The helicopter landed on the exposed flight deck without a bump despite the pitch and roll of the deck thanks to the high winds and higher waves. Maria Hill doesn't look as the platform they’re on began to descend into the belly of the Raft prison. She didn’t look back until they stopped and Nick Fury pulled open the chopper’s door, just monitored her instruments and kept the rotors moving. It was unlikely they’d need to make a speedy exit, but Agent Hill was never one to be caught unprepared.
Fury wasn’t either, but no one saw the Winter Soldier coming. The death left in his wake, the ripple through S.H.I.E.L.D. as they discovered Hydra was not only alive and well, but thriving inside their own walls, had been impossible to predict. To say he left a trail of destruction in his path wasn’t accurate enough. There were close to a thousand men and women dead, safe houses and equipment worth tens of millions of dollars utterly destroyed, and more secrets than Fury could shake a stick at floating in the wind. All because Hydra had lost control of their weapon and the Winter Soldier had come seeking vengeance for what they’d done to him.
Though he had been sympathetic to the Winter Soldier’s tale, even Fury had to stop his murder spree. It had taken everything S.H.I.E.L.D. had left to capture the Winter Soldier. More good men and women had been lost in the process. Fury still had nightmares about that last battle, but they had him, and they’d built a place to put him.
The Raft was the most state-of-the-art prison that money could buy. Submerged beneath the ocean, it held the worst of the worst, the ‘enhanced’ people that had been cropping up on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar, and not in a good way. The cells were impenetrable, the guards incorruptible, and the prison itself impossible to access without permission. At least, that was the hope. The only hope the world had of keeping the Winter Soldier locked away.
Fury thought they should have just killed him, but it wasn’t his call. Wasn’t right, said one World Security Council member. The Winter Soldier was too valuable, said another. Fury hadn’t liked the sound of that, but he’d done as he was told. He’d built a prison and now was visiting his prisoner.
Outside the cell, Fury stared at the man sitting on the bare mattress on the floor of the equally bare, cramped, high security cell. His hair was messy but clean, shoulder length. There was significant stubble on his cheeks as the prisoners were only allowed to shave twice a week. His body was powerful, heavy and hard, even in the garish orange jumpsuit. The distinctive left metal arm was detailed with its articulation, as natural as the flesh, resting on his upraised knee, except for the metal sheen.
Watching this obviously powerful man, who was obviously comfortable in his body, it was hard to reconcile him with the knowledge that he was an Omega. Even harder was that the Raft’s doctors claimed he was in heat. It was strange, almost uncomfortable, to be looking at a man this big, a man intentionally built for combat, and know he was an Omega. An omega in heat.
A lot of Fury’s expectations came from stereotypes; he was aware of that, but it didn’t change the fact that stereotypes came from somewhere. Most Omegas tended to avoid physical violence. They were usually smaller than Alphas, too. It wasn’t just his sense of entitlement talking, it was a biological fact. Alphas tended to produce more testosterone and that pushed them to be more physical. They had a natural propensity towards physical activity: sports, martial arts, anything that let them express their inborn urge to dominate. Historically, Alphas were better at these because they were more competitive and driven. Omegas performed better in areas that required a calmer mindset. Academics, intellectual and creative pursuits was their purview.
As per Fury’s request, and the Council’s orders, the prisoner hadn’t been offered any suppressants for the last six months to deal with his monthly heats. Their frequency was astounding. Omegas generally only went into heat once or twice a year, proving that Hydra had modified most, if not all the Winter Soldier’s body without his consent. Now, even with nothing to alleviate the symptoms, the Omega appeared unaffected.
There were no signs of his condition beyond the slightly elevated heartbeat recorded by the monitor outside the cell. He wasn’t flushed, or distracted, or even trying to take off his clothes. He wasn't scenting the air, subconsciously looking for a good partner, or trying to ease the ache inside. Fury wondered if it was because the doctors had it wrong and he wasn’t in heat at all, or if the man just had an iron control over himself.
Fury prided himself on his self-control, on his ability to resist any Omega’s heat. Yet the sheer number of incidents involving this prisoner in the six months they’d had him captive made it clear relying solely on self-control would be foolish. Before arriving, he had used drugs to dull his senses, yet the moment the door to the cell slid open, Fury nearly stumbled as his body reacted. It was worse than any whorehouse in that cell, the pheromones so thick in the air, his heart beat double-time despite all the suppressants and sedatives he had swimming in his bloodstream.
The Winter Soldier was sitting on the thin mattress they had provided him, not even standing as the cell door came down. One look and Fury knew six months of incarceration hadn’t done jack shit to change his attitude. An attitude that consisted mostly of challenge and bloody-minded murder.
“Six months, huh?” the Winter Soldier mused, from his seat. He was lazing against the wall, staring at the ceiling and barely shot a glance Fury’s way. The Omega’s grey eyes flicked over Fury’s body, from his scarred face, over his wide shoulders, and down to his legs before flicking away, expression bland and uninterested.
It was offensive. Fury knew it was just his pride, but still it stung. An Omega in heat should never look at Fury, an Alpha strong and dominant, and dismiss him in a single moment.
“I have a deal for you,” Fury said, ignoring how he still smarted at the casual dismissal. “Sergeant Barnes,” he added, revealing his hand way too early, and not caring as much as he should. The words at least got him an reaction. It wasn’t as sharp as he’d expected, as pronounced, but it was there. The prisoner flinched. Slightly, but enough to confirm S.H.I.E.L.D.’s suspicions were correct.
“It wasn’t easy, tracking down your real name,” Fury went on, sure now that he had the upper hand. “Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes of the 107th, a World War II prisoner of war, captured in 1941 by Hydra.”
“And now a prisoner of my own government,” the Winter Soldier said slowly, too calmly. “The same government that left me to rot in Azzano.”
That took the wind right out of Fury’s sails. The plan to entice an American POW to cooperate by offering him back his name and respect shot clear out of the water. The only upside was the undeniable proof that the Winter Soldier’s memory was intact. Unfortunately, it also meant they it wouldn’t be easy to manipulate him. Hydra files claimed he hadn’t aged a day since his capture, and he would have more experience with those memories than Fury had expected.
“You do realise,” Fury said, changing tactics, “that if you don’t cooperate we’ll just keep you locked up forever? I can guarantee it will not be a pleasant stay.”
The prisoner chuckled. The sound of it was warm and rich, building and building. His body was shaking with mirth, lips parted, wet and full. Fury was helplessly staring at him, wanting him. Then the Winter Soldier threw his head back in a full deep laugh. But it was a rusty, bitter sound that sent shivers down Fury’s back.
“You think you can do better than Hydra?” the Winter Soldier asked once he had quieted, returned to that deceptively relaxed stance. He snickered again, a small and nasty sound. “What am I saying, you’re practically Hydra anyway. Right, Nicholas J. Fury?”
“Thanks to your...efforts, Hydra is no longer a problem. We’ve cleaned them out from S.H.I.E.L.D. and are continuing the effort throughout the world. It’s a shame we can’t reward you for that, seeing as you thought it best to include so many casualties along the way.”
“Reward me?” the Winter Soldier sneered. “You mean control me. Trust me, Nick, none of this,” he motioned around the cell, “is anything new. No suppressants?” He shrugged indifferently. “Next is either outright torture, or you trying to force a bond on me. Which one is it, Nicky?”
Fury narrowed his good eye, but didn’t answer.
“The thing is,” the Soldier said quietly, tilting his head back to rest against the wall and staring into the middle distance, not even bothering to look at Fury. “I have time.”
From the pocket of his extremely unflattering orange jumpsuit, the Soldier pulled a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, and lit one up. Prisoners weren’t supposed to have cigarettes at the Raft, let alone lighters, but this man somehow managed to get his hands on some anyway. That was the problem with jailing the Winter Soldier. Sooner or later he would get out. He knew it, Fury knew it; everyone knew it, and there didn’t seem to be a way to stop the inevitable.
“You can hold he me here for five, ten, fifteen years…” the Soldier exhaled the smoke toward the ceiling, “It doesn’t matter. I won’t get older, while you will. You’ll retire or somebody who gives you orders will retire. There will be changes, there are always changes. Sooner or later somebody will come here, to stand where you stand now, and offer me a deal.”
The Soldier exhaled another plume of smoke, shifting a little, and Fury was a little sick at himself that he noticed the way the orange cloth stretched over the hard muscles of his thighs.
“They won’t really remember, but I will.” This time the Soldier looked at Fury, looked him right in the eye. “I will remember the names of my jailors, the names of those who took away my freedom, and I will make them pay. I will track them down. I will track down their whole damn families and erase their bloodlines from existence. You want to torture me? Break me? Go ahead and try, but remember that whatever you do to me, I will revisit on you and yours.”
“You think we can’t break you?” Fury shot back. He wasn’t a fan of torture, found the whole practice rather unpalatable, but he wasn’t naive. If someone gave the order, they would break him.
The Soldier laughed at him, white teeth gleaming in the artificial light as the man threw his head back again. The hand holding the cigarette shook with his uncontrolled mirth. Fury hated the part of himself that found the sight so attractive.
“Hydra had five decades of breaking me down and I was the one who came out on top. You really think anything you can imagine will scare me?”
Ultimately, that was the heart of the problem that was the Winter Soldier. They couldn't scare him, because there was very little, if anything that they could do that Hydra hadn’t already done. The fact that the Soldier killed hundreds of Hydra agents only proved that torture was ineffective on this man in long term. And it would have to be long term. The serum variant in the Winter Soldier’s veins meant he wasn’t aging. They could keep him locked up in here, but he was right. Eventually, he could out-wait them all.