a tiny twist of his lips. “Trust me. I’ve seen more than my fair share of possible lifetimes. Go to him. He wants to be more than just pals.”

King Stephan glanced at Jack who had rolled his eyes skyward during Steve’s ranting and nodded. “Thank you, my friends.” He followed Winter to the carriage, Jack and Steve watched them laugh a bit and then Stephan held out his hand. Winter took it.

“Well, I’m going to lose that fucking bet and it’s my own damn fault.” Steve smirked, “I’ve turned into a real marshmallow. I better go kill something. You didn’t let me have any fun with the bandits. Spoilsport.”

He kissed the top of Jack’s head, whistled to himself and pointed at the sky, “Oh look! A rainbow!” He took off at a full sprint and was out of earshot before Jack could call out to him.

“Where’s he going?” Murphy tugged on Jack’s pants leg. Jack bent over and picked him up. They both watched Steve disappear over the horizon towards the…

“Oh no.” Jack moaned as the idea clicked into place. “He’s going to mug a leprechaun.” 

 

They made camp in the remains of the bandit base. Jack lit a match as he made the campfire. Both Murphy and King Stephan applauded as if he’d performed a magic trick. “It’s not magic, it’s science.” Jack protested. He peered off in the direction Steve had run. “I wish he wouldn’t do that.” The idea of something magical and stupid happening to the courageous nutball was awful. The light was quickly fading. Who knew what lived in the dark in this strange land.

“Does he usually take off like that?” Murphy asked, “He’s very fast.”

Jack poked at the fire, “Yeah. When he’s got something on his mind, he’ll just run off and kill someone to clear his head.” Murphy cocked his tiny head to the side and flicked his ears. “Well, maybe not kill. He’s trying to be good here.” He sat beside the fire and pondered his fate. Murphy curled up in his lap, Jack scratched beneath his fuzzy chin and Murphy purred loud enough to rattle Jack’s teeth.

Winter was helping King Stephan with the horses. “And you, you will behave and stop that nipping!” One of the horses tried to eat Winter’s hair.

“Remember when the old bay mule tried to sit on me?” King Stephan laughed. Winter shook his head and the king’s face crumpled. “Oh. That’s right. I’d forgotten.”

Winter took a deep breath and reached out, hesitant. “Show me.” He cupped King Stephan’s face with gentle fingers and closed his eyes. His stern face softened as they shared a memory and then he began to laugh. “I see.” His thumb stroked King Stephan’s beard. “I am not Jakob, but I can feel how much he cared for you. I hope—“ He took a deep breath and the words tumbled from his lips in a rush, “I hope that one day I can be worthy of such a love.”

King Stephan pulled Winter into his arms and embraced him, silently.  The two men, more strangers than not, held each other in the darkness. A horse whickered and began to lip and nuzzle at Winter’s livery. “I have no control.” Winter said, his voice muffled against King Stephan’s chest. “Over horses. Or myself. I try, but the Dark Side is so alluring. So seductive.”

“You don’t have to control everything. That’s the Queen’s job. And she is good at it.” King Stephan quipped, but his humor was forced. “I want to show you all my memories.”

“I’m not Jakob. I don’t understand why you—“

“Because if you have them too, then he’s never forgotten. And I can’t be the only keeper of his legacy. You— you should show me your past, so I can understand you better too.”

Winter shook his head. “I’d rather have your memories than mine. If you knew, if you knew all the things that I have done—  you’d hate me. Worse than that. You’d despise me. I have so much blood on my hands. I’ve had so many awful things done to me and I let them. I let them defile me. I’m a Sith and you’re as pure a Light as I’ve ever felt. If I let you into my mind, let you see the Dark that lurks in my soul, then you’ll be defiled by my baseness. And I cannot bear that. Don’t make me lose you.”

I really need popcorn for this, Jack thought as Murphy was drooling in his sleep in Jack’s lap. They’re made for each other.

“You’re not going to lose me. I’ve just found you.” King Stephan touched the scar on Winter’s face with gentle, questing fingers. “If you wish, you can swear fealty to me and I will protect you from all ills. Do you wish to be my paladin, Winter?”

“I need a Master. I have tried to be my own Master, I have, but I need guidance. The Force is so wild and powerful here—“ Winter sank to his knees and knelt in front of King Stephan. “Help me get back to the Light.” He bowed his head and King Stephan unsheathed his sword. He tapped Winter on both shoulders, then put his blade away.

“Arise. You wish to do penance for your crimes. And you shall. But first, we need to brush the horses and feed them. Can you help me with that?” King Stephan held out his hand and as Winter rose to his feet, the king leaned in. Jack caught his breath as they were about to kiss—

“Honey! I’m home!” Steve called out and tossed a huge heavy, jingling sack in front of the two lovebirds. The sound startled Murphy and he dug his claws into the tender flesh of Jack’s inner thigh and Jack yelled in pain. He pushed Murphy off his lap, cursing.  Steve put his hands on his hips. “Well don’t everyone welcome me back at the same time!”

“Where have you been? You jerk.” Jack inspected his scratches. Murphy licked his paws and trotted over to the bag. He pulled out a shiny gold coin.

“Found that at the end of the rainbow.” Steve preened. “Little bastard was tough, but I made him listen to reason.”

“What was your reason?” Jack asked. Murphy nosed through the bag and stacked coins in rows. Steve wasn’t the talking sort.

“Finders keepers.” Steve grinned and pointed at his knuckles. “Works on any world.”

“Fae gold vanishes when daylight hits it.” King Stephan reluctantly let go of Winter’s hand.

Murphy held up a thick coin. “This has your face on it.” King Stephan plucked it from the cat’s paw and Steve radiated smugness.

“Yeah, I knew that. Learned about leprechauns back in the day. So I wrestled that little green bastard to the ground and twisted his arm until he gave up the good stuff. Now I can afford to keep Jack in the luxury to which he is accustomed to.” Steve beamed at Jack. “What do you think, Peaches?”

“I think I worried about you for nothing. Again.” Jack frowned. “I’m going to need blood pressure pills if you keep doing that.”

“I did it for you.” Steve said, “If we end up staying here, we’ll need income.”

“Staying here? There isn’t even indoor plumbing. I thought that was a deal-breaker for you.”

“Yes, yes. I think I can draw out the rudimentary details and have that Antony kid rough some stuff out. He seemed like a Stark. Those are always good with their hands. Not the best fighters though. Easy to crush like a tin can if you get the right grip. But I digress,” Steve pointed at the carriage. “I want to eat, fuck and sleep. In that order. Move it, Peaches.” Steve made a motion to haul Jack over his shoulder. “If you’re not fast enough, I’ll have to carry you. Do you want to be carried? Man-handled? Do you want me to be rough with you? Oh please, say you want me to be rough.”

Jack felt his cheeks flush red. “Can you not do that?” He grabbed  Steve’s arm and marched him to the carriage. “I swear! You have no manners!”

“Just a Brooklyn boy from the bad part of town, babe.” Steve crooned in Jack’s ear. “You’ll have to teach me how to be better. I’m susceptible to flattery, foot rubs and carnal delights.” He nipped and sucked at Jack’s earlobe as they half stumbled into the carriage and shut the door behind them.

Jack pushed Steve to the floor and Steve let him, his eyes alight with curiosity and possibilities. “I missed you. You bastard. I was worried about you.” Jack fumbled with the zipper on Steve’s suit and shoved his hand into the fly. Steve groaned as Jack stroked him. “You can’t just run off like that! How dare you make me worry about you!” Jack angrily pulled Steve’s pants down his hips, freeing his massive cock. He bobbed his head and began to suck.

“I’m not— sure— this is appropriate— punishment?” Steve gasped out, winding his fingers in Jack’s hair.

“Shut up and let me suck your cock.” Jack glared up at him, “Can you do that?”

Steve flipped him a lazy salute. “Aye aye. You’re the boss.” Then he arched up his hips as Jack did something devious with his tongue. “You’ve got the devil in your mouth.”

Jack did his best to take Steve as deep as he could, but he was only human. He used his fist to stroke as he suckled and soon Steve’s heels beat a tattoo of bliss upon the carriage floor as he came. Jack swallowed him down, wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand and pointed at Steve. “No more running off! You hear me?”

Steve pulled him down for a filthy kiss and murmured against Jack’s throat. “I’m with you until the end of the line—“ Jack swatted at his chest and Steve chuckled as he gripped Jack’s waistband, “Now get your pants off ‘cause someone has to show you how a suck job is really done.”

Chapter Text

 

“So.” Jack scratched the back of his head and considered their options. “Did anybody bring a boat?” A vast lake stretched between the shore and a green spot at the very edge of the horizon. It spiraled up into the sky. If that’s a beanstalk, I’m going to cry.

“It’s worse than that.” Murphy mewed from his perch on Winter’s shoulder. “There’s a key in the lake. You can’t go up without the key.”

King Stephan clenched his fist. “My son is up there. We can’t leave him.”

“No one said we were going to do that.” Steve tapped his chin, deep in thought as he paced. “I can swim out there, but none of the rest of you can. I suppose we could make a raft out of the carriage and I could pull you there. But the key, how do we find the key?”

“I want to know how Murphy knows that there even is a key.” Jack asked, peevish. “Magic, I bet.”

Murphy hopped down from Winter’s shoulder and wound around Jack’s legs as he grumped. “I— just do? This place is very familiar to me. Odd. I can’t say how though.”

“That’s very helpful.” Jack sat down on a log and threw a pebble into the water. The pebble flew back at him, whizzed past his ear. Murphy hissed and climbed to the top of Jack’s head, fur fluffed.

“What the f—?” Jack exclaimed as the water churned and bubbled. King Stephan drew his sword, Winter ignited his lightsaber and Steve dragged Jack away from the water’s edge. The foaming water surged and crested, leaving behind thousands of beady-eyed frogs. “Frogs.” Jack mashed his face with his hand, “Sorry King Stephan, this mission is for you.”

A king! A king! We scent royal blood! Your Royal Highness! You must find the frog princess and save her with a kiss! You only have one try so please do not miss!” The frogs chirped in a melodic chorus. “She has the key which you seek!

Steve knelt down to the water’s edge, trailed his fingers in the water and then lit a small butane lighter. He waved the blue flame, nonchalant in front of the amphibians. “How about instead of kissing frogs, I sprinkle a little accelerant on the lot of you and set you on fire? You heard what I did to the candy house witch, didn’t you? So maybe, you should help us out instead of fucking around singing.” The frogs shuddered as a whole and a single frog was pushed forward.

“Now I might be oversimplifying things, but maybe you should kiss the frog with the tiny flower crown?” Jack pointed and King Stephan sheathed his sword. He picked up the small green warty frog.

“Can’t be any worse than when Jakob dared me to kiss the brood sow.” He pursed his lips and placed a kiss on the frog’s lips. If frogs even had lips.

Light flared from the frog and King Stephan dropped it in the water, Winter stepped in front of his king. The water frothed and foamed again, but instead of frogs in the water, there was a young woman.

Her long dark hair floated about her and as she rose from the water, clung to her body. She was covered in a thick coating of protective slimy green mucus and a water lily perched upon her head like a jaunty hat. She stepped out of the water and fell to her knees in front of Winter and King Stephan. “I am Wanda of the Lake. You have saved me from the Crimson Skull’s foul enchantment.” She spat into her palm, a tiny golden key. “The key you were questing for.”

“Ew.” Steve muttered.

“Where else was a frog going to stash something?” Jack murmured back.

“And you have also won my hand in marriage.” Wanda smiled up through her wet eyelashes, “My handsome king.”

Kind Stephen knelt down and offered her his hand. After she rose, then he took off his cloak and swirled it around her shoulders. The fabric stuck to her slimy skin and she clutched it tight. “Lovely Wanda of the Lake. You are indeed a treasure that no man could possibly reject—“

“I could.” Steve sneered under his breath and Jack elbowed him in the ribs.

“But I regret to inform you, kind lovely wise maiden, that I am already married to a queen.” King Stephan bowed low.

Wanda looked stricken, her eyes wide with shock. “But I must marry a king or a prince or a duke! I have been enchanted for so long, all of my people are gone! I have nothing, no one to care for me!” She considered Winter and begged him, “You! Are you looking for a wife?”

Winter shook his head, “I am a— knight. I live a solitary life devoted to the protection of my king.” He stepped closer to King Stephan. “My life is his.”

Wanda wrung her hands and fluttered over to Steve. “You! Violent man in black. Are you a king?”

Steve grabbed Jack around the shoulders. “Funny story, I was a god once. But I gave up my godhead to save this fine, strapping lad from the clutches of an evil monarch. It was very heroic, very romantic. The thank you he gave me in that prison cell before we escaped was legendary, he couldn’t walk straight for a week. So, we are married and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with him in sweet, sweet bliss.” Steve smiled with all his teeth and Wanda fell to the ground, weeping. Jack felt terrible for her.

Murphy patted her arm with his paw and she petted his head with a damp hand. He purred and she caught her breath, wiped her green eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m a cat. But I’ll marry you.” Murphy offered and Wanda smiled sadly.

“If only your enchantment was broken, Sir Puss, I’d agree.” The frogs began to croak in disappointment. “I’m not really a princess. I was a potions witch and I refused the Crimson Skull’s orders to make a batch of poison. So he transfigured me with the cruel curse that only royal lips could break my spell. What royal would kiss a frog?” She choked back a sob that was more like a frog’s croak. “So after I taught the frogs to talk, generations of them, I added in the princess part. You have no idea what it is like to be trapped outside of time! Everyone you know and love turned to dust while you await your fate, trying so hard to remember that you are human. And not some monster that deserves damnation to a watery bog.” Wanda slapped at the water. “I have dreamed of this moment, of this day, for decades and now? Now I’m coated in slime, alone, with a dowry of talking frogs. And they can only say kiss the frog princess.

“Oh for fucks’ sake.” Steve stomped off to the carriage. He came back with the bag of gold. He tossed it at Wanda’s feet. “Is that enough to build a new life?” The witch opened the bag.

“I have never seen so much gold.” Wanda gazed up at Steve with wonder. Her voice trembled. “You wish for me to have this?”

Steve shrugged. “Why not. Looks like you could use it more than I can. I can always go beat up another leprechaun.”

Wanda raised an eyebrow, “Do you wish to tryst with me in the carriage?” She slipped the cloak off of one shoulder.

“Oh god no!” Steve sputtered and then recovered, “My boy here, he’s very jealous. I’d never dream of upsetting him or impinging your honor.”

“Um. Yeah. Hands off. He’s mine.” Jack added and flushed at the look of profound gratitude that Steve gave him. 

Wanda stood up and curtsied low. “You have my gratitude and I am forever in your debt. One day I shall repay your kindness. For now,” she whistled at the lake. A capsized boat rose from the depths, pushed upwards by thousands of frogs. “I can provide a way to the beanstalk in the middle of the lake.” The men got into the boat, Steve took the oars and cracked his neck and knuckles in preparation.

Murphy bowed to her from the prow of the boat and she knelt down, allowed him to lap once at her hand. “We will meet again, my lady.”

She smiled with tears in her eyes and ruffled the fur underneath his chin. “I do so hope so. And I will do my best to help you too. Because no one deserves our fate.”As they rowed away from the shore, Wanda waved at them.

“I think the cat has a girlfriend. And that’s not the weirdest thing I’ve seen today.” Steve strained at the oars, the boat cut through the eerily smooth lake at a rapid pace.

“I like her.” Murphy rested his chin on his paws and watched the witch dwindle from view. “Witches like cats too.”

“What did she mean about fixing your enchantment?” Jack said.

“I don’t know. Maybe she’ll make me into a real cat. Something that doesn’t worry or fret. Or dream about being something else.” Murphy arched his back and yawned. “She pets really nice. I like her smell.” He curled up in Jack’s lap and purred. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And that’s nice too.”

Jack petted the cat and tried not to think about what usually lurked at the top of magic beanstalks. Nothing good.

Chapter Text

 

The scale of the beanstalk at the center of the lake started to sink in as it began to blot out the sun. “That is a big plant.” Winter said, his neck craned back.

King Stephan rubbed his thumb over the tiny gold key and muttered a prayer under his breath. “I will find you, my son.” He pointed at a staircase that wound up the beanstalk. “That’s our way to the fae lands.”

“I don’t suppose they have an elevator?” Jack sighed as he hopped out of the boat. “This is going to be like climbing to the top of the Empire State Building.” His companions looked blankly at him. “A really tall tower.”

“Like the trees on Kashyyyk.” Winter added.

“Come with me now. There’s no time to waste.” King Stephan approached the ornate staircase entrance. There was a golden lock with a tiny keyhole, he inserted the key and they all held their breath as he turned it.

Click. The gate swung open.

“That’s it?” Jack exclaimed, “Wow, I was expecting something spectacular or weird, but this is really anti-climatic.” They started to climb the staircase. Tendrils wafted in the breeze and birds sang in the vines. It was quite pleasant. 

Steve yawned. “Bitch, bitch, bitch. I swear, you complain about the stupidest things. ‘There’s an armored octopus. Someone shot at me with a laser. You can’t make a throne out of corpses.’”

“Those are ALL legitimate complaints, Steve.” Jack crossed his arms.

“Whatever Jack.” Steve sneered, peevish with fatigue.

Jack?Jack?Jack?Jack?

“Did you hear that?” Murphy whispered, his ears flicking back and forth. “I think the beanstalk is talking.”

Jack?Jack?Jack?Jack?Jack.Jack.JACK.JACK!!

The beanstalk shuddered and vines dropped from above, ensnaring and encircling Jack’s body. It lifted him up into the sky, his scream of shock trailing behind him. The wind rushed past his ears as he shot up, faster than any elevator. The ground shrank below him and he couldn’t see Steve— Higher and higher until Jack could see the curvature of the horizon and he closed his eyes because the thought of falling was too much to bear.

Jack. Jack. JackIsABadMan.WeDon’tLikeJACK.

“I’m not that Jack! I’ve never harmed a beanstalk in my life!” Jack screamed, vines wrapped around his arms and legs as he thrashed. A vine shot into his mouth, threatened to choke him, he bit down hard and willed the thing out of his mouth. He pushed with the Force and the plant seemed surprised. Instead of invading his mouth further, it wrapped around his neck and squeezed. Jack gasped for air and the plant covered his eyes with leafy fronds.

He was mummified, suspended thousands of feet above the ground and he panted in terror. “I’m not that Jack. I swear to you!”

Shhhhhhh.QuietNow.Shhhhhhh. The beanstalk’s voice was like a whisper carried on the wind. The vine about his neck tightened and Jack saw stars as he began to black out as the vine snaked up his pants leg and probed against his ass.

 

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The unmistakable sound of a hospital monitor. Jack cracked his bleary eyes and after a few moments, his vision swam into focus. “Hey there. You had me worried.” It was Murphy, not the cat, but his CO from his home world. “I made you a batch of my special brownies, but the nurse says you have to wait until you can eat solid foods. Now would be a great time to to think about vegan diets.”

Jack’s lips seemed leaden, but he croaked out, “You didn’t deserve what happened to you.”

Murphy leaned against the bed and smiled, dark hair flopping into his eyes. “None of us deserve any of it. It’s just life.” He patted Jack’s hand. “Get some rest.”

“No. No. I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep anymore—“ Jack pleaded, but Murphy’s kind face faded out and Jack’s eyes closed in spite of his protests.

 

“Hey.” A warm voice, smooth and rich purred in his ear. “I knew I was good in bed, but I didn’t think I’d literally put your ass to sleep.” Jack felt gun callouses on the palm stroking his chest. “Now instead of taking forty winks, how about you get me some coffee like a good boy. Jackie-boy. Jackie-boy. I like how that sounds.”

“You always loved the sound of your own voice, Rumlow.” Jack couldn’t open his eyes, but he’d never forget that voice. Was it the seductive Rumlow from the cabin or the scarred and broken Rumlow? Did it matter? They were both the same man.

“True true. But I loved you too.”

“Bullshit.” Jack spat. “You loved the Jack of your world. I was a poor replacement.”

The voice laughed. “I’ll give you that. You were too sweet, too good for me. I’d have corrupted you and warped you. You’d have ended up hating me.” A finger tapped his nose. “And cream puffs don’t taste good when they spoil.” Teeth grazed along his jaw and sudden sharp pain flared on his back, where Brock Rumlow’s name was etched into his skin.

 

The pain subsided and other voices whispered in Jack’s ears. “My son. My legacy. Why did you leave me?” The Magistrate wailed in sorrow. “We shared our lives, our bed together! You abandoned me and my legacy will crumble. How could you?”

“I’m sorry. But I couldn’t do what you needed me to do. I am not that man.” Jack’s mouth tasted like ashes.

“That will be poor comfort to me upon my deathbed. The gods are cruel. Cruel and capricious. I hope that they do not forsake you as you forsook me.” The Magistrate’s words fluttered off, lost in the wailing of the wind.

 

“Look at you. Feeling all sorry for yourself.” It was Janice. “You’re really going to let a plant off you? A plant? You are literally getting fucked by a legume.”

“I don’t have a lot of options.” Jack murmured. She seemed to hear him just fine.

“Hell of a view up here. You can see the whole kingdom. It’s nice what you did for that lost kid, Winter. He’ll be happy here. It’s weird how my life changed after I met you. But I’m grateful to you Jack. I have my Ronnie, my Brock and my Bianca because of you. And the Captain and Bones, I guess. We’re flying off in space, visiting and pillaging strange new worlds. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I’m glad you’re happy.” Jack said, her voice was fading.

“If you open your fucking eyes, then you’ll see the best thing that ever happened to you. OPEN YOUR EYES JACK.” Janice commanded and no one ever said no to Janice.

 

Jack’s eyelids felt like they were coated in sand. “Open your eyes! Oh god, please just open your eyes!” Steve wailed as he ripped at the vines. Jack managed to open one eye, but he choked as the vines encircling his neck squeezed and the vine inside him thrust forward. Steve took out his knife and the vines threatened to rip Jack apart.

“Okay! Okay! Don’t hurt him!” Steve put his blade away and the vines relaxed. Jack felt cold fingers upon his face. “Can you hear me Peaches? Can you hear me baby?”

Jack moved his lips, but no sound would escape them.

“Please, hang on. I can’t lose you. I can’t. I can’t.” Wetness upon Jack’s brow. Steve was crying. “I need you sweetheart. I need you Jack. I need you to tell me how to be good. I don’t know how to be good, you make me good. I can’t do this alone. Don’t leave me alone.”

“Won’t.” Jack managed to gasp out that one word and Steve fumbled with the fly of Jack’s pants.

“Look baby, we’ve got one chance. I can’t cut the vines and I think they’re inside you too. I need you to come for me, one more time. We’ll dick magic our way out of this. I’ll think about the top of the beanstalk, I’ve already gotten the others there safely. I was going to say fuck it and leave them, but that wouldn’t be what you’d want. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do.” Steve kissed Jack and held his vine-shrouded body close, Jack felt Steve’s tear-studded eyelashes brush against his cheek.

“You’re my reason for living, Jack.” Steve choked out while giving the worst handjob of Jack’s entire life. But the clumsy strokes didn’t matter because Jack was listening to Steve babble about how much he cared. And this was never going to happen again, so Jack absorbed every stammer and confession. “Please Jack. I want to wake up in the morning and see you in my bed. I want to meet your parents and tell they how wonderful you are, but that's such a fucking clique-- I want us to be happy together. You and your stupid smug mouth and your scars and your smile. And your stubborn insistence that I can be better than I was born to be. You are my sun, my moon and my stars. And I will BURN this world to the ground if it takes you from me. Be my good boy, let me make you come one more time. I love you, Jack.”

The light from Jack’s tattoo flared and Steve crooned, “I love you I love you I love you—“ against Jack’s skin and Jack felt himself falling— falling— falling—

Chapter Text

Jack landed with a thud, precariously close to the edge of the summit platform. The beanstalk vines and tendrils flopped about, oozing acidic green slime from where the jump magic had severed them. Winter and King Stephan rushed to his aid, dragged him away from the edge and began to pull off the wriggling vines. After Winter had untangled the ones about his neck, Jack gasped out, “Steve!” Where was Steve?

King Stephan shared a glance with Winter and Jack’s heart plummeted into his gut. Jack tore at the vines around his arms, tried to sit up and was reminded of the vine up his ass. He reached down his pants and grasped the intruding plant, pulled it out of himself with a groan. He threw the violation over the edge of the beanstalk where it fell to the ground below. He was covered in red stripes that ached and would bruise soon. Steve was going to have too much fun poking at them and calling him things like Sprout.

“He fell. We saw him fall over the edge. I’m sorry, Jack.” King Stephan wouldn’t meet his eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

“No! He didn’t. I don’t believe it.” Jack saw claw-like marks where fingers had dug into the platform, bloody from torn nails.

“He— fell.” Winter sounded flat, like he couldn’t believe it either. “It was too quick, I couldn’t grab him.” Winter curled his arm about his knees and hid his face. Jack felt shame and grief roll over him, noxious and thick. Murphy was peering over the edge of the precipice, his whiskers drooping. The simple sadness of a cat, who would have thought that anyone as innocent and sweet as Murphy would mourn Steve… No. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t right!

“Jack—“ King Stephan began, but Jack snarled at him.

“Shut up! You shut the fuck up right now.” The king recoiled from his vehemence. Jack wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “He’s too hard to kill. He’s been stabbed in the neck with his own fucking knife and he walked away from that with a shit-eating grin. And if you say you’re sorry again, I’ll punch you in your storybook-perfect teeth. You got that?” King Stephen nodded and helped Winter to his feet. “Now let’s go get your kid. Steve always completes his missions. Come on Winter, get your shit together, Jedi.

Winter staggered to his feet and set his jaw. The three men pushed as one on the ornate gilded doors. The massive doors opened in front of them into a grand throne room. Sitting on the throne was a giant. Well, what the fuck else would be at the top of a magical beanstalk? He was twice as tall as the Hulk, at least the versions Jack had had the unfortunate luck to bump into, but his clothing was flowing and luxurious, shimmering. “Visitors?” Curiosity tinged the giant’s voice and he beckoned for them to approach.

The king strode forth and announced with all his considerable gravitas, “I am King Stephan. I come for my child that you stole.”

The giant sighed. “I steal nothing. All my bargains are legitimate. If your child was taken, then you received something equal in return. That’s how this works.” Each of them was studied, cataloged. He rapped his fingers against his silk-clad thigh. “A very curious party you have brought with you.”

“I wish to bargain for the return of my son.” King Stephan’s voice rang out clear and strong. A voice that could motivate armies of men to throw their lives and bodies into the fray of battle. Jack felt his posture change, muscles tensing. The old battlefield training. His fingers clenched into fists. “If we cannot bargain, then we can battle.” Winter rested his hand on the hilt of his lightsaber and Murphy puffed up and hissed upon his shoulder.

The giant smirked at the cat’s bravado, his huge eyes narrowed and he said, “I cannot bargain with you, for that.”

“Why not?” King Stephan demanded. “You claimed him in payment for my mother’s ill-formed wishes. The King of the Fae never leaves a debt uncollected.”

“Because I do not have your son. Honestly, I have acquired so many human children over the centuries that I lose track of them. I couldn’t tell one from another. I do remember selling yours and I haven’t the foggiest notion about who to.” The giant shrugged, then  he scratched his nose. “You’re young, you’re strong. You can sire more heirs— Oh. How rude of me.” The giant covered his mouth in a mockery of shame. King Stephan’s jaw clenched and a vein popped out upon his temple. “Your queen is far beyond her child-bearing years, isn’t she? How tragic. You’ll hardly have any time with her at all at this rate. You should be hoarding every precious minute with her, but here you are. In my palace, begging for scraps.”

“I need to find my—“ King Stephan began, but the giant cut him off.

“Yes, yes. I know that. And I can’t help you find him. Perhaps if Fate is kind to you, you’ll bump into him in the oddest of places. But you’ll never know, will you? Never know what face to look for. It’s so cruel.” The giant raised his eyebrows. “Now, you came to barter. And I do have something that you may find quite dear.” He gestured in the air and a beautiful glass phial floated in the air before the king. It radiated power, glimmered and glistened with potential and possibilities. The aura made the king’s blue eyes glow with a golden reflection. The giant flicked his fingers and the bottle rotated in the air.

“A bottle of stolen years. About seventy or so. When imbibed, the drinker shall return to the flush of youth and the promise of a new, fruitful life before them. Now who do you think, Your Majesty, could benefit from this precious vial?” At that moment, Jack had never hated anyone as much as he hated the giant in front of them. Winter inhaled sharply as Jack’s revulsion and hatred flowed over him.

King Stephan spread his arms and bowed his head. “All I have to bargain with is my own life.”

Pfft. Boring. Banal. And not true.” The giant licked his lips. “I know what I want. And it’s not the life of another king. I practically have a collection of kings.”

He leered at Winter. “Do I want a warrior warlock with a magic sword from another realm? Pretty, aren’t you? Marred with your failure though. As much as I’d enjoy seeing you broken, I fear you’ve been broken too many times before. I’d have to have both of you to truly enjoy the suffering. Tempting, but I think I’d rather have that one.” The giant leaned over and pointed at Jack. His fingertip was as large as Jack’s ribcage.

Jack sputtered, “M— me?”

The giant ran his tongue over his teeth. “Yes, you and your magnificent power. Show it to me.”

“No.” Jack raised his fist and flipped off the giant. It had the desired response. The giant recoiled for a moment and then Murphy rose off Winter’s shoulder, a hundred feet in the air above them.

“Show it to me or we shall see if cats wearing adorable little red boots always land on their feet.” Murphy mewled in fear.

“Stop! Okay, alright! Put Murphy down!” The giant spun the cat in in the air like the vial of stolen years. Murphy arched his back and hissed. Jack turned around, pulled up the back of his shirt and dropped his trousers. His Asgardian tattoo and his ass was on full display. “There, are you happy?” Jack shouted. If only Steve were here…

Murphy landed in Winter’s arms with a squawk.

“Not quite.” Jack levitated and flew through the air, the giant made Jack hover in front of his greedy gaze. “It pulses with possibilities. I’ve never felt this arcane wisdom before, it thrills me! So much raw power, primal and hot. Oh, what I could do with this strange new temptation.”

“Awesome.” Jack was floating twenty feet above the ground with his pants around his ankles. “Just awesome.” 

“What is it? Tell me all!”

Jack crossed his arms and tried not to make eye contact with King Stephan. “It’s Asgardian. That’s all I know.” The giant poked at him, Jack grunted in pain as the giant jostled his collection of new bruises.

“Ah, so you’re a host for the spell. Do you know how to transfer it? To remove it? Can we flay it from your body?”

“No, no and fucking NO! It— takes work.” Jack sighed, “Sex magic.” Come on Steve, now’s the time to rescue the damsel in distress you bastard.

“Filthy.” The giant purred in contemplation. “Well now, aren’t you just the best bargain ever? Not as pretty as those two, but fetching in your own way. Tell me, have you ever been fucked by a faerie?”

Jack laughed at the unintentional euphemism. “A few times. I doubt you’ll be special. Or that you’ll fit anywhere.” His bravado was bitter in his mouth.

The giant spoke to King Stephan. “I want him. The bottle of stolen years in exchange for this one.”

“I can’t agree to that!” The king exclaimed.

Jack thought about Queen Margaret, thought about Winter and the king. They could be happy. If Steve was gone—  He raised his chin and said,  “I can. I agree.”

“Jack— no!” King Stephan and Winter pleaded in unison.

“The deal is set, the bargain is firm. Here, take your proceeds.” The vial dropped in King Stephan’s hand, he clutched it to his chest.

“Jack— how— why?” The king pleaded and at the same time, his eyes thanked Jack in a way words never could express. 

“Get back to the queen, she needs those years with you. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what I want.” Jack tried to pull up his trousers, but the giant whisked him over to the throne. 

“Oh so chivalrous. Now begone. I have waited for centuries for something so novel, so exquisite to explore.” Winter, King Stephan and Murphy were forced out the doors like rolling tumbleweeds in a tornado gust. The doors slammed shut behind them. Jack barely heard the noise.

Steve hadn’t come to save him.

Chapter Text

The giant watched Jack as he pulled up his pants. “Now that we’re alone and I own you, what is your name?” He leaned back against his throne.

“Does it matter?” Jack snapped.

“I suppose not. But how will you know to come when I call?” The giant crooked his finger and Jack lurched and flew to the giant’s knee. Jack could see all the way up the giant’s nose. “Be a good boy. Or we’ll see how far you fly when I flick you.”

Just like a booger. “Agent Rollins. And what’s your name?” Jack thought about what he could do to disable the giant or escape. His options were sparse. His handgun would be like a flea bite to the behemoth.

“I prefer Master.”

“Of course you do.” Jack sighed with his whole body and rubbed his face. It was a massive case of deja vu and not remotely as attractive. Even when Steve was a monster, he was still pretty to look at.

“You seem underwhelmed. This is not the reaction that I am accustomed to.” The king of the fae regarded Jack with curiosity.

“I’ve been through this whole song and dance before. And you’re not nearly as good at it as he was.” He was goading the giant. Maybe he’d squish him and Jack wouldn’t have to be alone— Damn it Steve.

“Who was better than I am?”

“His name was Steve. He was broken and perfect at the same time. Vicious and tender. And he’d burn this whole land to the ground to save me.” Jack felt his lip quiver and looked at his feet.

“Touching. Where is your knight in shining armor now?”

“He fell. He fell while saving me.” It was such a long fall, no one could survive that plummet. He’d be dead from the velocity before he hit the ground. It wasn’t fair. Why did they have to jump here? Why did they have to go chasing dragons?

The giant smirked. “Such a pity. I wanted your tears to be inspired by my deft touches, not by grief from losing your lover. Oh well, can’t be helped.”

“So you’re going to rape me.” Jack chafed his arms. It wasn’t his first time. Oh god. His first time. His mind flashed back to his violation in the cabin, pinned beneath Steve as Rumlow watched. He felt his breath quicken in panic and forced himself to slow down.

“No, you’re going to crawl into my bed willingly. It’s a long way down and your friends should tread carefully.” The giant licked his lips and Jack cringed. He pulled off his shirt and the giant eyed him with obvious hunger. “Oh the sweet taste of martyrdom. Perhaps if you pretend it’s for the greater good, you will be able to rationalize the heights of pleasure I will take you to.”

“I'd rather you drop me from somewhere high, I think.” Jack began to shiver.

“Come now. Disrobe. Show me what I have traded one of my most precious treasures for.” Jack held back his vomit as he took off his boots and finally his pants. “Twirl.” Jack obeyed and closed his eyes. Think about something else. You can jump anywhere if you just give in. “Delightful. The blush is especially appealing.” Jack didn’t want to give in, not to this. “Over time, you’ll become addicted to my touch, crave it beyond food, beyond air. And then, I’ll tell you no. Because that’s the sweetest, cruelest reaction I could hope for. I will break you, mold you into something I enjoy.”

“Then you’ll sell me off, when you get bored. I got it. Do you always talk this much when you’re going to bone a dude? Blah blah blah. Just get on with it.” Jack jutted his chin up and glared at the giant.

“— Your bravado is a gift.” Jack felt dirty. “I need to change into something more comfortable.” The giant snapped his fingers and shrank down to human size, Jack recoiled from his leering.

“I’m not your gift. I’ve already had a beanstalk crammed up my loose ass, so I’ll help you out here. Pretty sure I’ve got lube in one of these pockets. Unless you’re hung like a table leg, I doubt I’ll have any problems.” Jack dug in his vest and pulled out one of his lube packets. He squirted it on his fingers and roughly inserted them. It was if he were punishing himself. “There. All slicked up. Now you can go to town. Have at it, sport.”

The fae king raised a skeptical eyebrow, but his eyes didn’t leave Jack’s thrusting fingers. “I do not trust this flippancy. Was your plan to lure me into your clutches and then throttle me? Only fire can harm me, you fool.”

“It was worth a shot.” Jack knew how to kill men with his bare hands, he hadn’t had much practice since he met Steve. Steve took care of those problems. The fae king parted his robes exposing a utterly normal cock. There was no glitter, no extra head. Nothing to be intimidated or impressed by. Jack looked from the king’s dick to his face and back again. “Meh.”

“You are graced with the awe inspiring erection of the king of the fae and you spit that at me? I could turn you into a rabbit! A shrew! A lowly housecat!” Color rose in the fae king’s cheeks, Jack viciously took advantage and sighed theatrically.

“It’s— fine. I guess. I mean, Steve was much bigger.” He held out his hands to show a slightly exaggerated length and girth.

The lights in the room began to dim and a low rumble of thunder echoed in the halls. “I am beginning to loathe this Steve.”

Jack sat down on the floor, bare assed. He ran his hand over one of the stars carved into his shoulder. “That’s how it starts. And then the Stockholm syndrome kicks in so fucking hard and you can’t live without the bastard. I’ll never see his cocky smirk again, never hear him laugh at me and never see anymore of his beautiful drawings. So go ahead, break me. I’m already broken. And you’ll never make me orgasm to trigger the spell, cause you’re not him.” Jack rocked back and forth in misery. How many times had he wished he was free of Steve? Even tried to kill him?

“Are you crying? I haven’t even— I’m done with you. You were a poor bargain.” The fae king turned on his heel and stormed off. Jack barely noticed. His head began to swim with dizziness and he slumped over, his last thoughts were of pink lips tinged red with blood, laughing.

 

It was dark. So dark. Jack felt about him, his fingers wound in soft sheets and velvety blankets. He wasn’t alone. “Jack?” A voice in the darkness. It was harsh and gravely, but hope bloomed in Jack's heart. “Shh. I’m here.” Jack’s hands sought the voice and his heart rose up in his throat as he found a wall of muscled flesh.

His eyes were blurry, they wouldn’t focus. “Steve? I thought you were dead! They said you fell— oh god.” Jack lunged for Steve’s arms and sobbed against his chest. “I thought you were dead. Don’t ever do that to me again, I can’t bear it. I just can’t.” 

Soft hands petted his hair, brushed against his back. “I did, but it wasn’t that far. I killed the fae king. Shh. Let me take care of you.” He saved him, Steve always saved him.

Jack sniffled and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. He reached up to cup Steve’s face, but Steve stopped him and wiped off his hand with a soft towel. “I thought you had left me and I was so angry and I’m just so glad you’re alive! You always save me. I’m yours, you bastard.”

“Yes, yes. Now show me how grateful you are to be rescued.” Steve sounded impatient.

“Don’t you ever do that again.” Jack scolded him.

“Never my pet.” Steve was touching his dick and his fingers were so warm. So hot.

Jack slumped against his chest. “I feel woozy.” Steve smelled like sweet incense that made Jack's nose itch.

“No more talking. Show me.” Steve crooned as he stroked Jack.

“Where do you want to go?” His tongue felt thick, clumsy.

“You choose.”

“You gotta do the chant then—“ Steve was alive. He was alive and he was here. He was alive…

“I’m too busy worshiping your body, my precious. Do that for me.”

Jack nodded and began to mumble the words. Steve was alive. He was alive and he was here. He was alive… His cock jerked and the light from his tattoo flared, he closed his eyes, still seeing Steve in the afterimage behind his eyelids. Steve was alive. He was alive and he was here. He was alive…

Then they were falling… falling… falling…

Chapter Text

 

 

Jack blinked into existence. There was nothing underneath his body for thousands of feet and he had a split second to understand that he was going to die.

An inhumanly strong arm snaked out and wrapped around his waist, tethering him. He was jerked in two different directions, someone was holding on to his legs. He barely noticed the weight on his legs because the bluest eyes he’d ever known were staring into his. Oh god.

“I was waiting for you, Peaches. Took your sweet time.” Jack wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck and shuddered with relief. Steve was real, he was alive. They were hanging miles above the ground from a precarious mass of vines. Steve looked down at the man who was clinging to Jack’s legs.

His smile faded as he took in Jack’s nudity and rage flared in his eyes. “Did he touch you?” Steve gave Jack a little shake, “Did he touch you!?” Jack nodded, tears of relief in his eyes. He was still woozy from whatever spell had drugged him into docility.

“You,” Steve growled at the blonde imposter, the fae king, “Are a poor imitation of perfection!” He lifted his leg and applied a combat tactic that Jack could only call boot to the face. The fae king’s nose crumpled with a sickening crunch and he clawed bloody weals down Jack’s thighs as he fell.

“There. Now where was I?” Steve purred, “You’re covered in such beautiful bruises from the vines. When I tie you up, I’ll be much more careful, Peaches.” The wind whistled through Jack’s hair and there was no place he’d rather be. Some solid ground might be nice. “Did we win?”

Jack snorted. “We didn’t find the kid. I sold myself for a fountain of youth potion for the queen.”

“Now why would you do a stupid thing like that? Don’t you know you belong to me?” Steve clucked his tongue.

“Well, you were dead.” Jack cracked a smile.

“And yet, you still found me. Looks like even death can’t keep us apart. So we won.” Steve leaned his head down and Jack kissed him, kissed him with all the passion and relief he felt deep within, without shame or second thoughts.

“No. You did not win.” A voice sneered from behind them. Jack craned his neck. The fae king hovered in midair. “Faeries can fly.” A size eleven bootprint marred the king’s flawless complexion.

“Who is this ponce?” Steve asked, “Other than my stomping grounds.”

“I am the King of the Fae. And the rightful owner of that strapping, naked man. He sold himself to me. I own him. A deal is a deal and I intend to collect.” A slim sharp sword appeared in the king’s hand. “You must be Steve. I grew very weary of the sound of your name and the mention of your endowments.”

“You mean my dick, don’t you? It’s pretty spectacular, but I wouldn’t wipe it on your face even if you begged me to.” Steve’s fingers dug into Jack’s skin. “He’s my husband. Mine.”

The king scoffed and straightened his robes, “You never formally were married, the contract wouldn’t bind if it had been consummated. All bluff and bravado, thousands of feet in the air. I’m going to enjoy watching you fall. And then, I’m going to make him watch you fall. Over and over again, until he’ll do anything to not watch you perish. Then I’ll make him watch it again.” He fingered the mark on his face. “No one disrespects the King of the Fae!”

Jack hissed in Steve’s ear. “Fire! Like the candy witch!” Steve couldn’t fight back when he was holding Jack, so Jack screwed his eyes shut and yelled, “My name is Jack! Jack!”

Jack?Jack?Jack?Jack?Jack.Jack.JACK.JACK!!

The beanstalk surged to life and wound tendrils and vines around Jack’s already bruised skin. He let the plant secure his arms and legs, before it wrapped around his mouth he commanded Steve, “You get that sonvabitch!”

“Clever boy.” Steve murmured and he whipped out his vibranium blade. “Well, come on, you asshole. Let’s see what color faeries bleed.”

The fae king lunged forward to bury his blade in Steve’s heart, but Steve knocked away. Sparks flew as the metal connected, Steve swiped at the king’s face and the fae jumped back. “You’re fast.

“And mean as fuck.” Steve sneered and lashed out with his legs. He wrapped them around the fae king and curled his free arm around the king’s neck. The fae king choked and gurgled as Steve flexed. “Night night princess.”

The fae king dropped his sword and pulled a dagger from a scabbard on his thigh. He stabbed Steve in the side, Jack cried out and the fae king wriggled free. Steve glared as blood gushed out from below his ribs. He put away his vibranium blade and plucked out the king’s dagger.

The fae king, his face a vivid purplish-blue, gasped out, “You— are — not—- human!

Steve examined the dagger stained red with his blood and flipped it in his fingers. Wind whipped through his hair. “Oh, I am human. I’m just the best a human could possibly be.” With a snarl, he threw the dagger at the fae king, catching the faerie in the shoulder. “Look at that. You bleed red just like me. That’s the only thing we have in common, you poser.”

The fae king began to glow, an aura of throbbing red rage. His voice hurt Jack’s ears. “I am the most powerful magical being on this plane. Entire kingdoms shiver at the thought of enraging me and you think you can defeat me with my own blade?”

“Nah.” Steve shrugged as he dangled from the vines.

“Nah?” The fae king blustered in apoplectic frustration. “What do you mean by that!?”

Steve’s pink lips parted in a toothy grin. “I just had to get Jack and I out of the blast radius.”

“The blast what—?” Those were very stupid last words, Jack thought. Steve swung over to him and covered him with his body. The fae king exploded in a fireball, bits of wet matter spattered against the beanstalk and a surge of power swelled— then contracted into a tiny singularity that imploded with an anticlimactic pop.

“Magic meets science. Science wins.” Steve kissed the tip of Jack’s nose. “Thought I’d say tick tick boom again, didn’t you? Silly boy. Now I have one question for you before I get my hand on your dick. Will you marry me, Jack?”

Jack made a grunt of assent, his mouth full of beanstalk vines and Steve sighed, “That’s good, because otherwise I’d have to leave you here because I can’t bear the thought of anyone else having you.”

Jack scowled at him and Steve nuzzled up against his beard, he smelled like blood, sweat and everything real. “Just kidding. But I am going to smear every inch of your skin with my cum just to get the fairy stench off you. Aren’t I sweet? I’m already making honeymoon plans. Just you and me and the whole multiverse to explore.” He spat in his hand, “But first, we should find the others, so we can brag about defeating that obnoxious prat. They’ll write ballads about us, Jack. I’ve always wanted to be in a ballad.”

Jack groaned as Steve began to stroke him, he bit down hard on the vine and let himself give into the exhilaration of victory, the thrill of triumph. The light from his tattoo flared and they were falling, falling….

Chapter Text

 

The look of astonishment on King Stephan’s face as they winked into existence was almost worth the pain of Jack’s bruised ribs as they landed, hard. Winter rushed over and put his hand on Jack’s forehead as the others stripped off the vines. Jack felt his pain immediately lessened, Winter’s face was contorted with the effort of syphoning off Jack’s agony.

“You know we have the portable AutoDoc unit, right?” Steve said as he tested his wounds with bloody fingertips.

Winter shook his head. “Not for Jack. Not for my padawan.” Jack was grateful for the attention. He still felt drugged and woozy from the rush of adrenaline, the orgasm and the magic roofie spell. Like that time he’d tried to keep up at the bar doing shots with the Commander and the rest of the STRIKE team. He was going to have the worst hangover.

“I thought it was just the big machines that fucked with the Force, but whatever. You do that instead.” Steve shrugged and fingered the holes in his suit. “Just perfect. I left my last patching kit on the spaceship.” He grimaced as he tested his shoulder, the stab wound had knitted shut. “So, I killed that fairy bastard. We should probably get back to the castle.”

“You killed the King of the Fae?” King Stephan was aghast and Murphy kneaded his paws together, worrying them like a human would.

Steve pointed up with a raised eyebrow. “That fireball? Yeah, me. Saving this world once again. You’re welcome. He shouldn’t have touched what is mine.”

The king looked worried, he glanced at the pouch at his waist. “The Fae King’s magic will be weakening. His spells will unravel. His magic has soaked into the land, staining it with his malevolence.”

“The potion. We have to get the potion to the Queen!” Murphy squeaked, “How will we ever make it back in time?”

Jack coughed and when he had their attention he grandly gestured at his naked groin. “Guys. Guys. Chill. I’ve got you covered.” He grinned with all his teeth and popped double finger guns at them. “Dick magic. Just give me twenty minutes or so and we’re going to be just fine. Just do that thing you do, Winter and we’re golden. Won’t even have to beg for a blowjob.”

Steve leaned down and tweaked his nose. “You’re loopy. I’ll make you beg later.”

He straightened and held out his hand, “Can I borrow your lightsaber? Just for a moment.” Winter unclipped it from his belt and handed it over. “Thanks.” Steve looked up at the giant bean stalk and ignited the lightsaber. He began to carefully carve in blackened capital letters, “STEVE ROGERS WAS HERE” and at the very end, “AND JACK” with a sappy little heart flourish. 

“There. Just in case the bards don’t get our names right.”

“I’ll make sure your names are immortalized.” King Stephan promised all of them. “You have done so much for my kingdom. I shall never be able to repay you, but you shall always have a place here, a sanctuary.” He bowed low.

“A safe place. Where we’re always welcome. That’s good. Very  good.” Steve let the wind blow through his hair. Murphy rubbed against his leg and Steve picked up the small purring ginger cat. He ruffled the cat’s ears and Murphy purred loud enough to rattle his teeth. “This place isn’t so bad, but just wait until I introduce you to the concept of indoor plumbing.”

“That stuff is the shit!” Jack exclaimed and Steve scowled at him. “Sorry, sorry couldn’t help myself. Post near-death experience and molestation aftermath. I can make a bad joke. I deserve it.”

Steve sat down, leaned his back against the beanstalk and closed his eyes. “I’m giving you ten minutes before you hop on my dick, so yuk it up, son.”

King Stephan raised an eyebrow and Jack stuck out his tongue at Steve. “Yeah, he didn’t mean that literally.”

“Try me.” Steve said. Murphy crawled in his lap and began to snore. It seemed like a damned good idea.

 

Next time I’m going to think about landing on a pile of feather pillows. Maybe a trampoline. Jack lay on the throne room floor, dazed from the impact of landing and Steve’s accidental elbow in his solar plexus. At least my junk is covered, I guess. He’d borrowed Winter’s cloak before the jump.

“Stephan!” Queen Margaret gasped out, Sir Wilson steadied her. The king ran to her side and held out the vial. She took it. “And this is?”

“A second chance.” King Stephan said, tears streaming down his cheeks. “We— he killed the King of the Fae. But not before we acquired this potion of stolen years. Drink, my love, drink.”

“What makes you think I want to relive my life?” The queen watched the golden fluid slosh in the vial. “Did you find our son?” King Stephan shook his head and fell to his knees, resting his head upon her lap.

“I failed. I failed to find our son. Please don’t leave me. I’ll try again, I’ll try so many times until I find him. Please Margaret, please, please. I love you so much, I couldn’t bear living without you—“ He peered up at her and clutched at her skirt. “We’ve still got to have our happy ending, Peg.” 

She petted his hair with infinite fondness, her jaw set with determination. “My love, help me open it. My grip isn’t as strong as it once was.” He kissed her gnarled fingers and broke the seal on the vial. She lifted it to her lips and the hall was silent with anticipation. She swallowed and the glass phial fell to the stone floor, shattered.

Jack held his breath as the queen grew grey and dusty. She sneezed and a cloud of grey dust exploded about her. The queen started to cough. “Well, that was completely disgusting.” She stood up and brushed off her robes. “It looks like I crawled around underneath the eaves. Just look at this, Stephan.” She made a face of annoyance.

“I— I— am looking.” King Stephan stammered. Everyone was looking at Queen Margaret. Her hair was glossy and dark, her skin clear and unlined. She held up her hand and blew on it, then blinked in wonder at her smooth unlined skin.

“Did it work—?” King Stephan swept her into his arms and kissed her. The hall burst into applause and even Steve joined in. His eyes were suspiciously damp.

“Are you misty?” Jack asked Steve. “You are!”

Steve grunted in a non-committal response and swooped over to Jack. Jack found himself slung over Steve’s shoulder, his bare ass exposed to everyone in the hall, as Steve stomped off towards the hot bathing pools. Winter waved at them as he watched the royal reunion, a goofy smile on his face.

“You know, I won the bet.” Steve said, “Stop squirming or I’ll make you squirm.” His big hand smacked on Jack’s ass-cheek. “The kiss. They smooched when you were passed out. I heard the whole thing.”

“I didn’t! There are no unbiased witnesses!” Jack winced.

“They did!” Murphy mewed, as he wound about Steve’s legs. “I saw the whole thing. It was very nice.”

“Thanks cat.” Jack grumped and got another smack for his trouble.

“You know, I’m not sure I am a cat.” Murphy chirped, “I’ve been feeling kind of odd, but I’ve always been kind of odd. Can I stay with you?  I don’t have a home and I don’t want to go live out in the woods. There are things that want to eat me and my boots get all dirty and I really like my boots, so I was hoping—“

Steve opened the door to the bathing chamber. The room was dark, the floor slippery. “Watch your step—!” Murphy stepped wrong in his little boots, tripped and fell into the hot soaking pool with a screeching yelp!

“Oh no! I don’t think it’s ready yet!” A familiar female voice wailed, “The potion isn’t ready!” She lit a lamp and Steve dropped Jack to the ground.

“Ow!” Jack protested. “What are you doing here, Wanda?”

“I had a debt.” She gestured at the pool. “I was steeping the herbs.”

“You made tea out of my bath?” Steve buzzed his lips in irritation.

Wanda nodded. “Special magic nullifying tea.” There was a bubbling in the pool. “Can cats swim?”

“Oh fucking hell.” Steve tromped into the soaking pool, steam rose about him like a curtain. He groped about in the water and pulled a young man out of the water. The man sputtered and coughed and hacked up water. Steve pointed in his face, “Now who the hell are you, son?”

The youngster’s hair was damp, but clearly ginger, his profile the spitting image of the king’s. Jack started to laugh. “That’s— oh my god— this is such a cliche. That’s Murphy! We’ve found the missing heir! I bet he’s got a special crown shaped birthmark on his ass, or something like that.”

Wanda craned her neck for a better view. “Yes— I see. Right there, above his dimples.” Her grin grew and she clapped her hands together in glee. “I told you Sir Puss. I told you I’d save you. And now we shall be married!” Murphy swallowed hard and slowly sank beneath the water until Steve pulled him back up by the scruff of his neck and gave him a little shake like a very naughty kitty.

 

Chapter Text

 

It was a good thing that Jack was used to sleeping in strange beds because he’d barely left the huge one he was currently sprawled in over the last few weeks. After adrenaline had worn off, he’d discovered that he was in terrible shape from his multiple maulings by beanstalk.

The sun spread out over the blankets and glimmered on the edge of the water pitcher. Jack fuzzily reached out to get a drink, Steve measured the water he was drinking like the control freak he was. He drained the cup and settled back in the pillows. It was pleasant to not have to worry about mortal peril, the pills Steve gave him were good shit and the castle didn’t smell that bad —  there was a very large lump under the covers next to him.

Jack pulled back the blankets. It was Murphy. Not the tiny ginger cat, but the gangly teen with spiky ginger hair and spots. He yawned and stretched, blinked green eyes and then curled back up as best he could with his unfamiliar limbs.

“Murph.” Jack nudged him with his foot. “Murph.”

“Mrr?” Murphy ignored him.

“Why are you in my bed?” Jack rubbed his face. His beard needed a trim. “Are you hiding from Wanda again?”

Murphy shook his head. “Mum.” He licked the back of his hand and ran it over his hair, then paused in mid-motion. “Habit. She won’t let me out of her sight. I understand, I do, but between Wanda and Mum I’m overwhelmed! And I can’t even climb up a tree and hide there with these stupid human claws!” Murphy squinted at his dirty fingernails. “Everyone takes too many baths. I don’t like to get wet.”

“She’ll relax, Murph. She just has seventy years worth of pent up guilt and regret to work through.” Jack reached out his hand and ruffled Murphy’s hair. The boy melted into the bed so Jack continued to pet his hair. “How’s Stephan taking it?”

“He’s wound really tight. He’s got three practically new people to love now and he’s terrified that he’ll mess it up. I tried to tell him that all I really want is skritches and some warm milk, but that really makes people sad, so I stopped. I used to curl up on people’s laps when they were sad, but when I tried to do that with Winter, he dropped me!” Murphy sighed. “And Wanda, Wanda eats flies when she thinks no one is watching and then she cries. So I hid in here because Steve won’t let anyone bother you and everyone respects Steve—“

“Everyone except sneaky little cat-boys.” Steve leaned on the doorway and crossed his arms.

Murphy was too relaxed from the head massage to dart to safety, so he sighed heavily, “There goes my nap.”

“Everyone respects me, huh?” Steve rapped his fingers on his bicep. “That’s a new one. I mean, I’m used to fear and loathing so respect is a new thing.” He smiled, white teeth brilliant in the warm sunlight. “I better not wear out our welcome if I want to keep that up. Now scat, cat.” Murphy fell out of the bed as he tried to make his long legs work. Steve shook his head, walked over and hauled Murphy over his shoulder. “The queen was looking for you, kitty. Something about political alliance lessons and royal protocol.”

Murphy went limp. “Can I be a cat again?”

“Nah son. This is your ‘happily ever after’. No one ever said it was going to be easy though.” Steve chuckled as he shut the door behind them.

Jack leaned back in his pillows. Steve was planning something. And it didn’t bode well for Jack’s nap time. He stretched out and his foot touched something small, cold and— oh fucking hell. “Murphy! Come get your goddamned dead mouse!”

 

Dinner was a intimate affair compared to the banquets in the throne room hall. A rectangular table with King Stephan seated at the head, Queen Margaret on his right and Winter on his left. Murphy sat next to the queen, who fussed over him and insisted on helping him cut his food. Wanda made goo-goo eyes at Murphy from across the table and Steve took the other end. Jack sat on his right, next to Murphy. There was more tension at this meal than at that one Thanksgiving when Jack’s drunk Uncle Cyrus had decided to deep-fry a frozen turkey and set fire to the garage.

Steve cleared his throat. All eyes were on him. Just the way he liked it, Jack thought. He pointed at King Stephan with his fork.

“You. What are your intentions towards my buddy Winter there? You’re holding hands with the queen on one side,” Steve squinted, “And you’ve got your other hand on Winter’s thigh.” King Stephan turned bright red and began to sputter. “I’m merely asking because I’m feeling the urge to travel and I want to make sure that you’re not leading the boy on. He’s had a lot of heartbreak and I won’t leave him here to be cast aside.”

Jack boggled at the sincere declaration and Steve shrugged at him. “I’m not so good at this. Not a lot of practice with it. But I know a good team and I’m not leaving a man behind, if he doesn’t want to be left.” A flourish of his fork. “What’s it going to be, kingie?

Queen Margaret rose from her seat and picked up a large meat pie from the center of the table. She sat down and addressed Steve, “I’ll use this pie as a metaphor and some small words, Stevie. This is Stephan’s love, compassion and valor. As you can see, there’s quite a lot of it.” She stabbed the pie with her knife and King Stephan flinched. The corner of her lips twitched with amusement. “One might say, that there’s more here than one person could possibly eat in one sitting, and while hoarding the remainder might be tempting, it’s also not practical.” She cut the pie down the middle and slid one half onto a plate. “Are you following my demonstration or do I need to go slower?” She offered the plate to Winter, who took it after a moment’s hesitation and then stared down at the pie in awe.

“I’ve had a lifetime to ruminate about my choices and I’d be a fool to deny that my beloved woke up after Winter’s fateful kiss. He is welcome here. A powerful warrior, a protector and a kind soul. This is a castle of second chances and I will not see them squandered.” Her stern expression softened, “However, I would like to be swept into darkened rooms and kissed soundly too.” She elbowed King Stephan who took her hand and kissed it. She beamed at him and Winter took a bite of the pie.

Steve watched her with careful deliberation, listening to her heartbeat. He smirked to himself and drew a circle in his gravy with his fork. “Be careful of this one, Stephan. I met one very much like her. A nice English lass with a hell of a right hook. I ended up missing a shipment of weapons and nursing a shiv in the kidney as she trotted off into the night.” 

“Oh.” Jack stared at Steve as he remembered their first jump to the desert oasis and Steve’s boasting about raping virgins, “You deserved that.”

Steve held Jack’s gaze, without a blink. “Yes. Yes, I did.” He began to eat and didn’t say another word the rest of the meal.

 

He was healing, he needed extra food. That was the excuse Jack made for his midnight snack. Just as Jack was about to turn a corner with his purloined turkey leg, he heard voices further down the hallway. Familiar voices. Jack was barefoot, maybe Steve wouldn’t know he was here… he found himself holding his breath.

“Now stop crying, woman!” Steve huffed in exasperation. “You’ve been excessively damp since the day I met you.”

Wanda sniffled, “Frogs can cry anytime they want to and no one notices.”

“You’re not a frog anymore. And I told you I’d look out for you, didn’t I? Now, if you want to get Murphy’s attention you need to remember that he used to be a cat. And what do cats like?”

“Sleeping.” Wanda rubbed her nose on the back of her elegantly embroidered sleeve, “Hiding under tables. Trying to climb trees.”

“No, no, no. They like scratches under the chin,” he demonstrated upon himself and Jack almost choked on his turkey, “Behind the ears too. Maybe a little belly rub? Then a bit lower? Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you girl?”

Wanda screwed up her face, “He runs from me when I just want to love him.”

“Pfft. Typical cat. Get a string and drag it on the ground, twitch it. See if that gets his attention. Then, run a little bit away from him and pretend to hide. Make him hunt you.” Steve grunted as Wanda threw her arms around him in a full body tackle hug.

“You’re so kind to me. I’ll never forget you, Sir Steve. I promise, I promise I’ll name my firstborn after you!” Wanda exclaimed, “I promise!” Steve patted her on the head and gently, firmly pushed her away after she began to hiccup.

“No rush on that. Really. And if he’s too frazzled to notice you, try catnip. You know your herbs. Make a perfume or something. Drug him. Worked for me. Now go rest, you’re looking a little bit bloodshot.” He grinned with too many teeth and gave her a thumbs up. “You’ll be bosom buddies in no time. Won’t they, Jack?”

Jack startled, dropping his snack, and ran as fast as he could back to his chambers. He couldn’t hear Steve chasing him, but the hair on the back of neck rose up and tingled. He was prey.

Jack made it to the threshold and when he turned, Steve slammed into him, bracketing Jack’s body with his own. Steve’s pupils were wide, glossy with the thrill of the hunt. Steve snapped his teeth, Jack squeaked like a trapped mouse.

“Got you. And now I’m going to eat you.” Steve flicked the latch and Jack fell into the the room. Steve shut the door with a backwards kick of his booted foot. “Nibble, nibble little mouse.” Jack backed away from him, his whole body tingling with the thrill of being chased. With the delight of being caught.

“Bet you think I’ve gone soft.” Steve leered at Jack as he pushed him down upon the bed. Clever fingers dispatched Jack’s pants and Steve bit down upon the soft flesh of Jack’s inner thigh. “Well the joke’s on you, Peaches. Now that you’re strong enough to be prowling about, sneaking around…” Steve licked a stripe up Jack’s swelling cock. “I’ve been waiting, ever so patiently and now we’re going to take a little trip.”

“Better tell—“ Jack moaned as Steve sucked him down to the root, “Oh Christ, that feels amazing.” He writhed on the bed, one hand wound in the bedding and the other in Steve’s blond hair.

Steve released his cock with a wet pop. “Better tell you what?”

“Tell me where we are—“ Jack gasped out when Steve licked his fingers and rubbed them over his asshole. “Where the fuck we are jumping to because surprise doesn’t cut it!”

“The Hydra. The spaceship. I need my patching kit.”

“Is that the only reason?” Jack whimpered as Steve laved his balls with his devious, strong tongue.

Blue eyes peeked out from above Jack’s curls. “I want indoor plumbing. And I want to see the girls and Brock. Normal people who remember who I really am. It’s exhausting to be so— good all the time.”

“I thought you wanted to be a hero.” Jack arched his back as Steve lipped at his sack. “Worshiped and admired.”

“I did. I am. And now I’m done with that. Because I really only need to be a hero to one person, Peaches. And I’m going to be balls deep in you very, very soon.” Steve grinned, “It’s not like I have to kill everyone I meet. Only the bad guys. Promise.” 

  Jack felt his heart lurch and he pulled Steve up by his hair. “That’s the sweetest and simultaneously most disturbing thing you’ve ever said to me.” They gazed at each other for a few heartbeats until Steve slunk back down, suckling a few bruises along the way towards Jack’s nether regions. 

“Me promising not to murder too many people gets you all hot and bothered. Look at how much your cock is leaking, you little tramp. What about torturing them? If they survive, that’s okay, right?” Steve grinned before lapping the precum from Jack’s skin. “Delicious.”

“I want to take you right to the edge, over and over again until you scream my name in frustration. Because that’s how I’ve suffered these few weeks without you beneath me, without the taste of this,” A swirling, devious kiss upon Jack’s taint. “On my lips. So legs up,” Steve swatted Jack’s thigh, “And let me at that pert hole.”

Jack closed his eyes and gave into the pleasure of Steve’s obscene caresses. He thought about the bed on the Hydra and Steve’s declarations of boredom and love and soon he was falling, falling… falling…

 

The bed groaned beneath them as they landed. Jack threw up his arms in triumph. “Finally! A soft landing!” He whooped in glee. “It’s a good thing no one moved in while we were gone, that could have been uncomfortable— what are you doing?” Steve was stripping off his suit. “We have to let them know we’re here.” Steve shrugged as he slicked his huge cock with lube.

“I am not going through the day with a hard-on. Nope.” Steve pounced on Jack, flipped him over and licked one of the red stars cut into his shoulders. “Take a deep breath my love, think of something heroic.” Steve lined up and pushed in, slow and deliberate. Jack buried his face in the pillows, inhaled the scent of mechanically cleansed laundry and canted up his hips. He groaned gibberish.

“Speak up, son. Can’t hear you screaming out my name.”

“Steve! You bastard.” Jack wriggled on his cock, “You glorious bastard.”

“That’s right. That’s right. Who do you belong to?”

“No one.” Jack flipped Steve off for sheer theatrics. “It’s not official.”

Steve paused in mid-thrust, “Hey Captain Jack?”

A staticky, crackling voice spoke over the intercom. “Yeah?” Jack groaned into his bedding. Of course, he’s watching from his porno couch. Why wouldn’t he be?

“You’re the captain of this ship, you can perform marriage ceremonies. So marry us.” Steve buried himself deep and rotated his hips.

“Right now? Kinky. Okay. Hey Bones, you gotta watch this. Send the live feed to Janice. Yes, I know she’ll hurt us later, but it’s fucking worth the pain. Trust me. Do you take—“ Captain Jack snorted, “Literally take this man, Jack Rollins, to be your husband or mate or bond partner or whatever they call it on your fucked up alternate universe?”

“I do.” Steve clasped Jack close, holding him up from the bed.

“And do you take this man, Steve Rogers, to be yours?”

Jack’s head spun, it was so wrong but seemed very appropriate for their relationship. “This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. Gah! Yes! Yes, I do!”

“Then with the power vested in me by, I dunno, someone, I pronounce you married as fuck. You may kiss the bride or jack off on his face or whatever you were planning. Be spontaneous. It sells better.”

“You are not selling my wedding.” Steve warned, not pausing for a moment with his relentless strokes. “Not unless you want something horrible involving your guts and that red velvet couch to happen.”

“And congrats to the happy couple. Aren’t they happy, Janice?”

“Hey guys. We’re turning this off now. Talk to you in an hour or so. Congrats. Really. But I never want to see this again.” Janice’s voice filtered into the room, then the transmission cut off.

Steve held Jack so tightly, he could barely breathe. “I’m never going to be alone again. And I’m so glad it’s with you. You make me better. I was already perfect, but you made me better. I love you.” He came with a shudder, his body convulsing for a moment.

“God, you’re such a romantic. I love you too.” Jack gasped, “Now are you going to fuck me or drown me with sappy tears?”

“I’m not crying!” Steve protested. “I’m not!”

“Suuuuure, you’re not.” Jack turned his head, “Now kiss me, Crazypants.” It wasn’t the best kiss, sloppy and wet with too many teeth, but it was perfect for summing up their relationship. They held each other as the spaceship rocketed through the stars, through untold galaxies and new worlds.

As long as they had each other, Jack thought as they interlaced their fingers and rested their foreheads together, everything else was going to be just fine. Everything else was going to be a marvelous adventure.