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Insufficient Losing Chances

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The human mind is a complex machine; neurons firing off, directing bodily functions, movement, your senses. And all without any active participation of the user, a meticulous orchestra of chemicals and impulses. Of course, there’s room for error, as no mechanism is without its flaws. But it begs the question of what control someone truly has over their brain. 

When one “loses” their mind, they go insane. When there’s a chemical imbalance, or a lack of communication between parts of the brain and the body? Well, it could result in a number of things. But even in those instances, the brain still functions to its capacity, doing its best to preserve some sense of reality for the body. To protect the host. 

However, anything can be breached. And it doesn’t always have to do with illness, or force. Sometimes, the mind simply leaves the door, or even a window, open. 

 

Baron Helmut Zemo’s mind was a fortress, in its own right. The kind often depicted on the covers of books like Dracula . Labyrinthian, seemingly impenetrable, only fitting for a man such as himself. 

Yet as he rests, it’s no more than a castle with the gates wide open. Still wonderful with its fortitude, but the guardian himself is off duty, allowing anyone daring enough to pass its threshold.

 

 

Sleep is the only true respite that Zemo can find within the walls of his cell at the Berlin Correctional Facility. His days are primarily spent pacing, reading, listening, observing; sometimes all at once. He believed firmly in keeping his mind active, and sharp; despite his years as a commander in the Sokovian armed forces, his strongest weapon would always be his mind. 

But as he sleeps, he can depart from the walls of his cell, allowing his dreams to take him to a simpler time. Anywhere apart from his reality. 

 

His dreams rarely had much variance. Sometimes he’d dream of his time during his service, or of his departed family, on a particularly good night. 

Tonight, his dreams feel especially vivid, tangible. And yet, he is alone. The lone Baron wanders the halls of his manor idly, not searching for anything in particular, simply taking in the scenery that he didn’t have the liberty of indulging in during his waking hours. But upon reaching the sprawling, book-lined walls of his family’s study, he stumbles upon an anomaly. 

 

You had been diligently studying the spines of each book along a far shelf, occasionally pulling a book free to skim its contents, before placing it back in place. 

He watches you curiously, trying to distinguish where you might belong in the contents of his mind. Did he know you? He thinks he’d likely remember you, if he did. You didn’t have the kind of appearance that would melt into a crowd, you had your own, distinguishable air about you. And as he approaches the stranger in his midst, he finds himself longing for what answers you might give him. 

 

“You know, under normal circumstances, breaking and entering is a criminal offense.” Zemo addresses you, some humor in his tone. “However, I am not a man of the law myself. So I believe it may be a bit hypocritical to try and impose such malarkey within the confines of my dreams.” 

 

You seem shocked when you turn your attention to the man before you, shame seeping into your bones like a chill. “I-I’m sorry! I was just curious! You know, people are so dull, it’s so rare to find someone who dreams so loudly.” You ramble thoughtlessly, only adding to the shame you feel. “Shit.” You cuss to yourself, eyes darting about. 

 

While the Baron is puzzled by your admittance, it doesn’t meet his expression. “Apologies, I didn’t mean to alarm you.” He says softly, which does seem to ease the tension built in your frame. “Yet I find myself at a bit of a loss. I must truly be losing a grip on my mind if I’m conjuring up such a curious creature.” 

 

There was something truly soft about him, and it took you only a moment to place exactly what it was. Behind his diplomatic posture, there was a hint of loneliness lingering at his back. A feeling you knew all too well yourself. 

You find yourself at odds. You’ve never interacted with someone in their dreams like this, always more content to observe and disappear before discovery. But he caught you off guard. You suppose it’s only fair to be found as vulnerable as he was now.   

 

“I should be the one apologizing.” You sigh, averting your gaze. “I intruded on your dreams, and you apologize to me . That? Should be funny. But I… I’ve never really talked to someone in their dreams before.” 

 

You don’t offer an explanation, but Zemo doesn’t seem inclined to press you any further, simply offering a nod of understanding as his eyes wander from you, to the center of the room, where a table with an ornate chess board has materialized. With a curious hum, his gaze lingers on the board, before moving back to you. 

 

“Would you join me for a game of chess?” 

 

 

“Since when have you ever had an interest in playing chess, Hase ? Have you been holding out on me?” An older refugee named Heinrich asks as he ruffles your already unkempt hair. 

It pulls you from your concentration, making you jolt in your seat. 

“You know, usually chess is played with two players.” He teases, observing the board that you’ve set up, before taking the seat across from you. “What’s going on in that head of yours?” 

 

With a fond smile and a huff, you lean back in your seat. “Clearly I’m plotting to rob a bank, or perhaps overthrow the local government.” It’s said as a joke, but neither of you laugh, a pall settling over you both like a wet blanket. You and Heinrich were among the few refugees that weren’t so thrilled about the recent terrorist attacks that these so-called “Flag Smashers” had been undertaking. Neither of you were fond of the government as a whole, but these attacks led to more restrictions being placed on people like yourselves, and shelter. People who didn’t have a proper place to call home. You could only sympathize to a fault, the line in the sand being drawn when it came to the possible upheaval of your settlement. You were bitter.

 

“Bah, don’t talk like that.” Heinrich waves his hand in dismissal, before gesturing to the board. “How about a game, eh? Maybe me beating you in a couple rounds will lift your spirits a bit.”

 

“Alright, alright.” You concede, helping him arrange the board for a new game. “But I warn you, I have a pretty good tutor.” 



One of the only good things to come from The Blip, was that it had made it much easier for you to hide in plain sight. The world was more concerned with finding its balance again rather than tracking down a rogue mutant. With any luck, you were assumed to be dead. That didn’t keep the paranoia from rising in your chest whenever you felt eyes on you. 

The majority of your life before The Blip had been spent in containment in various government facilities all over Europe. Poked, prodded, studied, questioned, observed, tested on. You truly were an anomaly; a mutant born to two perfectly human parents. On your darker days, you cursed them for ever having conceived you. But mostly, you longed for a simpler life, one where you could have grown up like a normal child, with normal struggles, rather than a life where you were cursed to spend every moment looking over your shoulder. 

 

You could only assume that they wanted to isolate whatever it was that made you, you. As well as find a way that they could utilize you to their advantage. Not that you ever gave them too much leverage. As a child, you didn’t have the words to explain yourself to them. Even when crueler means were taken in an attempt to summon your powers, you had something within you that wanted to fight. 

And as you grew, you built a wall around yourself, one that almost felt tangible to you. You had unwittingly schooled yourself in mental espionage, learning how to keep everyone out, but always leaving yourself an open window. 

 

You try not to dwell on those days, not anymore. You were free now. Well, as free as one could be when they had no name, no home, and no money. When you had first stumbled into the general population, people just assumed you had been displaced as a result of The Blip, the same as everyone else. You had integrated yourself into a group of refugees rather easily. Everyone had their own burden to bear at the time, so no one really questioned what had led you there. 

Not that it made adjusting to life outside of containment any easier. You still felt the need to ask for permission to do anything, to hide food so you didn’t have to fear it being taken from you. But as days stretched into weeks, and then months, you found that the refugees probably understood you more than you realized. All of you were accustomed to being uprooted, and not having anything to call your own.

 

Even when the vanished had returned, and you made the confession that you had nowhere you could go, you had been embraced once again. And ever since, this shelter in the midst of Berlin has been your home. 

 

Heinrich had been with the group even before The Blip, and had been among the first to try and befriend you. He was what most would consider a bit grumpy, but you found that it was mostly on account of his dry humor. It started with him leaving random snacks and treats from the food bank in your cot; trying to help you find what you liked after noticing your tendency to stick to the bland foods that you knew. 

Gradually, he began joining you for meals. He never attempted to pry into your past, sometimes he wouldn’t even speak. He’d just settle in with his food, and the paper, occasionally commenting on current events. It led to an easy friendship, even if the two of you made a funny pair. He took to calling you “Hase”, rabbit, saying that it suited your skittish nature. You wanted to tell him more about you, but you knew that the general population feared mutants and anyone with abilities alike. You trusted him enough. But not enough to confidently say that he wouldn’t turn you in to someone in power. 



“What’s that thing you just did with your rook?” You point, gesturing to where the piece in question now sat in place of his king. 

 

“Oh, so you have such a good tutor that they didn’t show you one of the oldest moves in the book, huh?” Heinrich scoffs, shaking his head. “It’s called ‘castling’, when there are no longer any pieces between my rook and my king, I can move my king over two spaces with the rook by his side. See? I had to anticipate the check you were about to put me in with your queen, and move my king out of the center of the board. You can’t go doing that at just any time, though. If you’ve already moved either piece, or you’re in check, you can’t do it. That’s why you need to anticipate your opponent’s move before it happens. Just make sure you touch the king first, touch-move, got it?” 

 

Despite having your would-be check sabotaged, you smile, and nod, tucking away this new piece of knowledge for later use.
The hours go by as the two of you play and chat amicably, until the natural light of the shelter’s atrium begin to dim, and the cold of the evening slowly seeps into the building. You lose almost every round, but claim a single victory, one that Heinrich seems just as happy about as you are. 

 

“Alright, Hase, this old man has had about enough chess for today. Hell, I’m surprised you didn’t get tired of playing first!” He laughs, rubbing his knees as he leans over, readying himself to stand. “Can’t recall the last time I ever played with someone that wasn’t just as ancient as myself.”  

 

“I’m gonna pretend that that’s supposed to be a compliment.” You laugh, getting the pieces back to their home position. 

 

“You’re an odd bird. But I can’t say it’s not refreshing to meet someone so young that’s interested in playing the old fashioned way. Chess is about the chemistry between you and your opponent, you don’t get that with a computer screen between you.” Heinrich stands fully, and grabs his beat up cane, grunting with the effort. “Stay out of trouble, Hase.” 

 

As you finish setting up the board, you contemplate his goodbye, and the memory of dark brown eyes watching you like a hawk the night prior. 



When you fall asleep, it’s like waking in another world. It hadn’t always been this way. When you were younger, it felt more like turning on a TV and flipping through the channels. You could still see into other people’s dreams, but it felt more random. The option to warp the world around you in that space had always been the easy part, especially as a child. If you wanted to fly, you could. If you wanted to walk the ocean floor, you were there, strolling along schools of fish. The first time you had stumbled across someone else’s dreams, it had been completely by accident. 

But, the more it happened, the more you learned, and the more you wandered. 

 

This realm is something more familiar to you than the waking world, as you’d known it much longer. You couldn’t draw an exact equivalent for comparison, but it was akin to walking empty streets in the dead of night. Some dreams were like a lamp post, a small light on your path, something barely there at times, others were like windows. Brief glimpses of scenery that you could step into if you so desired. 

 

Finding the Baron again was easy, his dreams swirl like a miasma on the horizon, snippets of sound ringing over the chatter of this peculiar realm. All you have to do is blink, and you’re opening your eyes to bright skies, sprawling hills, and a beautiful home. It’s so bright that you have to blink a few times to adjust as you try to take in the countryside. It felt like such a stark difference to the opulent manor you had met him in prior. In a beat, you decide to start looking around in a search to find your new acquaintance. 



 

These dreams always felt the most unfair. Zemo watches a younger version of himself chasing his son around the backyard, with his wife not far behind. He’d long since mourned their loss, felt the pain left in their wake. But that felt distant, now. More of a bruise rather than a gaping hole in his chest. Still, he sighs from the kitchen of his old home, tilting his head as his younger self catches his son in his arms, the two of them falling into a fit of laughter. He misses them, but he knows that they don’t exist, and resigns himself to simply watch. 

Until the shuffling of feet comes from behind him. 

 

You’d seen plenty of people’s memories in their dreams before, felt the pain and the joy that they could bring. The sounds of laughter trickle in from outside, but the atmosphere of the kitchen is melancholic and heavy. You bite the inside of your cheek as you absorb the scene before you, and suddenly feel awkward. Dream walking always felt like an intrusion, but this… now that you know Zemo, feels like an invasion of privacy. 

 

He turns to look at you, but your eyes don’t reach him, stuck on the family playing outside. Zemo knew people well, and he can tell that you were shrinking into yourself, afraid of having overstepped a  boundary. He supposes that most people would find this upsetting. But he’d hardly consider either of you to be normal people. 

 

“I understand that this is probably awkward, but I promise that you being here hasn’t upset me.” He assures you, offering a small smile.

 

“There you go, apologizing when I’m the one that’s just. Walking into your head again.” You try to joke, but the unshakable feeling of an old pain still lingers, making your laugh sound hollow. 

 

For some reason, he feels the need to comfort you. And beckons you over to him. “Come here.” He’s surprised when you do so without hesitation, standing beside him at the window. Rather than comment on it, he draws your attention to the memory playing itself out outside. “That is my wife, Heike, and our son, Carl. They died, along with my father, during the Battle of Sokovia.” He says easily, observing you from the corner of his eye. “I’ve mourned their loss. And have taken some… unique approaches in processing it. However, it does not pain me to share this with you.” 

 

Your eyes remain locked on the family outside as you try to blink away the glassiness that threatens to blur your vision. You see a happy family, and can’t help but wish that you had memories similar to this. But your parents' faces were blurry, and their voices were more like echoes, any memories with them were foggy and uncertain. 

“I don’t remember my parents.” You admit quietly, unable to look at Zemo. “I don’t even know their names, or the name they gave me. I was… very young when I was taken away from them.”

 

He’s never been good at comforting people, but he can tell that listening is the best thing he can do for you. Despite the multiple questions that arise, he tamps them down, nodding in acknowledgment instead. “I suppose this is why you never gave me a name to call you by.”

 

The statement does seem to startle you enough for you to look away from the memory, and finally at Zemo, who offers you an amused smile. “Oh my god, I didn’t, did I?” You flush in embarrassment once more, flapping your hands in an attempt to ease the feeling. “I’m so sorry, that’s so rude, isn’t it?” 

 

A genuine chuckle leaves him, amusement lifting the heaviness in the room. “Yes, most people would find that rude.” He says, doing his best to mask just how amused he is, letting you flounder for a moment. “But I am not most people. Though I would not mind knowing what I may call you.” He offers, his tone gone soft. 

 

You don’t fully understand the warmth that spreads through your chest, and let out a little huff of laughter as you wring your hands to try and soothe the lingering nerves. 

“You can call me… Hase.” 

 

“A very peculiar name for a very peculiar person.” He nods, endearment squeezing in his chest at the accuracy of your chosen name. Again, he chooses not to pry, but mentally notes the information that you’d given him. “Come, I have some books here I want to show you.” He says, before heading towards his study, knowing that you’ll follow him.

Chapter Text

“You are more of an enigma to me every day, Hase.” 

 

You look over the pages of your book to find Heinrich giving you an odd look, two cups of coffee in his hands. 

 

“One day, you’re playing chess. The next day, you’re reading Machiavelli. What should I anticipate for tomorrow? A political campaign?” 

 

“I don’t think I’m corrupt enough for that.” You laugh easily, marking your place, and setting your copy of Discourses on Livy aside. The shelter had a pretty wide variety of books donated that you’d read over the past couple of years. The book in your hands is not in the most remarkable condition, some of the pages having been dog-eared or water-damaged, the spine well worn. But you take it to mean that the book had been well-loved prior to being in your hands. 

 

“Let me guess, your mysterious tutor gave you some homework?” He sets a cup of coffee down for you, and one for himself. 

 

“Something like that.” You smile, muttering a thanks as you reach for the offered cup and take a sip. “I won’t lie, the politics are a little lost on me, but it’s definitely interesting.” 

 

“That’s the only context that ‘politics’ and ‘interesting’ should ever be used in the same sentence.” Heinrich says with a hearty chuckle that dissolves into a coughing fit.

 

You immediately get up and move to his side, offering him a napkin and patting his back to try and help the coughing pass. A deep frown settles on your face when he pulls the napkin away, revealing that it was now colored with a few drops of blood. Heinrich had a lot of pride, but you knew that he was sick. You just didn’t know that it was this bad. 

 

“You should really consider seeing a doctor.” You say softly, even though you already knew what his answer would be. 

 

“Don’t need a doctor to know that I’m dying, Hase.” He coughs a few more times before the fit seems to subside completely, and he gently brushes you off. “Don’t waste your time worrying over an old fool like me.” 

 

“I’m going to anyway.” You insist, returning to your seat. “There’s medicine that can help you, you know…” 

 

“I knew I was dying a long time ago, Hase. I’m already living on borrowed time.” 

 

Your frown only deepens, a sadness sinking into the pit of your stomach. Your only friend in the waking world was dying. Realistically, you knew the day would come. But knowing doesn’t prepare you for the fact that it could be approaching much sooner than you had expected. 

When you settle back into your seat, you’re not sure what to say, and you have trouble looking at your friend with the feeling of lead in your stomach only growing heavier. You didn’t truly know loss quite yet, the closest thing you had felt to it was by proxy in Zemo’s dream the night prior. 

 

“You look like a kicked puppy, come on.” Heinrich jabs, grabbing his cane to smack your leg under the table. “Wipe that look off your face and set up the board for a game of chess. Let’s get some practice in so you can really impress that tutor of yours, yeah?” 

 

At that, you do smile, allowing the mood to lighten for his sake. Somewhere at the back of your mind, you wonder if this is how Zemo must have felt last night. 

 

 

Glancing at the copy of Discourses on Livy on his desk, Helmut wonders if he should have chosen some lighter reading for his young friend, before smiling and breathlessly chuckling to himself with a shake of his head. Who's to say she even exists? What if he truly was losing his mind, and conjuring up a pretty little thing to keep himself company?

He can’t decide which scenario would be worse; the fact that he could be going insane, or the fact that he had met someone with the capability of walking into his dreams. 

 

While he wants to dispute the possibility of the latter, he can’t with any sort of confidence. He knew that stranger things had happened, and the probability of her existence was quite high. But he still toys with the thought of what it would mean if he had summoned her existence unwittingly. What about her truly serves him? Her company? Her shy and demure behaviour? ...Her innocence? 

Zemo can’t help the humourless chuckle that now leaves him, raising a hand to push his hair back. He was still a man, after all. But a part of him still feels guilty at the thought, brief as it may have been. Maybe he truly was losing his mind after all, debating the morality of his own mind’s self-indulgence. 

 

Laying down in his cot, he lets out a deep sigh and closes his eyes; berating himself for the excitement he feels as he drifts off to sleep. 





The dream tonight has a radically different setting than the two prior. You’re quickly able to determine that you’re inside of a prison, which sets you on edge by itself, only exacerbated when you walk down the corridor you’d materialized in to find Zemo inside of a cell, the two of you separated by a pane of glass. 

 

“I hate these dreams the most, you know.” He says from where he sits in his cot, his back up against the wall. “The ones that mimic my every day, it’s torture. Even in my own mind, I’m a prisoner.” With a sigh, he moves to sit at the edge of his bed, now looking at you. “Though I suppose your presence is a welcome reprieve, Hase.” 

 

There’s that light flutter in your chest again when he says your name. It makes you want to hide your face, or maybe run away. You’re not sure, but you don’t do either. Instead, you approach the glass, setting your fingers lightly against its surface. “You’re in prison?” 

 

“Regretfully so, my dear. Though I assure you, I’m here for a reason.” 

 

He speaks with such a dangerous edge that you gasp, but the smile on his face makes the feeling in your chest spike. You should be afraid of this man, he just told you that he’s in prison for a reason. You should leave, you tell yourself. There’s no telling what he’s done or what he was capable of.

 

But you don’t. 

 

Against all proper judgement, you walk through the glass as though it wasn’t there, prompting the Baron to tip his head at you curiously. 

He regards you for a moment with an expression of wonder on his face, before he gestures to the chair at his desk. “Pardon my lack of hospitality, please, take a seat.” 

 

You do so without question, looking around his cell as you make yourself comfortable. This was his life, these four walls. And you frowned at the familiar feeling of imprisonment. “The majority of my life was spent like this.” You tell him, thinking back to your days prior to your escape. “I… I could show you, if you want.” You want to kick yourself for offering, why were you making yourself so vulnerable? Zemo had already admitted to you that he’s dangerous, and here you are, prepared to show him something you hadn’t spoken about in years. 

There’s something about him that disarms you. Maybe it was the hospitality he had shown you, or how he had allowed himself to be vulnerable with you the last time you saw him. A smaller part of you, one that you don’t want to give much of a voice, says that it’s because you want him to know. After years of being unable to tell anyone of your past, you could finally tell someone without the risk of them turning you in. 

 

His curiosity is clearly piqued even further. “If you would like to, Hase. But know that you are not obligated to do so.” 

Somehow, that only makes you want to show him even more, solidifying your decision. So you nod, standing, and offering him your hand. No turning back.  

He takes it without question, allowing you to lead him out of his cell, and down the hallway where the scenery slowly begins to shift and morph around the two of you. You squeeze his hand tighter, allowing his presence to ground you as you walk further into what was now the lab that once housed you. 

 

Hearing your own screams is disarming, but you stand your ground as you enter a room where a much younger version of yourself is being held down by a nurse, while another attempts to stick you to some sort of drip. You’re no older than eleven here, having lived like this for almost six years then, but you still had so much fight in you. You cry out in defeat when the nurse successfully hooks you up to the violently blue ichor that drips from the bag, and now into your veins. 

“The harder you fight it, the worse it’s going to feel.” They attempt to coach you, but there’s no solace found in those words, as your thrashing and screaming is only amplified. You feel numb as you watch the veins beneath your younger counterpart’s skin begin to glow, before her scream is cut off, and she passes out completely. 

 

“What did they give you?” Zemo asks with a pinched expression on his face, not knowing what to make of the scene before him. 

 

“If I had to guess, I can only assume it was something meant to try and trigger my powers.” You feel detached as one of the nurses tuts, and begins writing down her observations. 

 

“There’s more.” You say, before guiding him out of this room, and into the next. Your anxiety begins to chill you as you will the scenery around you to shift once more. Whether this felt like a risk or not, part of you is unsure as to whether you want to relive your captivity again to show him your past. But the weight of his hand in your own spurs you onward. 

 

There are details within the cell that materialize around the two of you that catch Zemo’s attention almost immediately, a faded insignia staring brazenly back at him just beneath the observation window that overlooks the room. He clenches his jaw at the sight of it, releasing a sigh through his nose.   

 

You must be sixteen here, this version of you wears a wide-eyed, glassy expression from where she shivers, huddled the corner of a room that’s had the temperature dropped to something just above freezing. “They weren’t sure what my powers extended to, so they tried everything they could to see if I would react defensively. They knew I could reach people telepathically, even if I was only doing it while I was sleeping, at the time. But they wanted to know if I could do… or be more.” 

 

“Be more?” Zemo repeats, his face now grim. You only nod, leading him into another room. 

 

This had to be maybe a year or so before The Blip, this you is only six years younger than you are now; strapped down to a table, frustrated to the point of tears as you fight your restraints. There’s a group of people in the room with you, a few of which are notably American. 

“This is only the first of many, but we expect our aide here to be a sign of cooperation.” One of them says, opening a briefcase that contains a collection of vials. 

“Meaning we expect to be informed of any progress. Or lack, thereof.” A woman continues in a tone that’s clearly meant to hold an unspoken threat. There’s a clear understanding amongst the gathering as the serum in question is loaded into a syringe by the man who had allegedly produced the serum itself, then brought over to you. 

 

“They wanted a super soldier.” You supplement, neither of you able to look away from the scene before you. The memory fades to black as the plunger of the syringe is pushed down, cutting off your screams as you’re injected with the serum, before it ripples and shifts back to his prison cell. 

 

You release his hand, and take a step back, wrapping your arms around yourself in an attempt to self-soothe. 

 

“So you--”

 

“You must think I’m a monster.” You whisper in shame, tears building in your eyes as you attempt to shrink into yourself. 

 

“Hase.” Zemo sighs, hesitating for a moment, before closing the space between the two of you, and drawing you into his arms. 

 

You don’t react at first, going completely stiff in the embrace. And it leaves Zemo wondering if he’s made a mistake. But just as he’s about to release you, your arms fly around his middle, and you cling to him.
You hold onto him like you want to merge yourself into him, burying your face in his chest and clinging to the back of his sweatshirt as you begin to sob. You’re overwhelmed with so many feelings and emotions: fear, relief, paranoia, relief . For almost six years now, you’ve been free. For almost six years, no one has truly known who you are, what you are. But you haven’t been held since you were a child. Why does being held make everything feel so much… more? 

 

“Oh, Hase.” He repeats, kissing the top of your head as he strokes your hair. He’s still left with so many questions, but doesn’t dare to ask them. Not as you’re falling apart in his arms. His doubts of your existence are now thoroughly dashed, but there’s a niggling thought at the back of his mind that tells him: if you are a figment of his imagination, he has truly gone insane.

Chapter Text

Rarely could you say that you felt well-rested; dream walking didn’t truly feel like sleep to you, and last night had left you waking even more exhausted than when you had gone to bed. Your throat and chest ache, and your face felt itchy and swollen, left in the wake of tears shed in your sleep. 

However brutal your night had been, the morning doesn’t spare you any pity. You find that Heinrich is missing from his usual haunt in the atrium, as well as his cot, and it isn’t long before a worker at the shelter informs you that he had been moved to the infirmary in the middle of the night.

 

How had things progressed this quickly? Had he been keeping the severity of his illness from you, masking it in an attempt to spare you? There’s a mild flare of betrayal that stings you in a way that makes your fingers itch, but it’s tamped down when you see your friend in one of the infirmary beds. 

Your breath leaves you, and you find yourself wanting to take your own leave with it. You linger at the mouth of the room for a few minutes, pacing between the same three tiles on the floor. You focus on the chips in the linoleum, the dirt caked in the grout, memorizing it as you attempt to keep yourself from going back to your cot, and acting like you didn’t know he was there. 

 

It’s not that you didn’t want to see him. Heinrich is more than just a friend, he’s the closest thing that you have to family. Neither of you had anyone else. So by all means, you should be there for him, you want to be. But being there means that this is probably one of the last times you’ll be able to see him, and that is far scarier than anything you’ve ever had to face. 

 

Stopping on the second tile in the little path you’ve made for yourself, you shake the nerves from your hands, and take a deep breath. Then you’re walking to Heinrich’s bedside. 

 

“Ah, Hase.” He greets you, a whistle in his throat as he speaks. “Did you bring any coffee with you?” His laugh is now something that rattles in his chest, before breaking into a few coughs, the oxygen hooked up to his nostrils likely the only thing keeping him from going into a fit. 

 

The laugh you try to offer is forced, but you do your best to make it as convincing as you can. “Dana made the coffee today, I knew you’d rather pass.” You joke with a sardonic smile. 

 

“Don’t know why they let her make it. Swear I saw her put whole beans in the percolator once.” 

 

The two of you share a bit of laughter, before a wave of sad silence crashes over you. You take a seat beside him, and stare at the chapped hands in your lap, tracing your thumb over old scars and dry knuckles. You don’t know what to say, or if you’re supposed to say anything at all. He knew that you would miss him, your presence itself speaks to that, but the statement wouldn’t do anything to soothe you, nor him. 

 

“You could leave here, you know.” Heinrich sets a hand atop your folded pair, forcing you to look at him. “You’re so young, and you’ve been kind to spend the last few years keeping an ass like me company. But you should be experiencing more than just… this.” He gestures vaguely around you, before waving his hand dismissively. 

 

“Heinrich I, I wouldn’t even know where to go, what to do.” 

 

“Well you won’t find out just sitting here and feeling sorry for yourself.”

 

Your expression pulls into one of confusion as you look to your friend, who frowns at you heavily, the look only exaggerated by the deep-set wrinkles on his features. 

 

“You are letting your life pass you by, for what? Fear? Uncertainty? Pah!” Heinrich scoffs at you, shaking his head. “If you let fear rule you, nothing will ever change.” 

 

“I-I’m not afraid!”

 

“Then why don’t you want to go live a life better than this?” 

 

“I don’t have a life outside of this .”

 

“But you can make one, Hase!” He hisses at you in a way that strikes you, before letting out a few coughs that make his entire body shake. “If I mean anything to you, you will do this. Not for me, but for yourself. Please. ” 

 

Angry tears make your eyes sting as you stand from your seat with a force that makes your chair scrape against the floor. You know that he’s right. You hadn’t even considered leaving, the fear of someone finding you crippling you to the point of rarely ever leaving the shelter. You wring your hands and squeeze them as you pace, drawing the attention of the few other people who dot the room. 

You think of Zemo, where he sits alone in his prison cell. What would he tell you to do? What advice would he give you? You knew so little about him, yet so much at the same time. Maybe he would be a good place to start? You’d never thought about actually seeing him, actually reaching out to him, but your entire world is being upended. Heinrich was your safety net, your semblance of normalcy. But Zemo, despite not having met him in the flesh, felt like the closest thing to reality. Your reality.

 

Heinrich is still coughing as you pace, and a facility nurse has made his way to the elderly man’s bedside, trying to help him regain his breath. 

“Go, Hase.” Heinrich coughs out, pushing the orderly away as he finally seems to catch his breath. 

 

You look to your friend and swallow thickly past the tightness in your throat, offering a nod, not trusting your voice. 

 

“And for the love of christ , take an actual coat with you. You’ll catch your death out there.” 

 

You actually laugh past the tears that still threaten to spill over, and Heinrich smiles as you do, shooing you away with a gesture of his hand as the nurse still at his side attempts to offer him a glass of water. You spare one last look to your friend, before turning on your heel, and leaving the infirmary with a newfound determination in your walk. 



Packing up your belongings wasn’t a particularly difficult task. The only things you have to your name are a few sets of ill-fit clothing, your worn copy of Discourses on Livy , and now, Heinrich’s jacket. It’s certainly warm, but much too large for you. It had even hung loosely off of its previous owner, leaving you to practically swim in it. 

All that you own is tucked into a knapsack that hardly held any weight once it was slung over your shoulders. You knew that the refugee center offered aid to people looking to integrate themselves into society, however you didn’t have the means to go down that route. Particularly because you didn’t exactly have a legal identity beyond a test subject number. So when you depart the facility, it’s without telling anyone, or even a glance over your shoulder, you simply walk out the doors, and head down the bustling streets of Berlin. 

 

Dream walking wasn’t necessarily proximity-based, but much like how it had once been like channels on a TV, a strong signal would help you find what you were searching for without static. With how easily you had found Zemo to begin with, you knew that he had to be close. If not in Berlin, at least somewhere in Germany. 

Your abilities weren’t limited to dream walking, or your Super Soldier status, you had other aces up your sleeve. 

Telepathy was similar to dream walking at a base level, it utilized a similar part of your mind, but felt like a muscle that rarely saw much use. You weren’t sure how far your mind could reach when both you, and the person you’re attempting to reach weren’t within the same vicinity… However, the only way to find out was to try. 





Zhelaniye. Semnadtsat'. Rzhavyy.

 

“Those days are over.” Bucky retorts in response to the activation words that no longer held any power over him, his piercing stare locked on the man before him. 

 

“I know. I just wanted to see how the new you reacts to the old words.” Zemo nods with a measure of amusement in his tone as he approaches the pane of glass that separates him from the Winter Soldier. He meets the icy blue leer that tracks him from within his cell, searching the other man’s gaze, before clicking his tongue. “Something’s still in there…” He observes, looking away for a moment with a nod to himself, before looking to Bucky once more. “At least you were not conscious for most of your imprisonment.” 

 

The conversation flows as though the two were old friends rather than adversaries, but Zemo found that the two relationships weren’t all that different. The process of the chase, the fighting, those circumstances speed things up, in a way. Giving you a deeper understanding of your enemy in a way that friendships often don’t. 

These circumstances were certainly different from their initial meeting, however. 

 

As Zemo tucks the contraband keycard into his copy of Discourses on Livy , he feels a tickle at the back of his mind that makes the hair at the nape of his neck stand on end. It brings him pause, and he tips his head to the side, briefly glancing at Bucky’s back as he retreats, before he closes his eyes, attempting to focus on the feeling. Identify, or even eradicate it. 

 

“Zemo? Can you hear me?” 

 

Now that was something truly curious. Maybe his recent exchange with The Winter Soldier had truly sent his mind hurtling over the edge. 

“You’re not crazy, I already told you that.” The exasperation in your tone makes him smile fondly. 

 

“You truly are something, Hase.” 

 

There’s a breadth of a few seconds before you respond. “Where are you? We need to get you out.” 

 

“Believe it or not, your timing could not have been more prudent. Do you know of the Berlin Correctional Facility?” 

 

“Hard to miss it.” 

 

“Meet me in the parking garage, in roughly-” there’s a beat as he contemplates, before producing a response. “Twenty minutes. I apologize in advance that we will not be meeting under the most ideal circumstances.”

 

“That doesn’t matter.” 

 

It’s said so confidently, that it springs forth that same fondness in Zemo’s chest. “We won’t be alone, be very careful, Hase.” 





While you had no idea how Zemo planned on making his escape, you trusted him without hesitation. You knew the streets of Berlin well enough, despite not having traveled them much in the recent years. Your memory served as an atlas, streets marked by businesses you had made note of in the past, the breadcrumbs and points of interest gradually leading you to your destination. 

Getting to the parking garage would be a challenge on its own, seeing as security wasn’t necessarily lacking around the perimeter. You're terrified at the possibility of someone in authority seeing you. You didn’t know if anyone would be looking for you, if you were considered enough of a risk for a correctional officer to be aware of who you were.  

However, you don’t have time to school yourself on how to handle this situation with any sort of caution. So instead of thinking, you act, walking with confidence that you don’t have into the main entrance of the prison. 

 

“Excuse me, could you please direct me to the parking garage? I left my wallet in my dad’s car, and he told me I could just come get it. Last name Müller?” You say it with a candied tone that you don’t believe you’ve ever used in your entire life. 

 

Much to your simultaneous delight and relief, the guard behind the main desk barely looks at you, simply pointing to the right. “Down those stairs there.” 

 

You’re in disbelief at your success, shocked and elated as you thank the guard genuinely, before continuing on your way. Your heart is beating so hard in your chest, the fear once present being overwhelmed with such thrill that you have to keep yourself from laughing aloud. There’s a spring in your step as you pass through the heavy door leading into the parking garage, smiling to yourself. But you’re brought to an abrupt halt when you feel two sets of eyes landing on you. 

 

A hush passes over the two men who look just as shocked to see you as you are to see them. That fear slowly comes crawling up your throat as you swallow, trying to plant your feet where you stand to keep yourself from running away. 

For a moment, all you do is stare at one another, before the two men before you share a look. 

 

“Who are you?” You find your voice, making the two men look even more puzzled. 

 

“Get lost.” The man with almost impossibly blue eyes orders, to which his counterpart nudges him and hisses out a quiet “Smooth.”  

 

“Don’t mind him. He doesn’t get out much. I’m--” He’s cut off by the other grabbing the arm of his jacket and tugging him. You’re sure that he intends to keep the hushed words between them private. And were you anyone else, you wouldn’t have heard him. 

 

“Sam, we don’t have time for this.” “What do you mean we don’t have time for this?” 

 

The fire alarm begins to go off, making all of you quiet for a moment, before Sam, as he had been dubbed, gives the other a pointed look. 

 

You had to assume that Zemo was using whatever chaos was transpiring within the prison to make his escape… but that left you begging the question of what these two were doing here. Was this who he had been talking about when he said that the two of you wouldn’t be alone? You had initially thought he had been referring to the officers within the prison, however…

 

“You’re waiting for Zemo too, aren’t you?” Your question definitely gets their attention, prompting Sam to look between you and his friend, whose gaze is now locked on you. 

 

“You have got to be kidding me. Just who the hell--” Sam starts, pointing at you, before the sound of a door opening draws his attention away, and Zemo himself passes through the plastic strips of curtains. “--Woah, woah, woah.” Sam now points at Zemo, and again, looks at his friend. 

 

Their conversation is drowned out by your heartbeat thrumming in your ears, your gaze now locked on Zemo, who returns the eye contact, and offers you a small, almost sheepish smile from where he stands in his stolen uniform. 

 

“You’re going back to prison!” 

 

That snaps you out of your trance, and prompts you to step forward as both men silence Zemo from defending himself, and continue to bicker. 

 

“He’s not going back to prison.” You say confidently, drawing the attention of all three men now. 

 

“Okay, no, seriously, who the hell are you?” Sam leers at you, in disbelief that you had even inserted yourself into the conversation. 

 

 “She is an asset.” Zemo insists, looking to you for a moment with an unreadable look, before addressing the men once more. “You want to find who created this new serum? She was the first that it was tested on.” 

 

You bristle as again, all three men are looking at you. 

 

“She is invaluable.” 

 

“This? This is pushing it.” Sam says, now looking at his partner, who is staring at you with a look you can’t quite place. “How do we even know we can trust her? She could easily be running intel for the Flag Smashers.” 

 

“I doubt that, considering she was given the serum prior to The Blip.” Zemo counters, which doesn’t seem to ease any tension. 

 

“We don’t have time for this. If we do this you don’t make a move without our permission.” Sam levels at Zemo, before turning to you. “And neither do you, for that matter. But this conversation isn’t over by a long shot.” 

 

While you don’t know how to place the swirl of emotion in your stomach, you concede with a curt nod, relieved when the tension finally seems to drop. You have to tamp down the urge to go to Zemo for comfort, wanting him to reassure you, and tell you that everything is alright, that you’re safe. But you know that probably isn’t the best move, not right now. 

 

“Okay, Zemo, where do we start?”

Chapter Text

You don’t think that this is what Heinrich had in mind when he told you to go make a life for yourself. He probably expected something more akin to going to a hostel or perhaps joining a commune, integrating yourself into the world. A far cry from your rendezvous with an escaped convict and two Avengers who were now shuttling you off to god knows where to do who knows what.

All that you knew about their mission at the moment was that it had to do with the Super Soldier serum. Your knowledge on the topic itself was limited, but you yourself are evidence enough to support the beginnings of its synthesis prior to the Blip. How you’ll tie into whatever happens beyond this point is a complete mystery to you. 

 

Part of you fears the possibility that you’re a liability to Sam and Bucky. While nothing had been said in regards to you specifically since you’ve fled the Berlin Correctional Facility, your anxiety has a suffocating hold on you. Whispers haunting the back of your mind ping-pong the terrifying possibility of your freedom being at risk.      

The only comfort to you at the moment is Zemo seated beside you in the backseat of the car. His presence alone proves to soothe you enough to keep your worries from overwhelming you completely. 

 

Seeing as none of the talks are currently being directed at you, you attempt to busy yourself by reading more of Discourses on Livy , hoping that occupying your mind with ancient politics will ease the lingering stress further. 

 

“You managed to find a copy.” Zemo observes, leaning over to glance at the book in question. 

 When you look over at him, your chest squeezes. It still hasn’t fully sunk in that you’re actually here with him, in person, and you can’t help but stare. His countenance is so familiar to you, but his presence is new. You look at him like you’re not entirely convinced that he won’t just evaporate. 

“Y-yes, we had one at the shelter.” You finally manage to squeeze out. Your voice feels odd when you speak, your words battling your throat and tongue in order to surface.

 

“Good girl. How are you enjoying it?” 

 

The name catches you so completely off guard that your eyes widen a little bit in response. You manage to string together something slightly coherent about the book in a mixture of German and English, your brain not capable of sticking to one language while still processing the praise.

 

The Baron smiles at you, loving the way that you fluster at his words. You’re so expressive, and he’s confident that you don’t even realize how clearly you wear your emotions around him. It’s absurdly adorable and completely endearing. 

Unable to help himself, he reaches out to tuck the piece of hair hanging in your face behind your ear, relishing the way that you lean into the slightest touch without even attempting to stop yourself. 

 

“Okay, no. Seriously, how the hell do the two of you know each other?” Sam questions from the driver’s seat, eyeing the two of you interacting from the rear-view mirror. 

 

Zemo offers you a small nod of encouragement, and you return it, knowing that it’s time to speak up for yourself. 

 

“I found him… in his dreams.” 

 

“I swear to god, you better not be from some weird prison pen-pal dating service--”

 

“She’s not attempting to be flowery and poetic, Sam, she’s speaking literally.” Zemo elaborates, making Sam scoff. 

 

“Okay, and how exactly does that work?”

“Androids, aliens, and wizards?” Bucky suggests dryly, now glancing over his shoulder. “Last I checked, the Super Soldier serum didn’t extend to magic.” 

 

“I’m what’s called a mutant, perhaps you’ve heard of it?” You suggest flatly, which clearly brings both men up short. You revel in their discomfort for a moment, but when neither of them say anything, you continue. “I was raised in a lab, and experimented on. Because of my enhanced state, I was given the first trial of the serum, to see how it would affect someone like me.” It’s vastly oversimplifying things, but you didn’t feel like going in depth any further than that. “I can… walk into people’s dreams, and communicate with my mind. They suspected that I could do more, but...” You trail off, alluding to the fact that it didn’t happen as a result of your escape.  

 

“So you can read minds ?” Sam asks incredulously. “What am I thinking right now?”

 

“Her abilities are not some kind of party trick.” Zemo comes to your defense, much to your relief. “But it is as she says, we’ve been in contact as a result of her powers. And...” He looks to you with that same look you couldn’t place from earlier. “She has shown me her memories from her life in captivity.” 

 

Sam and Bucky share a look, before staring straight ahead, no longer as intent in their barrage of questions. But to your surprise, Bucky addresses you after a moment.

“For what it’s worth, I know how you feel.” Bucky says, the leather of his glove squeaking as he clenches his fists. He goes on to give a brief history of the original Erskine formula, and its attempted recreation with HYDRA. Though you can tell that he emits details of his status as a test subject and a prisoner of war, the information he provides when it comes to The Winter Soldier project is enough for you to understand why.  

Almost all of it was new to you, your education from within the lab having been limited to simple subjects and language, rather than history or current events. 

 

Almost being the keyword. You knew of HYDRA, not much, but enough. The emblem embroidered on uniforms and embellished on walls is burned forever within your memory. You don’t know how to go about conveying this information, much less explain how most of your time in captivity had been under their sanction. Before you can even consider putting the words together, the car is pulling to a stop. 

 

“I hate to cut this short, however, we’re here.” Zemo interjects, shooting a look towards you. “Apologies.”  

 

As you all exit the vehicle, Bucky addresses you once more. “Considering we’re doing all of this backwards, I guess now is probably a good time to ask what we should call you.”

 

“Hase.” You answer easily. You don’t miss the way that Bucky smiles at the name, like he’s in on a small joke. Which, in a sense, you suppose he was. 

 

“So our first move is grand theft auto?” Sam asks as the lights to the vast garage that Zemo had led you to flicker on to reveal dozens of antique cars.

 

“These are mine. Collected by family over the generations.” He elaborates, most of which you begin to slowly tune out as you look around the garage, recognizing it from the first dream of his that you had walked into. You keep yourself from wandering far, knowing that you can’t map out the manor out the same way that you had then. 

Before you can get too lost trying to draw comparisons, a hand reaches your shoulder. 

 

“Come.” Zemo says, letting his hand drop to the small of your back. “Let’s get you some better clothing.” He guides you with his hand, briefly looking over his shoulder to address Sam and Bucky. 

“I will return in a moment, gentlemen. Our friend is in need of some clothing better suited for our travels.” Upon receiving no pushback, he continues to lead you into the manor proper, pleased as you make no effort to hide the eagerness in the way that you take in your surroundings.

“I must apologize again for how brusque our initial meeting was.” He says once the two of you are out of earshot, stopping for a moment to fully face you. “I can only imagine how stressful these past couple of hours have been for you. Are you alright, zayka?” He asks in a much softer tone, brow pinched with concern as he brushes the back of his knuckles across your cheek fondly. 

 

A pleasant sigh escapes you, all the tension built up within you escaping with it as you nod, offering him a smile. The attention, now unhindered by the watchful eye of your companions, is something that you allow yourself to revel in. You take Zemo’s hand in your own before he can withdraw it, and hold it against your cheek. 

 

This seems to amuse him, as he instead turns his hand to cup your cheek, and leans forward to place a kiss upon your forehead. “Alright, little one. Let’s get you dressed, hmm?” He takes your smaller hand in his, guiding you further into his home. While it’s clear that you don’t have much time to linger, he doesn’t make an effort to rush your walk through the manor.

He leads you to a room that’s almost entirely filled with clothing, hung neatly upon racks that line the room’s interior. All of the clothing is immaculate, either new or hardly worn. It leaves you to wonder how everything can be so well maintained when the Baron hasn’t been home in years. 


Zemo doesn’t let go of your hand as he sorts through a few racks of clothing, occasionally reaching a garment that he piles over his arm closest to you. “These will fit you, if I’m not mistaken. And should be more comfortable than what you have.” 

 

“Why do I need new clothes?” You ask curiously, despite having no opposition to the prospect of new clothing. 

 

“Because you need to blend in, my dear. And while I do find you adorable as you are, I need you to draw less attention.” He finally seems content with the pile he’s collected, and guides you to an alcove of the room separated by a curtain, which when pulled aside reveals a changing space, as well as a lounge chair, and a full length mirror. 

Only then does he release your hand, sorting through the pile, before handing you a few articles of clothing. “Change into this, and then we can rejoin our friends. I will be back in only a moment.” He takes a step back and closes the curtain to give you some privacy, leaving you to fulfill his instructions. 

 

You examine the clothing picked out for you, feeling the material between your fingertips. You’ve never had anything this nice before, and you can’t help but admire each piece, finding no rips or tears or stains. It felt new. 

You eagerly strip out of your current clothes, leaving them in a pile on the lounge chair. Zemo has picked out a simple pair of black slacks that fit your legs like a second skin, as well as a comfortable, but stylish black shirt. In addition to the clothing, he’s supplemented you with a pair of black boots, lined with a soft bit of fuzz that reminds you of a peach. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you find it difficult to register that the body you’re looking at is your own. 

 

There’s a mental disconnect between your reflection and you, the person staring back at you being more put-together than you’ve ever seen yourself. You’ve never made a habit out of looking in mirrors, a result of usually not having one at your disposal, and not being very interested in seeing yourself. 

But you can’t help but stare now, admiring the shape of your body, usually hidden away beneath clothing that was all too big for you. 

 

“Are you decent?” Zemo asks from the other side of the curtain.

 

Being pulled from your line of thought, you offer your acknowledgment before sparing one more look at yourself in the mirror.

 

He pulls the curtain aside and takes a moment to admire his work. “Beautiful.” He comments, not hiding the admiration from his voice. 

He’s now properly dressed in his own clothing, and looks much more like the man that you’ve come to know. Taking a step forward, he collects your hand in his own, and presses a kiss to your knuckles. “I have taken the liberty of packing your things with my own, in addition to some other things you will need. I hope that’s alright.” 

 

“What about my old clothes?” You look to your worn knapsack, as well as the clothing you had arrived in, unsure and nervous at the prospect of departing with them. Particularly Heinrich’s jacket.

 

“They will come with us, of course. I will have them washed and returned to you.” His assurance puts you at ease, as he takes another look at you. “I want you to know that you will be safe with me. Wherever we go, I will see to it that no harm comes your way.” It’s said as a promise, his tone adopting a measure of severity. While unspoken, you know it’s meant to imply that what lies ahead will be dangerous.  

 

“I know.” And you do. Trust is something you haven’t wholly given to anyone before, you and Zemo shared something that most would find unexplainable. You’ve seen each other vulnerable in such a short amount of time, and he has shown no hint of judgement towards you. Not in regards to your mutant status, your Super Soldier abilities, nor your lack of worldly experience. Instead, he’s met you with kindness, understanding, and compassion. And for that, you trust him. 

 

“Before we regroup,” he says, halting your progression back towards the garage “I will not be able to be as openly affectionate with you in front of Sam and James.” 

 

“Why not?” You squeeze his hand, afraid he might pull it away from you.

 

“Because they will not understand it. What we share is something that belongs to us. It has nothing to do with what I want. And it will not mean that I won’t want to hold you, or comfort you, because I do, and I will. But we must be careful, as to not put you in any further danger. I do not want something so precious to be taken away from me.” He punctuates this with another kiss to your forehead, and squeezes your hand in turn. “But we will have our time. I promise.” 

 

Though you are slightly disappointed, you understand. The possibility of you being perceived as a weakness for Zemo could be potentially disastrous for both of you. 

Nodding your assent, the two of you push forward 



“So all this time you’ve been rich?” Sam asks as you approach a private jet that you can only assume belongs to Zemo as well. 

 

After you had rejoined with Sam and Bucky, the four of you piled into one of the many cars the Baron owns to ride off to a nearby airfield, where you would be leaving for your flight to Madripoor. 

 

“I am a Baron, Sam, my family was royalty until your friends destroyed my country.” 

 

“Hello, Oeznik.” Zemo greets the elderly man that awaits you alongside the jet, who returns the greeting. 

 

You understand the Sokovian language, it was taught to you amongst a handful of other Eastern European languages in your youth. You could only assume it had been done in an effort to strengthen the possibility of future communications, but it was among the only things you were ever grateful to have learned 

 

“Old friend.” Zemo says fondly, before boarding the jet. 

 

“Thank you.” You say softly to the man in passing, who appears to be delighted to hear you greet him in his native tongue. 

 

“You speak Sokovian, bunny?” Zemo smiles curiously as he turns to you, gesturing for you to take the seat across from him. 

 

“I do, but it’s been a while, I’m sorry if I butcher it.”

 

“Nonsense. That you speak it at all is something wonderful in itself.” 

You take your seat, and to your surprise, he buckles the straps for you. “Have you ever flown before?” He asks, before taking his own seat, and securing his buckle as well. 

 

“I don’t think so.”

 

“It may be a bit scary at first, but I assure you that you are safe.”  

 

The takeoff is unnerving. The way the jet rattles as it travels the runway and picks up speed makes you clutch the arms of your seat. It still doesn’t prepare you for the way your center of gravity suddenly shifts when the jet takes off, and again as you fly to reach altitude. You do your best to keep your eyes on Zemo rather than the window beside you, gradually releasing your death hold on the seat. 

“I’m okay.” You assure him, in English this time, unbuckling the straps of your seat once you realize that everyone else already has. 

 

“Apologies if that’s a little warm, the fridge is out.” Oeznik apologizes as he emerges from the front of the jet, giving the Baron, and to your surprise, yourself, a glass of champagne. “But I will see if there is some good food in the galley.”

 

“If it doesn’t pass a smell test… give it to them.” Zemo gestures to Sam and Bucky with a tip of his head, prompting a conspiratorial laugh from both you and Oeznik. 

 

“It’s good to have you back, sir.” 

 

You thank him as he leaves, and smile into the lip of your glass as you take a sip, catching the wink that Zemo sends your way over his own. You’ve never tried champagne before. It was something you only saw in the few movies you’ve watched and books that you’ve read. It felt like something that was too luxurious for someone like you. And for that reason alone, you enjoy the effervescent, complex taste. 

 

“You don’t know what it’s like to be locked in a cell.” Zemo sighs, relishing in the luxuries he had been missing since his imprisonment. “Oh. That’s right. You do.” The jab is clearly directed at Sam, and it makes you wonder even more about the complex history these men share. 

 

“Why don’t you tell us about where we’re going?” Sam responds plainly, not amused by him in the slightest. 

 

“I’m sorry, I was just fascinated by this.” The Baron produces his own copy of Discourses on Livy , but from your seat, you can see the smaller book resting between its pages. “I don’t know what to call it, but this part seems to be important.” He says, now lifting the small journal from its hiding place. “Who is Nakajima ?”

 

In what could have only been a second, Bucky is up from his seat, and it’s as if the world suddenly slows around you. You can see that he’s about to lunge for Zemo, and before he can reach him, your glass is set aside, and you’re up from your own seat as well. You cage Zemo in his seat as you lean over him, your arm braced beside his head to block Bucky from reaching him, which stops him in his tracks, leaving the interior of the jet in pindrop silence. 

Swallowing thickly, you look from Zemo to Bucky, before taking a step back, leaving the former looking smug as he offers the journal back to its owner. 

 

Bucky stares at you a moment longer, before snatching the book from his hand. “If you touch that again, I’ll kill you.” He looks at you one last time, before returning to his seat. 

 

You let out a huff, before taking your own, not enjoying the unsettling feeling that stays with you from the brief spat. Zemo, however, seems unaffected. 

 

“I’m sorry, I understand that list of names. People you’ve wronged as the Winter Soldier.” He proceeds with the conversation as though the debacle had never occurred. 

 

“Don’t push it.” 

 

“I’ve seen that book. It was Steve’s when he came out of the ice.” Sam continues in lieu of Bucky. “I told him about Trouble Man , he wrote it in that book. Did you hear it? What’d you think?” 

 

“I like 40’s music, so…” Bucky trails off, still seeming keen to stay out of the conversation. 

 

“You didn’t like it?!” 

 

“I liked it.” 

 

“It is a masterpiece, James. Complete. Comprehensive. It captures the African-American experience.” Zemo agrees, in a manner that apparently shocks Sam. 

 

“He’s out of line, but he’s right.” 

 

You’re not entirely sure what they’re talking about, as much as you wish you could participate. You hadn’t been integrated into society until very recently, and things such as pop culture were lost on you. 

As you take another sip of your champagne, you tune out the conversation around you, fatigue seeping into your body. It had been a very, very long day for you, and likely one of the most eventful in some time. You set your glass down, and bring your legs up onto the seat with you, allowing yourself to get comfortable as you slowly drift off.

Chapter Text

 

At some point you must have fallen asleep. You only wake when a hand finds your shoulder, making you startle from your slumber with a jolt. Blinking the sleep from your eyes, you attempt to get your bearings. 

 

“Did you sleep well, zayka?” Zemo mutters softly, pushing the hair away from your face. You relish the touch, closing your eyes as his fingers graze your scalp, letting out a soft noise in affirmation. 

“Good. We will be heading into Madripoor soon, so we need to get you ready.”

 

You grumble and pout a bit, making the Baron smile. He cups your face in his hands, affectionately stroking your cheeks, before he presses a thumb to your bottom lip, making your breath hitch and eyes shoot open. Though you had been groggy only a moment ago, this wakes you up almost instantly, prompting a chuckle from him. 

 

When you look around, you find Bucky and Sam missing from their seats.

“They are also getting ready.” He supplements, removing his hands from your face, much to your dismay. “We will be doing a bit of a delicate dance tonight, Hase. So it’s imperative that you are prepared.” He offers his hand instead to help you out of your seat, which you take gratefully. “Your role will not be a difficult one, I assure you. You will spend the entire night at my side, and you do not have to speak a word to anyone but myself.” 

 

He guides you through the interior of the jet, through a lounge-type area, and then into a private suite, shutting the door behind you both. “I picked out a dress for you to wear. I did my best to pick something that would suit our destination without leaving you too… exposed. I don’t suppose you’ve ever worn heels.” It’s more of a statement than a question, as he produces the dress from where it hangs in his closet, as well as a pair of heels. 

 

“I’ve never worn a dress before.” You add sheepishly, already feeling mildly out of your element. You’re not sure why a dress feels so intimidating to you. You didn’t have anything against the garment itself, but you also can’t say that you’ve ever had any clothes that were distinctly feminine. 

 

Zemo picks up on your hesitation, and takes your hand once more. It fits easily in yours now, like it belongs there, his other falling on the hip furthest from him to fully draw you to his chest. 

 

Your heart pounds like a hummingbird’s wings, heat rising from your collarbone to the tips of your ears.

 

“I know that today has been a day of many firsts for you, and that everything is very new.” His breath tickles your ear as he speaks, his voice sending goosebumps across your skin. “But I must ask that you endure a few more firsts before the night is out. Is that alright?” He asks, placing a kiss to the back of your hand. 

 

You can’t fathom saying no, so you nod. “I can do it.” You say confidently.

“Good girl.” He praises, leaving you practically preening.

Collecting yourself, you look at the black dress with a newfound confidence, but balk as he lays out some undergarments for you as well. It’s then that your face must have truly reached its boiling point. 

 

“I’m going to turn around so you may change, let me know if you require any assistance.” 

 

Zemo does as promised, but you're left with sweaty palms as you look at the articles of clothing again. If feminine clothing hadn’t been hard enough for you to come by, you couldn’t recall ever wearing underwear that wasn’t anything but spartan. As could be said for a bra, but this dress doesn’t appear to require wearing one. With a deep breath, you nod, wiping the perspiration from your palms, and get undressed. 

Despite the fact that the lacey panties in question had given you a bit of a shock, you don’t truly have a sense of modesty. You spent the majority of your life exposed, even at the shelter. The concept of privacy was one that you weren’t really familiar with. You feel no shame, standing completely nude in the same room as the Baron, and take your time figuring out how to go about getting your dress on. You step into it with no hindrance, but fall short when it comes to the zipper at your back, keeping you from securing the dress in place on your body. 

 

“Can you help me?” You speak up, holding the front of your dress to keep it from sliding off of you. 

 

Zemo turns around to see you, finding that your back is exposed to him, the expanse of it smooth and inviting. But he doesn’t allow himself the indulgence of basking in your bare skin, and takes a step forward to assist you. His fingers ghost over the back of your neck as he lifts your hair out of the way to slide the zipper up and into place, before gently guiding you to turn around so he could once again observe his work. “You look stunning, pet.” He croons at you, earning a smile from you.  

 

“Thank you. I… feel stunning.” You admit, looking down at yourself and playing with the hem of your dress, before looking back up at Zemo, who twirls a lock of your hair between his fingers, looking over you in silent contemplation. 

 

“Is something wrong?” You ask, now unsure of yourself. 

 

“Not at all, my dear. Take a seat on the bed, I will be back in a moment.” Zemo smiles at you once more, before leaving you in the suite. 

 

You do as directed, perching yourself on the edge of the bed, and sinking into the mattress a bit. You’re immediately enthralled by the softness of the blankets and the bed itself, bouncing in your seat with a little bit of a giggle. It’s easily the most comfortable thing you’ve ever experienced, all of the beds you’ve ever even seen being stiff and utilitarian in nature. You love the way the fabric feels beneath your hands, the way the mattress jostles you with your bounces, you don’t think you’ve ever smiled this much before. 

With your investment in admiring the bed, you don’t immediately notice Zemo return, a brush and a small toiletry bag in his hand. He feels so enamored with you in that moment, being given the opportunity to see you so carefree. There’s no sense of worry on your face, no hesitance in your movement, just pure elation in something so… simple. 

 

Upon noticing him, you do stop bouncing, but your hands still absently stroke the covers as you allow your giggles to subside. “I didn’t know beds could be so soft.” You admit, still smiling widely. 

 

“Believe it or not, this is hardly one of my softest beds.” He says in mild amusement, setting the bag on the bed beside you, before moving to stand beside you. “I’m going to brush your hair for you, and style it for the evening. Is that alright with you?”

 

You’re not accustomed to someone asking for your permission to do something, used to not having a choice in the matter. You nod your head enthusiastically, unable to explain the small amount of excitement you feel in knowing that you had control over a decision. 

 

Zemo takes a seat behind you on the bed, leaving a respectful distance between your back and his chest, framing you between his legs. He sets about detangling the knots that have settled into the ends of your hair, working his way up to your scalp, doing what he can to avoid causing you any pain. You may be a super soldier, but he can tell that you’re lacking some nutrition in your diet, the ends of your hair slightly brittle as a result, strands of hair being pulled free with little resistance. It frustrates him some, and he makes a mental note to send Oeznik out while you were in Madripoor to fetch vitamins and supplements for you, in addition to some healthier food options for you. 

He knew that it wasn’t your fault, you simply didn’t have the means to care for yourself properly, and he highly doubted that any of the people charged with your care while you were in captivity had put much effort into keeping you in good health. 

 

Once your hair is free of any tangles and has retained its natural shape, he goes about styling it with the intent to keep it out of your face. The entire process is done in a comfortable silence, and you appear to be enjoying the attention. You remind him of a contented cat with the way you tip your head back to lean into his ministrations, your eyes closed, and a smile on your face. So he takes as much time as he can afford, pleased to dote over you as you are to receive it. Though he doesn’t vocalize it, the process itself is a form of catharsis, reminding him of the many times he had done the same for his late wife, as well as his son. He’d never say it aloud, but he’s pleased that he has the excuse to care for you this way. 

 

When he’s finished and your hair is fixed in place with a few bobby pins and some hairspray, he moves off of the bed, putting a hand on your shoulder as a silent order to stay put. Zemo then takes a step to stand in front of you, reaching for the bag set on the bed beside you. “Keep your eyes closed for me, Hase.” He instructs as he rifles around in the bag, seeming to find what he’s looking for. 

 

Obediently, you do as you’re told, closing your eyes once more. A moment passes before you feel his hands upon your face, directing your chin up, before his fingers meet your skin, coated with something wet that he proceeds to massage into your face with a careful tenderness. 

 

“This is some moisturizer,” he informs you as he spreads the salve over your features. “It’s meant to keep your skin hydrated.” He continues, his touch retreating a moment later. “I’m going to be putting some makeup on you, it might feel odd. Are you alright with that?” 

 

You nod easily this time, willing to concede to his whims simply because he gave you a choice at all. He had been right about it feeling odd, but it wasn’t exactly uncomfortable. You had a little bit of a difficult time keeping your face from scrunching up at times, but he cajoles you throughout the process, elaborating on each step he takes despite your lack of knowledge in regards to beauty products. 

 

“Perfect.” He sighs upon deeming his task complete, telling you that you could now open your eyes.

Your eyelids felt heavier than usual, and it takes blinking a few times to grow accustomed to the new sensation. Zemo looks delighted with his work, simpering as he caresses your face, careful not to smudge the makeup. 

He helps you into your heels, which feel tight and awkward on your feet. You do initially stumble when you stand, holding onto Zemo to steady yourself, but you find your footing easily enough. The balance required in wearing them is more demanding than what you’re used to, your weight having shifted to the balls of your feet. He encourages you to take a few experimental steps, before leading you over to the mirror to take a look at yourself. 

 

A stranger looks back at you in the mirror’s surface, prompting you to gingerly touch your face, watching the person before you do the same. It’s disorienting to come to terms with the fact that you’re looking at yourself. You’ve never been “dressed up” in any capacity, and though you are shocked at first, a silly smile grows on your face as you look at yourself from different angles. 

 

Zemo smiles at you in the mirror, not your reflection, but at you. “I take it that you approve?” He muses as you turn to face him, unable to express yourself beyond an enthusiastic nod, and an excited little flap of your hands that he finds obscenely adorable. “Good. Now, do you remember what you will be doing tonight?” He quizzes you, adopting a more serious expression. 

 

“I stay at your side, I don’t talk to anyone but you.” You answer, nodding to yourself as you answer. 

 

“Good girl.” 

 

The praise he provides is something that you absolutely bask in, loving how it makes you feel like you shine from the inside out. It’s yet another thing that you’re not used to, but also something that you now actively seek out from him, doing everything that you can to achieve it. It felt nice to have recognition for the smallest things, and it gave you structure that you hadn’t realized you needed. 

 

When you regroup with Sam and Bucky, they both do a double-take that makes you want to bashfully hide yourself behind Zemo. That is until you see Sam’s outfit, and can’t keep yourself from giggling, which makes the Baron chuckle a bit himself, even Bucky cracking a lop-sided grin. 

 

“Come on, that’s just mean.” Sam huffs, straightening his suit jacket defensively. 

 

“I’m sorry!” You apologize genuinely, trying to stifle the laughter as it bubbles up. “I’m just uh, not fashion forward enough to… appreciate? Yeah, appreciate your outfit choice.” 

 

Bucky looks down, now also trying to suppress some laughter, if his shaking shoulders is anything to go by. Sam looks at his friend in betrayal, before shaking his head. 

 

“That’s cold. I think I liked you better when you weren’t talking.” Sam clicks his tongue, but smiles. “You clean up good though, kid.” 

 

You thank him genuinely, twirling in place the slightest bit. 

 

“Alright, now that we are done laughing at Sam, I suggest we head out to meet Selby.” Zemo brings everyone back to the task at hand, prompting a nod from the group. 

 

“Are we sure that we want to bring her?” Sam says after a beat, looking to you, then Bucky, who also seems to contemplate the question.

“It would be a shame to leave her behind after I’ve already put the effort into getting her ready.” Zemo retorts, before continuing. “She is a Super Soldier, the same as James. It does not hurt to have another body in the event of things not going as planned.” 

 

“Are you combat ready?” Bucky asks, looking at you with concern evident on his face. 

 

 

“Dispatch.” A voice crackles over a speaker, prompting two heavily armored men in addition to four hovering turrets to emerge from a mechanical door that shuts itself swiftly behind them. 

 

“Disarm your opponents and destroy the turrets.” 

 

Your body burns with the adrenaline that courses through you, your breathing heavy, sweat making your hair cling to your forehead. Your only affirmation in response to the order is to spring into action, dodging the live ammunition as it's fired at you. You run straight towards one of the turrets as it continues its volley of bullets, jumping into the air to grab onto it, and using the briefest amount of air it gives you to swing your legs and kick one of the men square in the chest, knocking him into the other body behind him. 

As your feet touch the ground, you then throw the turret into one of the other three, yelling at the effort it takes. It makes contact with its intended target, resulting in a loud, mechanical whirring sound before both turrets crash to the floor in a heap of ruined metal and sparks. 

 

One of the men is back on their feet and charges towards you, intent on hitting you with the butt of his assault rifle, but you catch it easily. Using the weight put into the attack against him, you hold onto the rifle and flip him onto his back, stomping on the joint where his arm meets his shoulder to assure that he relinquishes the gun. 

Not paying the cry of pain from your downed opponent any mind as he clutches his now dislocated shoulder, you take aim with the rifle while bracing yourself for the incoming kickback, taking down the two remaining turrets before throwing the gun aside in time to roll out of the way of the incoming fire. 

The remaining man fires at you erratically, and while none of the hits actually land, one does graze your shoulder. You don’t feel it with all of the adrenaline fueling you, now close enough to grab the barrel of his rifle and knock the firearm firmly into his protective face shield a few times until he releases his grip on the gun, which you also toss aside. 

 

Your blood thrums loudly in your ears as you look to the observation window overlooking your arena, a silent challenge of “what’s next?”

Chapter Text

“We have to do something about this, I’m the only one that looks like a pimp.” Sam complains as you approach the city, clearly still stuck on his outfit. 

 

“Only an American would assume a fashion-forward black man looks like a pimp.” Zemo criticizes, drawing a phone from his pocket to flip through it. “You look exactly like the man you’re supposed to be playing.” He appears to find what he’s looking for, handing the phone over to Sam. “The sophisticated, charming African rake named Conrad Mack, aka the Smiling Tiger.” 

 

“He even has a bad nickname.” Sam grumbles, looking at the phone. “Hell, he does look like me, though.” He concedes, handing the phone back to Zemo.

 

“You smell this?”

 

“Yeah, what is that? Acid?” 

 

“Madripoor.” Zemo clarifies, his gloved hand rests on the small of your back once his phone is returned to his pocket. “No matter what happens, we have to stay in character.” He says with the slightest sigh on his words as he slides a look over to you. “Our lives depend on it. There’s no margin for error.” You nod to affirm your understanding, which seems to satisfy Zemo as he proceeds to address Sam and Bucky, the four of you heading towards the car that has now rolled to a stop for you to get in. 

 

While Sam takes the front seat, you’re sandwiched between Zemo and Bucky, the latter of which apologizes to you under his breath while the Baron simply places a hand on your knee. Sliding into character as what had been described as “Zemo’s arm candy” by Sam, you loop your arm with the elbow he offers you, and lean into him, resting your head on his shoulder. 

 

Should anyone inquire about your name, you were told to tell them “Bunny”, which was easy enough, seeing as it wasn’t far off from your name to begin with. The easiest part of your role however, was the fact that you didn’t have to hide your urge to be close to Zemo, elated to be pressed up against his side without the fear of judgement. From the way he squeezes your knee, you can tell that he’s equally pleased with the arrangement. 

The car ride is silent, spare for the music that the driver has playing over the radio. It’s unfamiliar, but you enjoy the way the bass makes the car shake. 

 

You admire the neon lights that light up the city as you draw closer to your destination, only shifting your attention when a group of people on strange-looking motorcycles surrounds the car. 

Immediately, you spot their weapons, and your hold on Zemo’s arm tightens. If he’s worried at all, it doesn’t show. He thumbs slow circles on the side of your knee in response as a silent comfort, turning his head until his lips brush the shell of your ear. 

“Relax, little one.” He whispers in Sokovian, though he only speaks loud enough for you to hear, punctuating his short sentence with a kiss to the side of your head. 

It’s a simple enough command, and it does prove to ease the mild tension you felt. If not make you melt completely. 



Lowtown is a sea of bodies all colorfully dressed and armed, thriving in what appears to have once been some sort of railway station. Zemo’s arm sits protectively on your hip, holding you tightly to his side as he guides you down the steps, Sam and Bucky flanking the two of you on either side. Everyone seems to be enveloped in some sort of conversation or transaction, spare for the few people who stand as sentries, openly brandishing large firearms with eyes that all seem to follow your group as you carve your way through the crowd towards your destination. 

 

You adjust your arm as you walk into the establishment, sliding it beneath Zemo’s coat to let it fall across his mid back, your hand on his waist. This doesn’t seem to bother him, in fact, you can feel his chest rumble in a silent laugh as he squeezes your hip. 

“Here we are.” He announces to your group, leading all of you towards the bar. “Ready to comply, Winter Soldier?” He addresses Bucky in Russian, clearly a silent order to be on the lookout, as well as a ploy to catch the attention of the rest of the establishment. 

 

Upon approaching the bar, there are even more eyes on you, whispers of the Winter Soldier already circulating amongst the crowd. You decide it’s best to pay them no heed, instead wearing a smile and fixing your attention on Zemo as he places an elbow on the bar and angles his body towards you, his other arm still holding you secure. You adjust yourself to rest your hands on his chest, allowing him to draw you closer to his body. 

 

“Hello gentlemen.” The bartender seems to ignore your presence, shifting his attention to Sam. “Wasn’t expecting you, Smiling Tiger.” He has an odd look on his face as he addresses the other.  

“His plans changed. We have business to do with Selby.” Zemo supplements, his gloved hand rising to the nape of your neck, massaging it absently. Despite his cool demeanor, it’s clear that his statement has just put the rest of the establishment on high alert. 

 

The severity of the bartender’s expression only deepens, before he looks to ‘Smiling Tiger’ once more. “The usual?” He asks, which Sam affirms. 

While the bartender seems unamused, Zemo is absolutely chuffed, looking between Sam, and the snake that the bartender produces from a jar. “Ah, Smiling Tiger, your favorite.” He teases, watching Sam’s face fall as the snake is cut open, and one of its organs is dropped into one of the three shot glasses. 

You had assumed that one of the shots had been made for Bucky, but it’s set in front of you. Zemo raises an eyebrow at you as he grabs his shot glass, and you don’t hesitate to mirror him. Though he clinks his glass with yours, he turns his head to address Sam.
“Cheers, Conrad.” 

 

You take your shot with him, and you’re immediately tempted to spit it back out. But you steel yourself, and swallow, doing your best not to make a face as your throat burns with the proof of the alcohol. 

The way Sam hesitates to take his own shot makes the burn absolutely worth it, as does Zemo now fully devoting his hands to resting on your hips. You slide your arms around Zemo as the alcohol warms your belly, resting your head against his chest and taking a look around the bar. You make eye contact with a bald, bearded man as he stalks his way up to the Baron. 

 

“I got word from on high. You ain’t welcome here.” He scowls, though it doesn’t perturb Zemo in the slightest. 

“I have no business with the Power Broker, but if he insists, he can either come and talk to me…” He trails off, gesturing to the Winter Soldier, who stands behind you. 

The man observes him for a moment, before looking back to the Baron. “New haircut?” 

“Or bring Selby for a chat.” Zemo leers at the man, who returns the glare, before walking away. 

 

Once he’s out of earshot, Bucky speaks up. “A power broker? Really?” 

“Every kingdom needs its king. Let’s just pray we stay under his radar.” Zeemo briefly releases you, shifting to place you on the side closer to Sam, rather than Bucky. 

“Do you know him?” Sam asks, now stood behind you as you make yourself comfortable once more, though you steal a glance over the fur-lined collar of Zemo’s jacket, immediately understanding why you had been moved. 

“Only by reputation. In Madripoor he is judge, jury, and executioner.” 

 

As the threat Zemo had clocked approaches, he turns his head to Bucky, ordering an attack in Russian as a hand falls to his shoulder. 

There’s no hesitation from the Winter Soldier, who promptly removes the man’s hand, and proceeds to drag him away. But not without a look over his shoulder directed at Zemo. 

 

You feel frozen in place as you watch Bucky fend off the first lackey sent, feeling absent from yourself as he continues to fight his way through the men that attempt to take him down. Your throat goes dry, and you start to feel like you’re suffocating.
Zemo, picking up on this, leans towards you, pressing his lips to your ear the same way he had in the car. “Do not fret, Bunny. This is just a game.” 

You nod, but it doesn’t seem to reach you, so he then takes your chin in his hand, and forces you to look at him rather than the fight. 

“Stay with me.” 

Searching his eyes, you release the breath you had been holding, and find your smile once more. 

“Good girl.” He praises, in English this time, pressing a quick kiss to the tip of your nose. 

 

Zemo returns his attention to the fight, making a comment to Sam, but you’re more keen on burying your face into his coat, grounding yourself with the woodsy spice of the cologne he wears. You’re jostled slightly as Zemo pulls you a step backwards with him, just in time for a body to be slammed over the bar by Bucky. 

This prompts a few things: the first being the sound of multiple guns being cocked all across the crowd, the second being Sam grabbing Bucky’s arm.

“Stay in character or the whole bar turns on us.” Zemo hisses, before ordering Bucky to stand down. 

 

“Selby will see you now.” 

 

After thanking the bartender, Zemo holds you a bit tighter now as you’re led through the crowd, placing a single kiss to the top of your head. You’re ushered into a more private area of the bar by a single armed guard, the Baron not needing a guide to know where he’s meant to find Selby. 

 

“You should know, Baron. People don’t just come into my bar and make demands.” 

Selby isn’t what you had been anticipating, though you’re not quite sure what you had been expecting to begin with. She wears something you find to be almost as atrocious as Sam’s suit, but she has something sharp and hawkish about her, her open posture more of a threat rather than a sign of relaxation. 

“Not a demand. An offer.” Zemo says easily, taking a seat on the chair adjacent to Selby, guiding you to sit on his knee. You can feel your chest flush as he keeps one hand on your hip and places the other on your thigh. 

“A lot has changed since you were here last.” Selby comments, her eyes still locked squarely on the Baron as she tips her head. “By the way, I thought you were rotting away in a German prison. How did you escape?” 

“People like us always find a way, don’t we?” He squeezes your thigh as he catches the briefest look Selby sends your way. “I’m sure you’ve already figured out what I’m here for.” 

 

“Don’t be so stiff, Baron. I still have yet to be introduced to your… friend.” She smiles widely as she now fully directs her attention to you. “What’s your name, darling?” Selby’s tone is honeyed, but you know it’s meant more as an insult than genuine kindness.
“Bunny.” You answer simply, which prompts a laugh from her.
“How precious, a pretty little thing with a pretty little name. Taken to robbing cradles in your time out of prison, Baron?” She teases, making the hands on you tighten, the leather of his gloves creaking as he does.
“What can I say? A man prefers a meal freshly prepared, no?.” The hand on your thigh moves to your chin, guiding you to look at him. “She is rather pretty, though, isn’t she?” There’s a look in his eye as he says it that you can’t place, before he’s bidding you closer, and slotting his lips against yours. 

 

Your heart is fit to burst, and while the kiss lasts only a second it feels like time has stopped for you completely. You’ve never kissed anyone before, but you’re completely intoxicated by it, chasing his lips when he pulls away, before righting yourself in his lap when you remember where you are.

“Eager thing, I see why you like her.” Selby whistles, which Zemo simply answers with an all too innocent shrug for the dizzying state that he’s left you in. 

“You’re taller than I heard, Smiling Tiger.” She says, now directing her attention at Sam, mockingly purring at him. “What’s the offer?” 

 

“Tell us what you know about the super-soldier serum.” Zemo starts, guiding you out of his lap to sit on the chair in his place as he stands to walk over to Bucky. “And I give you him,” he starts, circling the Winter Soldier. “Along with the code words to control him, of course.” He grabs Bucky’s chin, toying with it. “He will do anything you want.” 

 

“Now that’s the Zemo I remember. I’m glad I decided not to kill you immediately.” Selby shifts in her seat, clearly pleased. “Yeah, you were right to come to me. Arrogant, but right.”

He stalks back over to the chair, and you stand without needing any direction, allowing him to take his seat, and place you in his lap once more. 

“The super-soldier serum is here in Madripoor. Dr. Wilfred Nagel is the man you wanna thank. Or… condemn, depending on what side of this you’re on.” Everyone seems to share a subtle look, the conversation fully sobering you. “The Power Broker had him working on the serum, but… things didn’t go as planned.” 

 

“Is Nagel still in Madripoor?” 

 

“Oh. The breadcrumbs you can have for free,” Selby rises from her seat, eyes locked on Zemo. “But the bakery is gonna cost you, Baron.” Her smile fades, a more serious look taking its place. “And before you get all cute, don’t think you can find Nagel without me.” For the briefest second, her eyes are on you, before the sound of a cell phone vibrating fills the room, making Selby snap her head to its source.  

 

You can feel Zemo tense beneath you, making your hackles rise as well.
Sam pulls the phone from his pocket, and glances at it, before looking to Selby, determining what he should do. 

“Answer it. On speaker.” She orders, the lackey behind Sam pointing his gun at ‘Smiling Tiger’s back, while Selby waits. 

 

The chances of a coming out of this are only diminished further as Sam struggles to maintain his cover, and you find yourself strategically mapping out where to move should things inevitably fall through. 

“Sam, I’m sorry. I’ll call you back.” 

Zemo squeezes your hip, and you meet his tight expression. 

“Sam? Who’s Sam?” Selby looks at Zemo, then to her lackey. “Kill them.”

Before she can so much as breathe, a shot is fired through the glass bricked wall and through her chest, prompting both Sam and Bucky to spring into action. You’re up as well before you realize it, scanning the room to determine what action to take, but by then the space is cleared. Though you all know that this would only be the beginning of your troubles.

Chapter Text

Tensions are running high, and the four of you share a collective look, the events of the last minute or so starting to sink in. Anxiety rises high in your chest, your feet already prepared to run at a moment’s notice. 

 

“They’re gonna pin this on us.” Sam looks between the three of you, looking somewhat guilty as a result of his call being the tipping point. 

 

“We have a real problem now,” Zemo sighs, exasperated. “So leave your weapons and follow my lead.” There’s a collective nod shared amongst your group before you’re leaving the establishment from a back door, letting you out into a back alley. There’s no formation in your walk this time, no calculated effort to maintain your posturing, but you still stand at Zemo’s side. The only thing running through your mind is that you need to protect Zemo. You know fully well that he’s a capable man, having had decades of military training. That didn’t change the fact that you were more durable than him.  

 

You walk brusquely down the streets of Madripoor as a chorus of cell phone notifications chime over the busy ambience of nightlife. Glancing at Zemo’s phone as he pulls it from his pocket, you’re all made aware of a bounty now out on you for Selby’s death.
“This is not good.” 


You scan the streets like a hawk, preparing yourself from the inevitable, and spot the first gunman taking aim at the four of you. “Heads up!” You warn, grabbing Zemo’s arm and ducking down as the shots begin to ring out.

“Shit!” Sam cusses, ducking down as well. “Come on!” 

 

Though he beckons for you to follow as he and Bucky drop into a sprint, Zemo grabs your arm and the two of you split off down a side street. You don’t require any further encouragement to follow, soon pulling ahead as you realize that he had it in mind to loop around and meet them. In your head, you know that it’s safer for you to be in front of Zemo; you could take a few bullets and probably be okay, he could die from just one. 

 

A bounty hunter intercepts you and points his gun, but you don’t stop. Instead, you meet him head on with a grunt in effort, grabbing his aimed pistol as he fires to direct the shot away from either of you, before punching him in the face, claiming his gun as he relinquishes it. If Zemo seems shocked, it doesn’t show, and takes the gun from you when you offer it. Before advancing, you snap the heels off of your shoes and give him a nod, and then the two of you continue on your way. 

 

Shots ring out ahead of you, alerting you of where your companions had been stopped down an alleyway. When you and Zemo round the corner, fully prepared to engage, you find that Sam and Bucky are unharmed, the two people that had been after them having been taken out in a manner that clearly took both men off guard.

“You seem to have a guardian angel.” The Baron says, equally puzzled as he lowers his gun. 

 

You hear a new set of feet approaching from behind you before they’re revealed, and turn to stand in front of Zemo. 

 

“Well, this is too perfect.” A woman reveals herself, gun pointed at the man behind you. “Drop it, Zemo.” 

You go to move, but Zemo grabs your arm with his free hand to stop you, setting his gun down, then turning around with his hands up. You’re puzzled, but you don’t move to attack. 

 

“Sharon?” Bucky asks quizzically, stepping forward, but she’s still focused on Zemo as she speaks. 

 

“You cost me everything.” 

 

“Sharon, wait.” Sam insists, stepping in front of you with an extended hand meant to pacify her. “Someone recreated the super-soldier serum and Zemo had a lead.” 

 

She kicks the pilfered gun that Zemo placed on the ground away. “That explains why you guys are here. And Selby is dead.” She still doesn’t lower her gun, and Bucky now steps forward. You look at Zemo with an unspoken question, but know that now isn’t the time.

“So what are you doing here?” Bucky asks. 

 

“I stole Steve’s shield, remember?” She says bitterly, pointing her gun as she speaks. “I also took the wings for your ass, so that you could save his ass from his ass. And I don’t even know who this ass is.” She finally lowers her gun, sighing. “Unlike you, I didn’t have the Avengers to back me up. So I’m off the grid in Madripoor.” 

 

Though you didn’t know much of the Avengers, something does finally seem to click into place in your head. Even more complicated history is added to the neverending list of things you didn’t fully understand, but if the Avengers were involved, it did answer why everything was so convoluted. It’s clear Sharon has been wronged, but it doesn’t appear that anyone amongst this gathering had had things any easier.  

 

“Listen... Sharon, we need your help.” Bucky pleads, making her laugh bitterly. “Please.” 

 

She sighs, conceding. “This isn’t over.” She gives each of you a look, before she continues. “I have a place in High Town. Should be safe there for a while.” With that, she turns on her heel, expecting you to follow. 

 

There’s clearly no questioning that this was the best option for any of the men, which prompts you to begin walking as Sam and Bucky usher you and Zemo forward. 



This car ride is much more tense, but you find solace in the similar seating arrangement, even if you were no longer as entangled as you had been with Zemo earlier. You take this time to process the events that had just occurred, your mind still reeling over your escape rather than the kiss you had shared with the man on your left, which had been pushed to the backburner. 

 

“So, did you take in a stray in Madripoor?” Sharon breaks the silence, looking at you in her mirror, but the question is directed at Sam and Bucky. 

 

“Nothing that simple.” Sam grunts, peeking at you over his shoulder. “This is Hase, she’s… Zemo’s lead. Part of it, anyway.” 

 

“Wanna elaborate a bit more than that.” Sharon states, sparing you another glance in the mirror. 

 

“She was the initial test subject for this super-soldier serum. Before the Blip.” 

 

That quiets Sharon for a moment, but you can see her hands tighten on the steering wheel. “There’s more, isn’t there?” There’s a sigh in her words, but you can tell that her worry has shifted to something else. You’re just not sure what. 

 

“I’m a mutant.” You mutter softly, looking down to where your hands are folded in your lap, and to your surprise, Bucky is the one that puts a hand over yours to comfort you. You look at him, and finally find yourself able to place the sadness in his piercing stare. “I…” You’re hesitant, but Bucky’s nod lends you some confidence. “I didn’t have a choice in it. I was an experiment.” You explain, now finally meeting Sharon’s eyes in the rearview. 

 

“Shit.” She curses quietly to herself, her shoulders falling. “Sorry.”

 

The rest of the ride to Sharon’s place is quiet, but significantly less strained, everyone appearing to be too wrapped up in their own thoughts to speak on the matter any further. When you arrive at your new destination, you find that the streets are significantly less congested, Sharon leading you towards a much more lofty looking establishment.

She walks in without sparing the two guardsmen at the door so much as a glance, and they allow her to pass with a simple nod. And as you walk through the large doors, you’re quickly enraptured by all of the art that’s on display. You look over the gallery as you keep pace with Zemo, absorbing the conversation around you. 

 

“Looks like breaking all those laws is treating you well.” Sam observes, looking at the gallery, then at Sharon.

 

“At some point, I thought if I had to hustle, I might as well enjoy the life of a real hustler.” She says proudly, gesturing to her collection. “You know how much I’ll get for a real Monet?” 

 

“Easy. Deactivate your hustle mode. You sell fake Monets.” 

 

“No. She means real.” Zemo interjects, which clearly catches Sam off guard. “This gallery is specialized in stolen artwork. Monet. Van Gogh. Classics.” He continues, though he doesn’t stop walking as he elaborates, the two of you still following Sharon as Sam and Bucky stop. 

 

Sam is left in a state of mild shock, leaving Sharon to call out to him as she reaches the stairs that lead up to what you assume is her apartment.

“Come on, you guys need to change. I’m hosting clients in an hour.” With that, she climbs the stairs to her apartment. 

 

As you enter her dwelling space, she directs Sam and Bucky to a rack of clothing, before turning to you. “Let’s get you into something more casual. I’m sure I have some things that will fit you.” Her smile is a genuine one, but you still look to Zemo for reassurance, only allowing Sharon to pull you away after he sends you a subtle nod. If she sees this, she doesn’t comment on it, leading you towards what you assume is her bedroom. 

 

Once the two of you are alone, she pauses to look you over in contemplation, before nodding to herself, and going to look through her closet. 

 

“That’s a cute dress, where did you get it?” She asks, trying to make conversation as she begins to sort through the many things hanging in her closet. 

 

“Zemo gave it to me.” You see her stop for the slightest moment, before she continues her search. 

 

“That’s nice of him. The shoes too?” 

 

You only nod this time. “He did my makeup for me, too. I’ve… I wouldn’t know how to do it myself.” You admit, which prompts Sharon to stop fully, and look at you in concern. 

 

“How do you and Zemo know each other?” She asks, trying to keep her tone from sounding too accusatory. 

 

“I met him in… my abilities, they…” You start, trying to find a way to explain yourself without Zemo here to back up your claims. When it hits you. “Can I just show you?” You ask, which makes Sharon’s brow knit in confusion. 

 

“Sure…” She responds hesitantly, and you close your eyes, trying to concentrate on reaching her mind. 

 

If Zemo’s mind was a fortress, Sharon’s was a maximum security prison. Walls protecting bolted doors and barred windows.

“You need to let me in.” You say out loud as you push, a knock on the door of her mind. With your eyes closed, you don’t see the hesitation on Sharon’s face, but you feel her let her guard down with a deep breath. 

 

You scrunch your face in focus as you reach out to her again like a hand extended to bridge a gap, securing your mental connection. You allow flashes of your memories in Zemo’s dreams to come forth: your first meeting, Zemo teaching you how to play chess, the two of you watching an old memory through his kitchen window, him explaining Machiavelli’s work as he hands you a book to flip through, the way he smiled at you, him in his cell, you showing him your own memories in captivity, the feeling of relief when he held you as you cried. 

 

Unintentionally, you’ve broken a dam, more memories of when you encountered Sam and Bucky at the Berlin Correctional Facility, the way your heart flutters when he looks at you, the absolute adoration you feel as he holds your hand and gathers clothes for you, the way he looks at you , you stopping Bucky from choking him on the jet, him brushing out your hair, applying your makeup, him kissing you.   

 

You gasp as you abruptly sever the connection, both you and Sharon stumbling back at the suddenness of it. You don’t look at her, shame burning through you almost as damning as her eyes on you now. 

 

“That’s… something.” She says after a moment, letting out a breath. 

 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to--”

 

“Are you alright?” The question catches you off guard, and makes you look up Sharon, clearly confused. 

 

“I-I’m fine!” You fluster, squeezing your hands together nervously. “I’m fine.” You repeat, nodding to affirm your statement. 

 

Sharon looks at you again, before going back to the closet, trying to find a way to politely approach the topic at hand. “Zemo hasn’t… asked you for anything, has you?”

 

“What do you mean?” You ask, genuinely confused.

 

“Has he tried to make you…” Sharon huffs, waving her hands vaguely to try and allude to something, before dropping them. “Does he make you do anything for him?” 

 

“No!” You say immediately, thinking of all the times he’s received your approval before doing something, explained things to you in a way you’d understand, and promised to keep you safe. “He wouldn’t.” You assert firmly. 

 

“Nothing at all? Not even… that mind thing? Even just a suggestion?”

“Never.” You repeat, holding her stare confidently now, but she still appears concerned. 

 

“Sorry.” She sighs, shaking her head to herself. “He has a history of playing mind games with people. I just want to make sure that you’re not… that he’s not using you.” 

 

 

The Baron lets out a sigh as he watches Sharon steal you away, leaving him alone with Sam and Bucky. 

 

“What game are you playing with her?” Bucky says first, approaching Zemo as he pours himself a glass of cognac from the crystal decanter Sharon has out. 

 

“Chess, primarily.” He says easily, setting the decanter down and replacing the sealed cork before taking a sip, hissing at the satisfying burn. 

 

“Cut the crap, you know what I mean.” 

 

“I’m afraid I don’t, James. So why don’t you ask me plainly.” He raises a brow over his glass. 

 

“Listen, Zemo, we all know you’re a manipulative piece of shit. And that girl? She’s clearly head over heels for you.” Sam chimes in, shrugging off his suit jacket. “Don’t think we’re just gonna ignore the fact that she looks to you before she does anything. Even just now. She doesn’t know any better. And if you’re using her--”

 

“Do you truly think so low of me?” Zemo interjects, placing a hand on his chest as though he’s been wounded. 

 

“Yes.” Bucky and Sam answer simultaneously, clearly unamused. 

 

Clicking his tongue, Zemo shakes his head. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t questioned his own motivations with you as well. He had even introduced you as an asset to their mission. However, as powerful as you may be… he couldn’t say that he had even pondered the idea of taking advantage of you. In any capacity. Even the suggestion of such makes his heart ache. 

Truthfully… he loved the simplicity of being with you. You could defend yourself, that much was abundantly clear, but he enjoyed the way that you sought after his approval despite this. You always looked to him for assurance, comfort. 

 

He loved how much you needed him. 

 

That in itself could be problematic, he knows, but he’s not callous enough to let you get in over your head. After all, he had promised you that he wouldn’t be putting you in any danger. Any more than he already had. 

 

“I assure you… I have no ill intentions with our friend.” 

“So that kiss, you’re telling me that--”

“I was simply playing a part, Sam.” Zemo insists with a level of exaggeration in his tone. 

 

“No self-indulgence there at all, then?”

 

The Baron laughs bitterly, shaking his head, and polishing off his cognac. “I am still a man, you know.” He admits. “Hase is not a child. Is she aware of how invested you are in her personal affairs?” 

 

Bucky seems to have heard enough, grabbing the lapels of Zemo’s jacket roughly. “Do you really think it’s that simple? She’s put herself between you and a gun, Zemo.”

 

“Of her own volition, James. You can ask her yourself.” 

 

“That’s exactly my point.” 

 

“I would never hurt her.” Zemo says it with such conviction that Bucky drops him and takes a step back, Sam having stopped the process of disrobing entirely. “Or allow her to hurt herself on my account.” He admits with a heavy sigh, not enjoying the feeling of emotional vulnerability. 

 

“Oh my god.” Sam says, chuckling humorlessly. “You actually care about her.” 

 

“Is that so hard to believe?” Zemo exhales a sigh as the two men give vague noises of agreement. 

 

The conversation ends there, the two men returning to the task of changing without further comment on the matter. Not that the topic being dropped is much of a comfort, he didn’t want anything with you to be a source of contention… more for your sake than his.

Chapter Text

 

You and Sharon emerge from her bedroom not too much later, your outfit being a bit more casual, but not any less elegant. Sharon had lent you an outfit similar to her own, though in lieu of a shirt you wore a black bodysuit beneath tight-fitting slacks, the collar dipping into a V past your collarbone, the long sleeves are comprised of a sheer material that had the slightest hint of iridescence. The boots were also a welcome change, they still had heels, but they were a bit easier to walk around in. 

 

“Much better.” Sharon comments as she looks over Sam, who’s still shirtless. 

You almost follow her like a duckling does its mother, before stopping yourself, finding yourself lost for a moment. The conversation flows with ease for the rest of the room, but it’s all background noise to you. Your first instinct is to go to Zemo’s side, and when you look at him, it’s clear that he’s waiting for you to do the same. 

 

You want to. 

 

It’s easier to just go and be with him, to bask in the comfort that just being near him provides you. But you know now that there aren’t just eyes on him, but on you as well. Granted, Sharon had seen a bit more than Bucky or Sam had in the short time that you’ve known her, but the concern that she had shown for you made it clear that Bucky and Sam had likely reached their own conclusions about the two of you as well. 

You might not be the most versed in forming social relationships, but you weren’t naive enough to miss the fact that everyone believed you were being taken advantage of. It hurts you to know that they all seem to share this belief, too. Especially when you realize that it could damage their already low opinions of Zemo even further. 

 

Releasing a sigh, you finally cross the threshold of the room over to the decanter of amber-colored liquor rather than Zemo. You pour yourself a nearly full glass, determining that the best course of action was to numb your senses in an attempt to spare yourself from overthinking. 

The conversation appears to have tapered off as you take a long drink from your glass, wincing at the harsh burn as it goes down, before immediately replenishing your glass.     

 

“Woah! Take it easy, Hase.” Sam teases from across the room, earning an unamused look from you as you set the decanter back down. “Or did you just miss Sharon telling us to stay out of trouble? Do you even know if you can handle liquor like that?” 

 

“I’m a super-soldier.” You scoff, as if that answers his question, which Sam’s incredulous expression shows that it doesn’t. “I can handle my liquor.” You proclaim with no room for argument. “I’m sheltered, not a child.” With that, you go to follow after Sharon, not daring to take a look towards Zemo, despite the feeling of his eyes on your back. 

 

“Remember to--”

 

“Blend in! I heard her, asshat!” You cut Sam off as you continue to walk away, the sound of your heels clicking on the wooden floor bolstering you. 

 

As you walk away, you hear Bucky let out a low whistle as Sam repeats the insult aloud to himself in disbelief. 



When you initially joined the party, people had only just begun trickling in, music already blaring loudly throughout the gallery. You can feel the bass of the music thrum beneath your feet and shake its way into your body, and it’s unlike anything that you’ve ever felt before. You allow yourself to indulge in the wanderlust often reserved for when you walked through people’s dreams, nursing the glass of cognac that tethers you firmly to reality. 

 

Sharon checks in on you briefly, though she appears to be pleased to see that you’ve made your own way into the party. “You doin’ okay?” She asks, a slightly amused expression on her face.

“I called Sam an asshat.” You confess excitedly making her burst into laughter, which proves to be contagious, as you find yourself laughing with her. 

 

“He is an asshat, isn’t he?” She agrees, telling you to enjoy the party before she continues along her way. 

 

You don’t begin to feel a buzz until your third glass, having switched to a whiskey that the bartender had told you was smoother than cognac. He seemed invested in explaining to you why the drink was a better choice, but you only nod along as he speaks, not understanding nor interested in the differences. 

The art was your primary interest, the pieces were truly something of beauty, it made you understand why the gallery had drawn such a crowd. You liked the pieces by Monet the most, easily falling into the vibrant colors and scenery he depicted, wishing that you could actually walk along The Artist’s Garden at Giverny. 

 

“It’s a beautiful piece, isn’t it.” A voice you don’t recognize says from behind you. 

 

You turn to see an older man looking from the artwork to you. He stood a head or so taller than you with salt and pepper hair that had been slicked back, and a beard that matched in color. Behind his dark-rimmed glasses, he had kind eyes, and a smile that you couldn’t help but return.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” You admit, looking back at the painting. “It’s so… familiar. Like you’re truly seeing the garden through his eyes. The happiness of his life’s work, so detailed, but so simple at the same time.” You sigh dreamily, allowing your thoughts to flow freely with the alcohol beginning to lower your inhibitions. 

 

The man chuckles behind you, and you turn to look at him once more, finding that he hasn’t stopped looking at you. 

 

“That’s quite the observation, are you a collector as well?” He asks, looking you over like you belonged amongst the art on display.

“No, just a fan.” You admit, taking a sip of your drink.

“You’ve never considered purchasing for yourself?” You shake your head, to which he continues. “That’s quite a shame. A piece like this should sit in the home of someone who can truly appreciate it.” He hums, giving you another once over. “My name is Lawrence, might I have the pleasure of knowing your name?” He purrs, offering you his hand. 

 

You flush, going to take his hand, when you feel a hand on your waist. When you look to its owner, you find Zemo, who looks at Lawrence rather than you. 

 

“There you are, darling. Who is your friend?” The smile on his face is stiff and unnerving, making you nervous.

“This is Lawrence, we were just talking about the piece.” You answer softly, gesturing to the painting. 

 

Zemo takes the man’s hand in your stead, shaking it firmly. “A pleasure.” 

 

You can feel the tempered emotions roiling off of him, and place your hand on his chest in an effort to cool him down. “I appreciate the conversation, Lawrence.” You say apologetically, before pushing the Baron’s chest, directing him away from the other man. Once you’re out of earshot, you look at him once more, finding that his eyes haven’t stopped tracking Lawrence through the crowd. 

 

“What was that?” You ask, frowning up at Zemo, who only now drops his gaze to you. 

 

“A man who was going to take advantage of your naivety.” He says plainly, not bothering to hide the contempt in his voice. “You don’t understand the way that men look at you, zayka.”

 

“We were talking about art, Helmut.” You hiss, making him laugh and shake his head. 

 

You were talking about art. He was undressing you with his eyes.” 

 

“How do you know that?”

“Because I’m a man as well, and I know how we think.” 

 

“So you undress me with your eyes as well?” You ask sharply, crossing your arms over your chest. 

 

“No, because I respect you.” He sounds exasperated, deflating from his tense posture. “I’m sorry.” He apologizes after a moment, taking a sip of his drink. “I suppose I’ve made an asshat of myself as well.” 

 

“I-- yes.” You respond, the annoyance fading from where it had settled in your chest. Mirroring him, you take a sip of your own drink, trying to collect your thoughts.

 

“Are you upset with me?” He asks, reaching towards you to cup your cheek. 

 

“No.” You pout, looking up at him.

 

“You avoided me earlier.” 

 

“I know.” 

 

“Why?”

 

You lean into his palm, looking off to the side. “Sharon thinks you’re taking advantage of me… and I think Sam and Bucky do, too.” 

 

“Do you think that I am?” He sounds genuinely hurt.

“No.” You concede, feeling your throat tighten. “But I didn’t want to make it worse.”

 

“Look at me.” When you don’t, Zemo clicks his tongue, setting down his drink to hold your face in both of his hands. “ Please , Hase.”  

 

“They already think you’re such an awful person.” Your eyes feel watery when you look at him now, tears catching on your lashes. “I know I don’t understand everything, but I’m scared. Why do they think that you would do that to me?” 

 

Cussing to himself, Zemo looks around, before collecting his glass, and pulling you with him towards the bathrooms. There are a few people in the room that yell at him about bringing you into the men’s room, but he shoos them out, locking the door behind them. 

 

“There’s another bathroom they can use, it’s fine.” He justifies, guiding you towards a chair in a little sitting area of the room. 

 

Once you’re seated, he takes your glass and sets it down on a table alongside his own, then retrieves a clean towel that he’s dampened with cool water to gently dab your tears away. He’s knelt in front of you, cupping your face in his palm as he works. 

 

“I’m not a good man, Hase.” He admits, brushing his thumb over your cheekbone. “I have regretfully killed many innocent people, and used the pain and anger I felt over the destruction of my country… of my family, to justify my actions.” He sets the towel aside once your tears are wiped away, and looks at you guiltily. “I have taken advantage of people in the past, James in particular. It is why they believe that I will do the same to you.” 

 

You sniffle, looking at the pain in his eyes as he awaits the damnation he’s sure you’ll unleash upon him. “But why? All you’ve done is take care of me.” 

 

“Caring for you is something I do very selfishly.” 

 

You don’t know what to say, swallowing thickly as you just look at one another. You’re overwhelmed by the feelings that swirl in your chest, but lift a hand to rest it over the one he’s placed on your cheek. 

 

“Can you kiss me again?” You ask in a small voice.

“Are you sure?” He asks seriously, his thumb ceasing its ministrations. “I don’t want you to ask this of me because you believe it is what I want from you.” 

 

“Do you not want to?” You practically whisper, afraid of the possible rejection.

“Of course I do, Hase.” He coos at you, leaning closer. “I just want to be sure that it is your choice being made.”

 

“Please kiss me.” 

 

He leans ever closer. 

 

“As you wish.” It’s said close enough for his lips to brush your own as he speaks, the taste of expensive drink on his breath. He leaves you waiting for a moment longer, before fully pressing his lips against yours.

The kiss is soft, no demand or urgency behind it. You lean into it, allowing Zemo to guide you with his lips moving smoothly over yours. It’s dizzying to the point where you practically forget to breathe, leaving you flushed when he pulls away and presses his forehead to yours. 

 

“You are intoxicating.” He breathes, lidded eyes searching yours. “It is… very dangerous.” 

 

A firm knock comes from the door, making Zemo roll his eyes as he leans back on his heels. “I suppose that is our cue to leave.” He sighs, standing and helping you to your feet before collecting your drink as well as his own. 

 

“Shall we?” He offers his arm to you. 

 

You loop your arm with his as a response, allowing him to lead you from the bathroom, and back into the throngs of people. 

 

Zemo convinces you to dance with him not long after you return to the party. You’re hardly what one would consider an expert, considering you didn’t know much about dancing to begin with, but his moves make you laugh. When he smiles at you, you can only assume that that had been his intention to begin with. 

 

He tries to school you on how to move along with him, making the people around you fade into the background. It’s silly, but fun, making you smile whenever you awkwardly bump into him or someone else. 

 

You do eventually find your way to Sam and Bucky, both of whom seem to be having significantly less fun than the two of you. The look that they both fix Zemo isn’t lost on you, but you resolve to address it at another time, you’ve had enough conversation in regards to your entanglement for the evening. After your previous drink, you were encouraged by the Baron to switch to water instead, and it’s what you’re currently sipping on when Sharon approaches your group, now back in her leather duster. 

 

“Hey guys, I found him.” And that prompts you all to move. 

 

“Here we go.”

Chapter Text

“All right, he’s in there. Container four-two-six-one.” 

 

The shipping container doesn’t look much different from any of the others in the yard you determine with a quick look around before turning back to Sharon. 

 

“I’ll keep an eye out while you guys talk to Nagel.” She holds her hand out, producing four ear pieces that each of you take. 

 

You look at it for a moment before mimicking your cohorts and sliding it to fit over the shell of your ear. Returning to look at Sharon, you give the open shipyard another cursory glance, bringing you pause. 

“Will you be okay by yourself?” You ask, knowing how much the bounty on your lot had risen. 

 

However, Sharon only smiles, giving you a pat on the shoulder. “I’ll be fine. But you need to hurry, we’re already on borrowed time.”

 

With that, your group splits off from her, heading into the container. As you had anticipated, there doesn’t appear to be anything immediately different about the interior, but the further you walk inside of it, you start to hear something…

 

“Hey Sharon, you sure this is the right one?” You hear Sam, both behind you as well as in the earpiece. “It’s completely empty.”

“Positive, it has to be.”

 

“Hold on, do you hear that?” You ask, taking a step forward to where Zemo has already appeared to find a fault in the back of the container. 

 

“It’s music.” Bucky agrees, as Zemo manages to push open a secret door, leading to a staircase. All of you share a look, Sam and Bucky unholstering their weapons as you begin your ascent. 

 

The sterile setting of the lab immediately puts you on edge, making you feel like the space you’re walking in was suddenly shrinking. You can feel your hands begin to shake the further you go, prompting you to wring your hands tightly together, digging your nails into the flesh of your palms in an attempt to keep yourself present. 

 

I’m comin’ home, baby

Come on home

Comin’ home, baby, now

You know I’m waitin’ here for you 

I’m comin’ home now, real soon

 

Despite the music growing louder, as well as the voice accompanying it, it feels far away. You don’t realize that you’re hunched in on yourself until a hand is set upon your shoulder, bringing you back. 

 

Swallowing, you look over your shoulder, seeing Bucky looking at you sympathetically. He gives you a nod, a silent question. Are you okay? Holding his gaze, you nod, trying to shake the fear that threatens to keep building within your chest. 



Advancing further into the lab, you halt yourself at Zemo’s side, watching as Sam approaches the man who's seemingly unaware of your presence. Sam stops the record, finally catching the man’s attention. 

 

When he turns around, you audibly gasp, suddenly feeling like you’ve been thrown backwards into your own memories. 

 

You recognized him. 

 

He was there in the lab that day you were strapped down to be injected with the serum, and had stayed for your preliminary trials to test its effects. You remembered the cold, clinical gaze as he watched you fight your restraints; the serum burning in your veins as it ran its course and altered the state of your very being. 

The world feels fuzzy and unreal, and you’re barely back inside of your own body when Sam holds Nagel by his arm before you and Zemo. 

 

“This is Baron Zemo, I know you’ve heard of him too, right? You might even recognize the young lady here, you should, considering she was your first test subject.” 

 

There’s no question about whether he recognizes you or not, the disbelief at your presence evident on his face. You feel numb staring back at him, a ringing starting to pierce your ears as he’s dragged away, and slammed up against one of the walls within the lab. 

 

“You seem like a smart guy. So you better become conversational real quick.” 

 

“How about a counter proposal? Make me a better offer, and I’ll talk.” 

 

All of you share a look, the deliberation broken by the feedback coming from Sharon through the earpiece. “Guys, we have company.”

 

Sam drags Nagel back over to a chair and forces him into it, Bucky moving to hold a gun to his head, firing it just past his head to prove a point. 

 

“Every bounty hunter in the city is here, we gotta go!”

 

“Okay! Okay.” Nagel concedes, beginning to explain his work with HYDRA… and then with the CIA, which is when he looks to you. He speaks of the serum he had created with such pride, gesturing towards you, the evidence to support his claim. “Mine was subtle, optimized, perfect. The proof is standing right in front of you.” 

 

You frown heavily, hands now balled into fists at your side. 

 

“How have we never heard about this?” Sam asks, looking to Bucky. 

 

“Because… they didn’t want to carry out the initial trial on American soil, not with your Avengers running around. It wouldn’t be approved. But… a sector in the Czech Republic had a test subject in mind, and wanted to collaborate.” Nagel is still staring directly at you, looking past the gun held to his head. “We had the initial trials underway, but before the research could be complete, I was turned to dust. Then when I returned, five years later, the program had been abandoned. Both by the CIA and the Czech, since their test subject was supposedly dead.” He glares at you now, before continuing. “So I came here. The Power Broker was more than happy to fund the recreation of my work.”

 

“How many vials did you make?”

 

“Twenty. Karli Morgenthau stole those, so…” Nagel trails off, shrugging. “I can only imagine what the Power Broker has planned for that poor girl.”

 

“Where’s Karli now?”

 

“I don’t know where she is. But a couple days ago, she called and asked if I could help someone named Donya Madani. Poor woman has tuberculosis. Typical of overpopulation in displacement camps like that.” It makes you think of Heinrich, a man on his deathbed, begging you to leave hardly more than a day ago. 

 

“Well, what happened to her?”

 

Nagel offers an indifferent shrug. “Not my pig, not my farm.”

 

“Is there any serum in this lab?” Bucky asks now, pressing the gun up against Nagel’s temple.

 

“No.” He says firmly, prompting Bucky to drop the gun. 

 

“Now what?” As the question is asked, footsteps quickly approach, Sharon rushing into the lab.

“Guys, we are seriously out of time here!” As she says it, there’s a distinct tension in the room that appears to snap, followed by the sound of a gunshot, then Nagel falling to the floor, dead. 

 

“No!” Sam exclaims, throwing himself against Zemo, who stares in disdain at the dead body now on the floor. 

 

“What did you do?” Sharon gasps. 

 

You feel something tingle at the back of your neck, followed by an increased sense of urgency. “Everyone get down!” You yell, diving to the floor just as the explosion obliterates half of the lab, sending everyone down with you. 

 

An alarm blares, and you gasp, looking around to see your allies groaning, but otherwise unharmed. Rising to your feet, you look around, realizing Zemo isn’t anywhere to be found. The ringing in your ears grows louder.

“Where’s Zemo?” You say aloud, everyone now getting to their feet. You need to move, which everyone seems to agree on as your group quickly files out of the lab, and back into the shipyard, managing to find cover before the container you had been in explodes. 

 

You look around frantically for a sign of Zemo, before Sharon pulls you back, a shot just skimming your temple.  

 

Bucky and Sam scout off ahead as Sharon holds onto you with one hand, firing off her gun to give the two of you cover before you converge with the two men behind a crate. She pushes you down, keeping you out of the line of fire. “Stay down.” She orders, joining Sam in fending off the Bounty hunters now shooting at you. 

 

You register the conversation yelled over the shots being fired, but the ringing has grown so loud, the side of your head stinging where the bullet had grazed you. Reaching up, you touch the injury, your hand coming back bloodied. You’re fine, you know you are. This is hardly the worst injury you’ve ever had. But your hand still shakes as you look at the blood drying on your fingers, your mind is still trying to catch up with the present. 

 

You’re suddenly forced to come back to reality as another explosion rings out, shaking the ground beneath you, making you jump to your feet.

 

“Come on, let’s go.” 

 

Your arm is grabbed again, and you stumble as you’re dragged away once more. You look around at the bodies strewn about, trying to make sense of where you are and what has happened. You’re hyperventilating, and it feels impossible to breathe, your legs feeling like they could give out any second. 

The world feels like it’s closing in around you as Bucky kicks out the back of a shipping container, and Zemo pulls up in a car not long after. 

 

The relief that floods you upon seeing him is astronomical, but it’s overwhelming on top of what your body is already attempting to cope with, and it makes your knees buckle.

“Hase!” 

 

You hear it, but it sounds so far away. There’s a commotion, and the feeling of your weight suddenly being lifted into someone’s arms, but it all fades away as the world falls into darkness. 





When you come to, your head is still buzzing, and it makes you groan. But when you shift, you realize that you’re laid out upon something soft. Forcing your eyes open, you groan harder, the little bit of light in the room making you squeeze your eyes shut once more. Reaching a hand up, you go to try and wipe the sleep from your eyes, finding them wet with your lashes slightly crusted. Looking at your fingers, you find them smudged with black, and realize that it was probably a result of the makeup still on your face. 

Dropping your head back, you gradually manage to wake up enough to feel something on top of you. Zemo’s coat. Absently, you stroke the downy fur lining the collar, turning your head when a shadow is cast over you. 

 

“You’re awake.” Zemo looks relieved, holding a glass of water and a plate of food in the doorway. He walks over to set it on the nightstand, before sitting at the edge of the bed, the mattress dipping under his weight. “How are you feeling, zayka?” He asks softly, reaching up to cup your cheek, brown eyes searching your face. 

 

“I feel so heavy.” You whine, allowing yourself to be childish in your complaint, which makes him smile. “Where am I?”

 

“You’re in my suite, on the jet. We’re on our way to Riga.” He answers, stroking your face delicately. “You fainted in the shipyard, gave all of us quite the scare.” 

 

You close your eyes once more, enjoying the cool feeling of his hand on your face, before letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

 

“You have nothing to apologize for, little one.” He says immediately, pushing a few stray hairs off of your face. “But you do need to eat.”

 

At the mention of food, you realize just how empty your stomach is, and grunt with effort as you force yourself to sit up, pulling Zemo’s jacket with you to keep it wrapped around yourself. Retrieving the plate, Zemo sets it in your lap, gesturing for you to eat. It takes you a moment to collect yourself before you finally manage to pick up a piece of food and take a bite, chewing slowly as you try and recollect the events prior to fainting.   

 

“You killed Nagel.” You state after swallowing your mouthful, looking at Zemo carefully before you take another bite. 

 

“I did. He served his purpose.”

 

“Sam and Bucky were mad, though.”

 

“Of course. However, I do not regret my actions.” Zemo reaches out, tracing the smudged makeup with his thumb, before rising from the bed. “People like him do not deserve to live.” 

 

There’s no expansion on his statement as he enters the small ensuite bathroom, wetting a small washcloth, then returning to you. “Close your eyes.”

 

You obey, allowing him to clean the makeup off of your face. He’s careful with you, holding your face as he works the eyeshadow and mascara away from your eyelids and lashes, being as gentle as he can. When you open your eyes, you feel a bit better already, finishing your food in silence, before he hands you the glass of water, along with a few pills. 

 

“These are for your headache, as well as a few vitamins. I had Oeznik retrieve them for you when we were in Madripoor.” He explains, petting your hair. 

 

It isn’t lost on you that he can’t seem to keep his hands to himself. You’ve known him to be touchy with you, but there’s something more ardent about the way he dotes over you now, like he’s afraid you’ll disappear. 

 

You take the pills as instructed and just about drain the glass of water, handing it back to Zemo.

“We have a few more hours before we land.” He says, setting the glass aside. “You should get some more rest.” He gets up, leaning down to place a kiss on your head. 

 

You were still tired… but you didn’t want Zemo to leave. Before he can get too far you grab his sleeve, keeping him from going any further. 

 

“Will you stay with me?” 

 

He makes a show of mulling the request over for the sake of teasing you. 

“Of course, little one.” 

 

Approaching the bed once more he deliberately climbs over you, lingering above you for a moment to press a few kisses to your cheek, nose, and forehead, before settling in beside you. Once you’ve gotten comfortable, he pulls your back to his chest, and places a final kiss to the back of your head. 

 

You fall asleep with ease in Zemo’s arms, lulled to sleep by the ambient noise of the jet, and his steady breathing.

Chapter Text

You’re genuinely surprised to find yourself in the inky, blotted map composed of dreams that only your mind seemed able to reach, usually only capable of reaching it with intent. But your mind appears to have you on a set track with only a single destination set on the landscape before you. 
Your curiosity wins out, leaving you standing in a building, the floor littered with bodies. The walls depict renaissance-type cherubs and peaceful scenery, contrasting the chaos that seems to have unfolded here, marked by a hole punched through the wall. There still appears to be some sort of fight going on, the sounds of gunshots and screaming coming from the floor below you. 
When you look over the banister, you see a flash of a metal arm that can only belong to one person, hand squeezed tightly around a man’s throat. 

“Bucky!” You yell after him to no avail, prompting you to jump over the banister yourself as he pushes the man he’s choking through a set of doors. You can feel the dream’s hold over his mind, the suffocating feeling of dread and panic bleeding through in a way you recognize all too well. What was it that Zemo had called him again?
“Zimniy soldat!” You call out the order in Russian, which seems to break whatever spell he’s under. 

When he turns around to face you, the dream slowly begins to crumble around you, but Bucky’s appearance doesn’t change. He has a wild look in his eye, his chest heaving, fists clenched at his sides. It takes a lot of focus to shift the world around you, but you reach for something simple, finding yourself in the atrium of the shelter you once called home. 

“Bucky…” You start again, taking a few careful steps towards the Winter Soldier, before you’re close enough to place a hand on his arm. You’ve never tried anything like this, but now is as good a time as any. 

With your hand on his arm, you close your eyes, conjuring up the mental image you had of Bucky when you had first met him. A kinder visage of the man who now stands before you, and the sympathy he had shown you, even in passing. 
When you open your eyes, Bucky is looking down at you with a haunted expression on his face, chest still heaving, but no longer the man you had been met with upon entering his dream. 
“Is that you?” You feel foolish to ask, but just need to make sure you’ve reached him, and not simply altered his appearance within the dream. 

“How did you do that?” He asks, looking around the empty atrium. “Where are we?” 

“This is the safest place that I could think of to bring you, I-- I’m sorry for walking into your dream like this. I didn’t mean to.” You apologize, dropping your hand from his arm. 

“No, you’re fine. It’s fine.” He lets out a breath, letting the tension built up in his shoulders fade as he looks around. “What is this place?” 

“It’s part of the shelter where I was living, in Germany.” You explain, spreading your arms as you gesture around you. “This is… was my home.” You walk over to the table you usually sat at with Heinrich, the chess board already set up. 

“That’s not who I am anymore.” Bucky says after a moment, and you turn to see that he’s looking at you with that far-away stare. “Who I was when you… that’s not me.” 

You press your lips in a firm line, and nod. You don’t wholly understand what Bucky has been through, but you understand enough to know the amount of conflict he’s facing within himself. 
“I know.” You affirm, offering him a sardonic smile. 

“So… this is how you met Zemo?” Bucky asks, clearly feeling a bit awkward now with the current situation he’s been thrust into. 

“Yes, the same way. Just… different circumstances. I usually do this because I want to, it doesn’t happen by accident. Or at least, it hasn’t since I was a child.” You try and elaborate, picking up one of the pawns from the chessboard, before setting it back down. “Sometimes when people dream very… loudly, it calls to me. I can’t really explain it.”

“How do you ‘dream loudly’?” He asks with a tip of his head, his mouth quirked in a sideways kind of smile. 

“Well... think of it like a hallway, or a street. Sometimes you can hear what’s happening inside, there’s a door, or maybe a window open.” You idly move the pawn you had been holding forward two spaces. “I think when people are… stressed. It kind of lights up your dream, or house, I guess. Zemo’s dreams are a lot like that.” You smile fondly at the thought of him, and how he now holds your unconscious body in the waking world. 

“What does he even dream about?” Bucky scoffs, almost seeming amused. 


“His home. His family. Prison.” You say flatly, watching Bucky’s delight at Zemo’s expense begin to fade. “He’s… told me about what he’s done. I don’t think he’s the same man you once knew.”

“With all due respect, you don’t know what he’s capable of.”

“Maybe I don’t.” You concede, shrugging your shoulders. “But considering I’ve walked around the inside of his head, I like to think I have a pretty good idea.” You sigh, taking what would be your usual seat at the table. “I’m not going to say that what he’s done is right, but I think people are more complex than that.” 


Bucky swipes a hand over his face, looking a little exasperated. 

“He’s a dangerous man, Hase.”

“You and I are what a lot of people would call dangerous too, Bucky.”

“That’s not what I mean.” He walks over, taking the seat across from you. “He’s manipulative, he uses people. He could be using you.” 

“Bucky…” You frown, looking at the pawn you’ve moved. “I know… you’re concerned about me being some kind of pawn for him. But it really isn’t like that.”

“Then what is it like?” He asks plainly, staring straight at you when you look up from the board. 

“He takes care of me.”

Bucky looks like he wants to say something, but stops himself. He thinks about how worried Zemo had been when you passed out in the shipyard, how he kept looking at where you laid unconscious in the back seat with Sam, the pensive look on his face as he cleaned and bandaged the wound on your forehead. Bucky knew that the injury hadn’t been what caused you to faint, he saw how trapped within your own head you had been since you stepped foot into Nagel’s lab. But Zemo still dote over you like you were made of glass, like you weren’t a superhuman who could bounce back from much worse. 
It’s hard to separate Zemo from what he’d done, from the vengeful man who took advantage of his mind to tear apart the Avengers. 
But… he knows how important a human connection is, especially after being isolated for so long. 

“Play a game of chess with me?” You ask, breaking the silence. He can see how desperately you want to lighten the mood, and he can’t fault you for it. 

“Sure.”

When you wake this time, it’s to Zemo pressing kisses to the back of your shoulder and rubbing your hip. 


“We’re going to be landing soon.” He mutters against your shoulder. “We need to return to our seats.” 

You groan, pulling his jacket up over your head. 

“If you don’t get up…” He whispers, his mouth moving to tease the sensitive skin of your ear. “I’ll have to make you get up.”

You gasp at the slight thrill that sends through you, unsure of what he meant despite the excitement it elicits from your body. When you don’t go to move, Zemo’s hands make a torturous crawl up to your waist, where his fingers set out to viciously assault your ribs with tickles. 

You immediately squeal and attempt to roll away, unable to keep yourself from laughing at the strange feeling. He rolls with you, caging you beneath him as he continues the brutal attack, only ceasing when you start to push at his shoulders. You’re still laughing a little bit after he stops, now fully awake and smiling up at him. 

“There’s my girl.” He croons at you, leaning down to press his forehead to yours. “You’re such a beautiful creature, zayka.” He breathes against your lips. 

Feeling brave, you lean forward, pressing a quick peck to his lips, looking quite pleased at the surprise that flashes across his face. 

Almost immediately, he dives down to recapture your lips in an actual kiss, drinking down the delighted noise you let out. You don’t know where to put your hands at first, but you eventually settle them on his shoulders, relaxing as you attempt to return the kiss the same way he had kissed you back in Madripoor.
A pleasant warmth spreads all over you, that same thrill reigniting in your stomach. The kiss feels so good, but part of you feels like you need more, like something is missing. 

You’re just shy of desperate when he pulls away, leaving you puffing out a breath through slightly swollen lips, looking up at him through lidded eyes. 

“You’re going to be the death of me, little rabbit.” He growls in Sokovian, his forehead still pressed against yours as his eyes bore into yours. You don’t know what he means, or why you felt so similarly. But when he leans away, you manage to collect yourself somewhat. 

On shaky legs you rise from the bed after him, taking his jacket with you, and sliding your arms into the sleeves. It’s much too big for you, but it’s comfortable, and smells like him. 

Zemo looks at you in his jacket and smirks, placing a kiss upon your head, before going to fix your sleep-mussed hair. “You look good in my coat.” He finally says before walking out of the cabin, leaving you to follow after him. 

Sam and Bucky watch you both return, their eyes particularly lingering on the coat you now wore. You do your best to ignore it, taking the seat you had been in earlier.

“How are you feeling?” Sam finally asks, finally prompting you to look at him. 

You reach up and touch the bandage on your temple, before smiling, shaking your head. “I’m a lot better, thanks.” That seems to sate him for the time being, but you still feel eyes on you. 

You look over and see Bucky looking at you with the same haunted expression he had worn in his dreams. He looks tired, concerned. 

You decide to take a small risk, and hold his eye contact as you reach for a mental connection. His hesitance is obvious, even if he seems to register that it’s you, but you feel the door begin to crack, allowing you in. 
“I’m fine.” Is all you say, trying to reassure him of not only your physical state, but the concern he so clearly had in regards to your relationship with Zemo. While he doesn’t seem to be completely won over by the answer, he does offer a small nod, breaking eye contact to look out the window as the jet begins its descent. 

“What was that?” Sam says, making everyone turn to him quizzically. “That right there, that little nod. That… did you just do whatever that… mental thing is you do?” Sam is clearly more curious in his accusation as he gestures between the two of you. 

“Maybe.” You shrug, intentionally being evasive to get a rise out of him. 


“Okay come on, that’s not fair.” Sam shakes his head, crossing his arms like a child not getting their way. “I ask if you can read minds, and it’s ‘not a party trick.’ But you can just,” he gestures towards you and Bucky. “Go ahead and have your own little mind conversation? That’s cold.”

“Aw, don’t be jealous, Sam.” Bucky teases. “Maybe if you weren’t such an asshat…” He trails off, making you laugh. 

“Jealousy is rather unbecoming of you, Sam.” Zemo joins in, his hand partially covering his mouth to hide his amusement. 

“Now that’s just childish.” Sam huffs, rolling his eyes. 

Biting your lip to hide your own amusement, you decide to have a little fun. You reach out to Sam with your mind, seeing him shudder a bit at the sensation. 
He doesn’t seem to piece it together immediately, but then he does a double-take, looking at you incredulously, before pointing to his head as if to ask “was that you?” 

You nod, now clearly amused, feeling Sam let his guard down for you to slip into his mind.
“Are you happy now, asshat?” You immediately let your connection drop. 

“Is that really necessary?” Sam says in disappointment, clearly underwhelmed by your little show. 

“I don’t know what you mean, isn’t that what you wanted?” You ask innocently, batting your eyes for effect. 

“I’m not an asshat.” He says more to himself, letting out a huff. 

You shake your head fondly, before turning to watch the Baltic seaside draw ever closer, the thought of Zemo’s lips still on your mind.  

Chapter Text

Upon reaching Latvia, you took off Zemo’s coat, attempting to hand it back over to him, only for him to raise his hand in refusal. 

“You should keep it on, I will be fine.”

“But what if you get cold?”

“I won’t.”

“But--”

“Do not argue with me, Hase.” He scolds, taking the coat only to hold it open for you to put it back on. You study him for a moment, silently challenging him, before thinking better of it, and turning around to slide your arms into the sleeves. 
“Besides,” he starts, adjusting the collar to lay flat over your shoulders. “I like seeing you wear something of mine.” He whispers the last part in your ear, leaving you flushed as he steps around you, going to exit the jet. 

“Why am I starting to feel like a third wheel?” Sam says to Bucky, giving you an unimpressed look. 

Rolling your eyes, you shoulder past him, bumping him enough to make him stumble back a step. 


“Hey!” Sam calls after you, only for you to turn around and stick your tongue out at him. “See! Now that’s childish!” He says in disbelief, and you can almost picture the way Bucky shakes his head at him. 

“Don’t we have places to be, gentlemen?” You tease as you walk off the jet, bidding a farewell to Oeznik as you do. 


You’re captivated by Riga. 
Berlin is a beautiful city, not that you got to experience much of what it had to offer, but Riga holds a different kind of beauty. Where Berlin was congested and busy, Riga felt more relaxed. The Baltic breeze that flushes through the streets is refreshing to your senses, the ambient noises of the city are relatively quiet as its citizens go about their day. 
As you delight in the new architecture and colorfully bricked buildings that line the street, you wind up taking up the rear of your group as Zemo leads you to your next safehouse. 

“I heard what became of Sokovia.” That draws your ear, now turning your attention to the Baron as he speaks. “Cannibalized by its neighbors before the land was cleared of rubble, erased from the map.” 
You knew about the Battle of Sokovia, what had happened. After all, you had only narrowly escaped it yourself. Whether HYDRA had known about its impending fate or not was still a mystery to you, but only a few short weeks prior to the destruction of Novi Grad, you had been moved to a lab in the Czech Republic. The same lab you had escaped from after The Vanished had been wiped from the earth. 

“I don’t suppose either of you bothered visiting the memorial?” He continues, pointedly looking at both Sam and Bucky. “Of course not. Why would you?” Returning his gaze ahead, he draws to a stop. “We are here.” He announces, now fully turning to look at your group. 

“I’m gonna go on a walk.” Bucky says, hands in his pockets. 

“You good?” 

“Yeah. I’ll see you guys in a bit.” You must look worried, judging by how Bucky smiles and pats you on the shoulder as he passes. 

Giving a shrug, Zemo gestures towards the building, before leading you and Sam inside.

The apartment in Riga is beautiful. It’s not nearly as opulent as the manor Zemo had brought your group to prior to leaving for Madripoor, but touches of his tastes and preferences are still present in its design and interior. 
He gives you both a brief tour of the layout, showing Sam to one of the two bedrooms he has at his disposal, then leading you to the master suite, where he closes the door behind you. You admire the furnishings in his bedroom, primarily the bed, which does look markedly more comfortable than the one he had on his jet. 
As you admire the soft comforter spread out over the bed, two hands come to rest on your shoulders, peeling Zemo’s coat off of you. 

“I believe that we could both use a bath.” He says, now collecting the garment in his arms to set it aside. “I’m going to get the tub prepared,” he crosses the room to an armoire, opening it and producing two robes, setting one on the bed before you. “Undress, and put this on. Join me when you are ready, zayka.” He punctuates his order with a kiss pressed to your temple, before leaving through the adjoining door into the bathroom. 

You’ve never had a bath before, not that you could recall. Not that the opportunity to take one had ever really presented itself in the years that you’ve been free. The prospect of sinking into a warm tub is an inviting one, though the implication of Zemo joining you certainly made the idea all the more appealing. 
You’re eager to be out of the heeled boots you’ve been wearing for the past 12 hours or so, your feet practically screaming with relief as they’re removed and set aside. Your clothes soon follow, being folded up and set aside as well, leaving you now fully nude. You stretch with your arms above your head, being met with a few satisfying clicks of your joints settling. Sighing in satisfaction, you grab the robe off of the bed and pull it on. It’s just as big on you as his coat had been, so you have to tie it a bit tighter than he likely would. Even then, it still hangs open a little bit around your chest. 
Not wanting to leave Zemo waiting, you leave the bedroom, departing through the same door he had left through just a few moments prior. 

The bathroom has already gained some humidity as a result of the hot water that Zemo has running to fill the tub. There’s a citrus and spice scent to the steam that rises off of the water, just barely touched with an almost floral aroma that you can’t quite place. The room itself is spacious, high ceilings with a single window overhead that bathes the room in soft, natural light. And then there’s Zemo, seated at the ledge of the tub in a robe identical to yours. 
He hums along to some orchestral music he’s put on, testing the water as he turns his head to greet you. 
“Perfect.” He smiles pleasantly, drawing his hand out of the water. “The bath is nearly ready.” Rising from his perch he comes over to you, walking behind you to pull the bobby pins from your hair. After setting them aside, he cards his fingers through its length, working through a few tangles, before carefully peeling away the bandage on your forehead. “All it's missing now is you.” He kisses the healing wound tenderly.

You suppose that you should probably be more nervous about the prospect of being fully nude in front of someone, especially in such an intimate setting. Yet as you untie the robe and shrug it off, allowing Zemo to fully pull it off of you, you don’t find yourself self conscious. You felt significantly more bare when you had led him through your memories of the lab, being naked before him felt like something natural, like it made sense. 

He’d be lying if he said that he had no ulterior motives in asking you to join him for a bath. However he is nothing if not patient, the very picture of gentlemanly as he hangs up your robe before taking your hand to lead you over to the tub. He does allow himself to indulge in watching you sink into the water, taking in the newly exposed skin that he had yet to lay eyes on.

You sigh pleasantly as you settle into the fragrant water, closing your eyes to enjoy the way the warmth of it laps over your tired muscles, easing the tension built up inside of you.

“Beautiful, my little rabbit.” He says raptly, turning off the faucet, before reclaiming his perch on the edge of the tub, seated just behind you. 

“Aren’t you going to join me?” You ask, tipping your head back to look up at him. 

The question is asked so innocently, too innocently when coupled with the sight of you looking at him through your lashes the way that you are, he’s caught like a fly in a spider’s web. You’re captivating to him. 
“I will, in a moment.” He sighs, petting your hair, before reaching over to grab one of the bottles set on the shelf beside the tub. “Wet your hair for me, pet. I want to wash your hair for you first.” 

Obediently, you slide further into the tub, enough so that you can dip your head back into the water. When you resurface, Zemo sets to work. He starts at your scalp, using his fingers to massage the shampoo into your hair and help break down the remaining product left from when he had styled it for you. 
It has to be one of the most blissful things you’ve ever felt, and you shut your eyes to enjoy his doting. 

He loves the way that your face relaxes at the sensation, free of all the stress you had experienced over the course of the past couple of days. He’s happy to give you these moments you’ve shared amidst the chaos, a break from everything beyond these walls where nothing mattered aside from simply this. 
While humming along to the orchestral piece that plays, he guides you to lean back into the water. You’re pliant to his ministrations, eyes remaining closed as your head dips back beneath the surface of the water once more to rinse away the shampoo. 
There’s no words spoken between the two of you as he repeats a similar process with conditioner, though he lets it soak in your hair a little bit longer than the shampoo, taking this time to wash your face. Though you’re far more durable than the man behind you, he treats you like spun glass: delicately, reverently. It feels nice to be so… valued. 

You don’t realize that you’ve started crying, not until Zemo is cupping your face in his hands, wiping away your tears with his thumbs. 

“What’s troubling you, little one?” He murmurs, concern pinched on his brow when you look up at him. 

“I’m just…” You try to piece together the words, sniffling the slightest bit. “I’m not used to being treated so-- or I guess just.” You huff, collecting yourself. “I’ve never had someone care about me this much.” You finally manage. 

He looks down at your reddened face with an emotion you can’t quite place, before leaning down to place a soft, chaste kiss on your lips. 

“It pains me to hear that.” He says, slowly guiding you back to wash the conditioner from your hair. “But, I’m happy to be the one who shows you how you deserve to be cared for. Honored, even.” He continues as you resurface, cradling the back of your head in his hand. “Though my title as a Baron may hold no power now, were I to have the means…” He trails off, looking at your face thoughtfully. “You’d make a wonderful Baroness.” 

You’re struck by the statement. The meaningfulness of it isn’t lost on you, you know how much his country as well as his family meant to him. The two of you hadn’t known one another long, yet you had shared so much in the moments you had spent together. The fact that he’d consider sharing not just those moments, but his life with you… you’re awed. 

“Then will my Baron be joining me?” You ask after a moment’s silence, smiling at him. 

“Of course, my Baroness.” He responds easily, leaning down to place another kiss upon your lips, this one lingering a moment longer than the last.

When he takes a step back to remove his robe, you unabashedly stare, admiring him as he reveals himself to you. 

He’s accustomed to lingering stares, flirtatious glances, Baron Helmut Zemo knows that he’s a handsome man. However, he’s not prepared for the way that he finds you looking at him. You have stars in your eyes, gazing at him as if he’d hung the moon for you. 

“You’re beautiful.” You say with such veneration that he genuinely finds himself at a loss. 

You’ve never seen a man fully nude in front of you before, it’s shocking, in a way. The human body has always been more clinical to you, having never been versed in the intimacy associated with nudity. But the feeling of indescribable warmth that had been bubbling below the surface begins to overflow at merely the sight of Zemo exposed to you. You hadn’t realized it until now, but you haven’t seen too much of his body prior to this. While he was more in favor of clothing that complimented his broad form, seeing it all stripped away revealed the barest form of a man you already admired so much it almost pained you. 
His past years of service in the Sokovian military were still evident on his body, lithe muscles well defined and maintained. There’s a healthy layer of padded fat to him as well, a softness indicative of his well-being despite his time in prison. Your bashfulness does show when your eyes drop ever lower, prompting you only then to look away, your face growing warm enough to make the water feel cool in comparison. 

Seemingly satisfied with the attention he’d received from the wonderment you showed in his body, Zemo crosses the threshold to approach the tub, settling himself behind you with his legs on either side of you. He sighs contentedly, and leans back, resting his arms over the sides of the tub. 
The contact of skin on skin is wholly thrilling and new, making goosebumps prickle your arms and your chest ache. Shifting in the tub, you turn to face him, positioning yourself to lay chest to chest with him, meeting his lidded gaze with your own. 

“Your eyes flatter me almost as much as your words, zayka.” He hums, the words vibrating in his chest where he’s pressed against you. “How lucky I am to have such a beautiful creature adore me so.” He brings his arms around you, permitting himself to run his hands along the smooth expanse of your back as he does, before dropping them below the water to rest on your waist. The responses that come from you unbidden at his touch makes the lust he already had for you only grow more demanding. He knows you feel similarly, but don’t have the words to voice it. Another delicate dance. 

“Do you feel safe with me, Hase?” He asks huskily, one of his hands dropping to your thigh.

“I do.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course.” 

The Baron’s other hand slides from the curve of your waist to your hip, guiding you to sit on his thighs, your legs now spread over his lap. He can feel the heat of your center from where you sit, just shy of his own arousal, steeling himself to keep from pulling you completely against him. It’s been so long since he’s had this, and the urge to ravage you is undeniable, but he wants you to be comfortable and enjoy yourself. This was about you. 

“May I touch you?” 

Chapter Text

You aren’t completely naïve. 

 

You knew what he meant, capable of drawing a conclusion between the growing heat between the two of you and the way he drinks you in like a man starved. The feeling inside of you feels so much bigger than yourself, something hungry that you have no idea how to sate. 

You nod at him, but he tuts in response. 

 

“I need you to say it, zayka.” He hums, the hand on your thigh squeezing the flesh there, his thumb drawing circles that slowly inch along your inner thigh. 

 

“Yes.” He raises a brow at you, implying that he wants more than an affirmation. “I want you to touch me… please.” 

 

“Good girl.” He breathes, sitting up to draw your lips into a kiss. 

 

You had expected his hand to address the ache that grows between your legs, but his hand stays put on your thigh for the time being. Zemo is more invested in the kiss first and foremost. He wants to ease you into this, not dive in headfirst with no preamble. 

 

His lips slide over yours the way that they had when the two of you were in his bed on the jet, but this kiss is more needy, like he’s intent to swallow you whole. You exhale little sighs and huffs in the brief gaps of his mouth against yours, following his lead as his head tips to the side, deepening the kiss. 

 

He catches your bottom lip between his teeth, not roughly, simply a tease of his teeth rolling your lip. It pulls a gasp from you, leading him to kiss you more fully, his tongue teasing the tip of yours as it slides into your mouth. 

 

The kiss is sloppy and wet, at least on your part, but Zemo revels in it, indulging himself as he claims your mouth. He takes pleasure in the sounds he can pull from you, the small noises of shock and delight, your spit wetting his lips and tongue, he’s drunk on it. As he occupies your mouth, he allows the hand on your hip to travel up to your chest and cup one of your breasts, drawing more sounds from you as he does. He massages the flesh in his hand as he kisses you, matching your whines with a groan into your mouth, his fingers lingering on your nipple to tease the hardened nub with the slightest pinch. 

 

You pull away from the kiss with a gasp, the look on your face is pornographic, lips wet and swollen from the attention, eyes lidded, chest heaving with labored breath under his hand. He revels in the sight of you before kissing his way along your jaw, down to your neck. Open mouthed kisses are trailed along the curve of your neck to your throat, when he sucks softly on the skin there. 

 

He wants so badly to mark you as his, claim you for anyone to see so there would be no mistaking who you belong to. But he surrenders before bruising you, not wanting to give Sam and Bucky any ammunition to use against either of you. 

 

The sensation still makes you whine, arching your back to push your chest into his ministrations. Zemo takes this as an invitation to continue his mouth’s journey downward, more wet kisses pressed from your throat, to your collarbone, then to where he lingers just over your neglected breast. This time when he draws your skin between his teeth, he does suck hard enough to bruise, his tongue pressed to where blood vessels begin to burst and bruise the skin. When he releases you from the brief bout of pleasurable torture, a mark has already bloomed, framed by the indentations of his teeth. 

“My little rabbit, my beautiful Baroness, all mine.” He groans against your skin in his mother tongue, looking at your wanton expression from beneath his lashes. 

 

You’re overwhelmed with the heat that now consumes you, breathing heavily and canting your hips in search of more still. It’s a thrilling feeling, your mind fuzzy, yet completely spellbound by your Baron’s hands and mouth on you, unsure, yet anticipating whatever he’ll do next. You ache for more still, your thighs shaking as his mouth now captures your nipple, scraping the skin teasingly with his teeth between lashes of his tongue. You clutch his shoulders desperately, nails digging into the flesh in a way that makes him growl. 

 

With his tongue still lavishing your nipple with attention, the hand on your thigh finally skirts closer to your heat. He moves slowly, those languid circles of his thumb closing in so gradually that you gasp when the pad of his thumb finally traces its way up along your slit. 

 

He chuckles against your chest at the reaction, torturously sliding his thumb through the slick arousal that had accumulated between your legs, stopping just shy of your clit each time. It has your hips twitching and strangled little whimpers pouring from your mouth. 

 

“You have to keep your voice down, zayka.” He teases, finally pressing his thumb up against your swollen clit. “We wouldn’t want to be interrupted now, would we?”

 

“N-no!” You whine, immediately trying to cut yourself off with a hand over your mouth, the hand remaining on his shoulder shaking. 

 

“That’s my good girl.” He croons sweetly, rubbing your clit in tight circles while bringing his index finger down to trace along your slit, just barely breaching your entrance with each pass. It’s growing more and more difficult to ignore his erection, the proximity leaving it to rest up against your thigh. He growls as you brush up against him, burying his face in your neck to attack the skin there with more open-mouthed kisses and nips as he gradually slips his finger inside of you. 

 

It’s a completely unexpected feeling, but it immediately relieves some of the pressure built low in your stomach. You can feel yourself squeeze around the intrusion, breathing heavily into your palm at the multiple sensations enveloping you. The way he slides it in and out of you coupled with the thumb still feverishly pressing against your clit only increases the desperation within you. You feel like you’re on the precipice of something, now using his shoulder as leverage to push yourself down onto his finger, chasing the feeling. 

 

Zemo hums in amusement against your neck, his cock twitching against your thigh as he feels you approaching your end. Very suddenly, he removes his hands from you completely, now fully chuckling when you cry out in frustration.
“Now, now, little girl, what ever is the problem?” He mocks, leaning back to look up at you. 

 

You feel almost close to tears, furrowing your brow as you drop your hand to pout at him.
“Why did you stop?” You whine, leaning to place your head on his shoulder. He laughs once more, petting along your back.

“Perhaps I have other plans.” He moves his hands to your hips, bidding you ever closer, until your hips are completely flush against his, leaving his cock now pinned between his stomach and your cunt. He groans at the feeling. “I thought we could enjoy ourselves together, hmm?” He mutters against your ear, panting softly as he begins to roll his hips up, grinding himself up against your sex. 

 

“O-oh!” You cry, pressing your mouth to his shoulder to muffle yourself as the head of his member drags over your clit. 

 

“Doesn’t that feel good, darling?” He rumbles into your ear, now guiding your hips to school you on how to move up against him. “What a good girl, making me feel so good.” He brings a hand up to thread his fingers through your wet hair, directing you to look at him. Zemo makes an almost pained noise when he sees the blissed out expression on your face, before bringing you forward to smash your lips against his. 

 

This one is sloppier than the last, teeth clacking and moans filling your mouths, your movements growing more urgent as you feel that same pressure start building to a peak inside of you once again. Your own hand mirrors his, clutching the back of his head with your fingers unintentionally tugging his hair. This only seems to spur Zemo on, as he growls into your mouth, tugging your bottom lip with his teeth. 

 

“Such a needy little thing, you are. God, and you don’t even realize…” He says against your lips, cutting himself off with more kisses. 

 

Both of you are now moving in tandem, seeking your own ends, the water sloshing against the lip of the tub. Your hips begin to stutter as you feel yourself drawing closer and closer to that point, that peak, whatever you were chasing.

 

“Let go, do it for me.” Zemo prompts you, moving to assure he keeps that same pressure on your clit. 

 

You fall apart all at once, only a gasp tumbling from your lips as your thighs tense and your cunt squeezes down on itself. You’re blinded by the feeling, intense waves of pleasure coursing over you like a storm. It’s the most earth-shattering thing you’ve ever experienced, the ferocity of it leaving you gasping and shaking all over

 

“Beautiful.” He rasps, looking up at you as he brings his hand down to wrap around his cock, lips slightly parted as he strokes himself to completion. With a groan he finishes, and you watch breathlessly as translucent ropes of white spurt from his prick, covering his hand and blotting the water. 

 

“I suppose I should have had the foresight to grab a towel.” He says as he catches his breath, tipping his head back to rest it against the ledge of the tub. 

 

Feeling akin to boneless, you lean forward to lay yourself over his chest, tucking your face into the crook of his neck. 

 

"My sweet girl." He breathes, pressing a kiss to the side of your head, resting a hand on your back to trace the curve of your spine. “Are you alright, little one?” He asks between more kisses issued to what he can reach of your head, neck, and shoulder. 

 

“I’m wonderful.” You mutter into his neck, smiling against the skin there. “I liked that… a lot.” 

 

Your response makes him chuckle, the sound of it vibrating against where your chest is pressed against his.

 

“Good, I’m glad.” He says, simply content to hold you for the time being. The two of you rest like that for a few moments, collecting yourselves as you come down from your high. The water has cooled significantly, prompting Zemo to drain the tub, rinsing both of you of the lingering sex clinging to your skin, before filling the tub once more. 

 

You take turns washing one another, something that delights you so fully as you get to wash his hair, trying to treat him as dotingly as he has treated you. The experience proves to be one of not only relaxation, but one that only solidifies this bond that you have with Zemo. It felt nice to do something so normal, so domestic, something that a couple gets to experience without the impending chaos of what was now your daily lives.

Once you’re both clean, he helps you out of the tub, taking his time in drying your body from head to toe, before drying himself as well. He uses a wide comb on your hair, which he explains is to keep from pulling on it while it’s still drying. 

Afterwards, he produces more moisturizer from a cabinet in his bathroom, diligently applying it to your face and neck, before applying a similar product to your arms and legs. It’s a process he’s clearly keen on taking his time with, humming along to the music that still plays as he cares for you, occasionally pressing kisses to your bare skin. It makes you feel so loved, so holy, like you’re the most important thing in the world to him.

 

“Thank you.” You say, watching him as he returns the products to their homes. Though it’s a simple two words, the expression of pure adoration on your face manages to convey just how deeply you mean them. 

 

“Oh, darling.” Zemo coos, placing a hand on your cheek to guide you into a tender kiss. “It is truly my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Bucky returns almost the same time that you and Zemo emerge from the bathroom, now dressed in clothes more suited for lounging beneath your matching robes. 

 

“Well, the Wakandans are here. They want Zemo.” Bucky seems less than thrilled to deliver this news, and you can see Zemo tense. “Bought us some time.” He goes on, sparing you an apologetic look.

“Were you followed?” Sam asks, measurably more tense himself. 

 

“No.”

 

“How can you be so sure?” Zemo asks.

“‘Cause I know when I’m being followed.”

 

“It was sweet of you to defend me at least.” 

 

So he would be going back to prison after all. You knew that it would come to this eventually; Sam didn’t want Zemo involved in the first place, and Bucky only saw Zemo’s help as a means to an end. Still, you’re disappointed. You’re not sure what you had anticipated to happen, maybe that they’d pardon him for his help, let him get away. But you can tell that there’s an air about the Baron that’s almost resigned to his inevitable fate. 

What would this mean for you? You knew that initially you had only been brought along to eliminate the possibility of you being a threat to their mission. Though things were different now, you weren’t sure where you would wind up when all things were said and done. You couldn’t go back to Berlin, the only thing that had tied you there to begin with was Heinrich, and you can’t imagine he’d be thrilled to see you after practically chasing you away himself. You knew he did so out of love for you, but the thought of disappointing him made your heart sink. Would they make you go to SWORD? You wanted to hope not. The last thing you wanted was to be suckered into another organization, especially one that’s stateside.

There was still time, you try to resolve, willing yourself to devote your attention back towards the conversation. 

 

“Karli bombed a GRC supply depot.” Bucky sighs, reading from his phone.

 

“What? What’s the damage?” 

 

“Eleven injured, three dead. They have a list of demands and are promising more attacks if those demands aren’t met in full.”

 

There’s a collective sigh amongst the group, the four of you all sparing one another a glance. 

 

“She’s getting worse.” Zemo hums, ceasing his pacing to look at Sam and Bucky. “I have the will to complete this mission. Do the two of you?”

 

“She’s just a kid.”

 

“She’s a terrorist.” You supplement, holding Sam’s gaze when he turns to look at you.

“You’re seeing something in her that isn’t there.” Zemo concurs, drawing Sam’s attention once more. “You’re clouded by it. She’s a supremacist. The very concept of a Super Soldier will always trouble people. It’s that warped aspiration that led to Nazis, to Ultron,” Zemo pauses for a beat, looking between Sam and Bucky. “To the Avengers.” 

 

“Hey, those are our friends you’re talkin’ about.” Sam interjects. 

 

“The Avengers, not the Nazis.” Bucky adds, but when you look at him, he doesn’t seem to completely disagree with Zemo, his face pinched. 

 

“So, Karli is radicalized, but there has to be a peaceful way to stop her.” Sam still argues. 

 

“The desire to become a superhuman cannot be separated from supremacist ideals. Anyone with that serum is inherently on that path. She will not stop. She will escalate until you kill her.” Zemo tips his head. “Or she kills you.” 

 

You knew how Zemo felt about the serum’s existence, how he felt about superheroes and villains with enhanced abilities as a whole. But it still leaves you wondering: is this how he felt about you as well?

 

“Maybe you’re wrong, Zemo. The serum never corrupted Steve.”

 

“Touche. But there has never been another Steve Rogers, has there?”

 

“What about me?” You interject, looking straight at Zemo. 

 

“This isn’t about you, nor is it about James.” He says, gesturing between the two of you. “You did not have a hand in your fate, that itself is the difference. You’re not motivated by that same deluded concept of change that’s bled into supremacy. That is why you are here now, and not with them, yes?”

You nod, but still can’t help that small voice at the back of your mind that wonders: is he saying this just to placate you? He’s never shown any sort of mistrust in you or your abilities, but was it something he feared? Were you something he feared? 

 

“Well, maybe we should give him to the Wakandans right now.” Bucky says, looking at Zemo. 

 

“And you’ll give up your tour guide?”

 

“Yes.” Despite the flat tone, you can tell that Bucky has no intent to follow through with his threat, letting out a grunt as he takes a seat on the nearby couch. 

 

“From my understanding, Donya is like a pillar of the community, right?” Sam says after a beat, looking between all of you. “So, when I was a kid, my titi passed away.” 

 

“Your titi?” Bucky asks after a moment of hesitation, clearly puzzled. 

 

“Yeah, my titi, yeah.” 

 

“Who is your titi?”

 

“Fine. When I was a kid, my aunt passed away and the entire neighborhood got together for a ceremony.” Sam explains, a note of exasperation in his tone. “It was like a week long. Maybe they're doing the same thing for Donya.”

 

“Worth a shot.”

 

“Your titi would be proud of you.”

 

You look at Zemo, who appears to be searching the cabinets for something, before apparently finding the item in question. “Turkish delight.” He says, tossing Sam, and then you a piece, before pouring it out onto the counter. “Irresistible.”  

 

“I’m going to pretend like I know what this has to do with anything.” Sam says, holding up the piece of turkish delight, before setting it down on the bar. 

 

“A bargaining chip.” Zemo offers, without anything further as an explanation. You unwrap the morsel he had tossed to you, and pop it into your mouth and savor the sweet flavor of it, the pieces clicking into place as you do.

You knew that sweets were hard to come by in shelters and camps, your rations usually limited to the bare essentials. Treats were a commodity, and should they be offered to the right person, could almost definitely serve as a good trade for information. 

 

The two of you split off from Bucky and Sam to go get dressed. Your mind is still wrapped up in the possibility of there being an unspoken lack of trust between you and Zemo. When the two of you were bathing together earlier, he had asked you if you trust him. You answered honestly, but what if that sentiment wasn’t returned? 

The door shuts behind you, and Zemo crosses over to the armoire, collecting clothing for the two of you.

 

“Are you afraid of me?” You finally ask, wringing your hands to try and resolve the unease you’re feeling.

 

“Afraid of you? Of course not.” He turns to look at you now, brow pinched in question. “Where is this coming from?” 

 

“I know you… you don’t like Super Soldiers. And you know I didn’t have a choice, but… are you afraid of me being corrupted? By the serum?”

 

“Zayka.”

 

“I’m serious, Zemo. Are you afraid of me?” 

 

With a sigh, he abandons his current task, and walks over to you. He takes both of your hands in his, running his thumbs over your knuckles. 

“I do not fear you, nor do I see you as capable of being corrupted.” He clicks his tongue, tipping his head slightly. “At least, not in the sense we’re speaking of.” Bringing your hands up to his mouth, he places a kiss upon each one. “Whether you realize it or not, you have faced trials that most would have crumbled beneath the weight of. You did not escape your captivity in search of revenge, you instead sought out sanctuary. When faced with the very man who is responsible for the serum you were given, you were not the one to put a bullet in his chest.” 

 

Your tension begins to subside as he goes on, making way for a bit of shame at having doubted the man before you. 

 

“I would not lie to you, zayka. I do not, nor have I ever seen you as something to be feared. You are wonderful, powerful, and of course have the capacity to be quite dangerous. And yet, you aren’t jaded to the same world that has hurt you, time and time again. You have remained soft in the face of adversity. And that requires more strength than you know.” 

 

“I’m sorry.” You say quietly, unable to look at the Baron currently singing your praises. You had grown accustomed to the way he’d lavish you in compliments, but this felt different. Part of you now feels undeserving of his trust for having assumed he would lie to you at all. 

 

“Ah ah ah, no need for any of that.” He leans forward to place a kiss upon your head. “Your fear is understandable, I will not ridicule you for it. Not now, or ever.” 

 

“What am I going to do when they take you away?” 

 

“Don’t worry yourself with that now, my darling.” He punctuates his statement with a chaste kiss to your lips, before resuming his task of getting the two of you dressed. “But know that I do not intend on going back on my promise to keep you safe.” 



The closer you draw to the refugee camp, the more recognizable everything becomes. Though the building and city may be different, it was all the same. People displaced from The Blip, people who once had homes, lives, suddenly homeless. Forced into shelters with hundreds of others who had nowhere to go. Most damning of all, the GRC posters that stare back at your group, a mockery of all the people within the camp. 

 

It’s all too familiar to you. 

 

“Shame what’s become of this place.” Zemo tuts as you pass through the curved entryway, leading into the courtyard of a once ostentatious building. “When I was young, we used to come here for fabulous dinners and parties. I knew nothing of the politics of the time, of course, but I remember it being beautiful.”

 

You can see what he meant as you look around, eyeing the weathered statues and gilding upon the windows and walls that speak of better days. 

 

“I’m gonna take a look around upstairs.” Sam announces. 

 

“I’m going with you.” You nod, looking between the three men who eye you oddly. Rolling your eyes, you gesture to all of them. “Look at you, you think anyone here will want to talk to a bunch of well-dressed men when they can barely find clothing that fits? Much less two Americans.” 

 

Sam gives you a withering look, but concedes. “Fine.” He looks at Bucky. “You see what you can find down here.” He eyes Zemo. “And keep an eye on him.” Nodding to you, you follow him, shooting Zemo a quick smile over your shoulder as you part ways. 

 

In lieu of the clothing Zemo had initially picked, you asked after the clothing you had arrived in, finding that they had already been laundered for you, Heinrich’s jacket included. You knew that he’d be able to reach the people here in his own way, but you knew that you’d have better chances of talking to people more plainly, seeing as you already had something in common with them, especially if you looked the part. Truthfully, you missed the comfort that your own clothing provided. Loose and slightly worn as they were, they were yours. 

 

As you and Sam arrive upstairs, he immediately attempts to approach the first people you see on the landing, all of which take one look at him, before leaving without much response, if any. 

You click your tongue, and Sam gives you a look.

“You’re not going to get anyone to talk to you like that.” You insist, turning to face him.

“Like what?”

 

“You’re an American, first of all.” You reiterate your earlier statement. “And a well-known one at that. You come in here just shouting ‘hey, you!’ And think they’re going to listen?”

 

“What are you getting at?”

 

“They associate you with the government. The same government that put them here.”

 

“You got a better idea?” 

 

“Yes, actually. Stay here.” 

 

“That’s your plan?” Sam nearly laughs, though he’s clearly slightly agitated. 

 

“Will you just trust me on this?” You stand your ground, crossing your arms over your chest. “I’ve lived just like them for the past five years, I know how they feel, what they’re going through. They just lost someone important to them, the last thing they want is some American asshole barging in here and asking after their dead family member when her body isn’t even cold yet.” 

 

Sam stares you down for a moment, before nodding, letting out a sigh. “Fine. Go do your thing, I’ll meet back up with you.” 

 

You return the nod, before heading in the direction you had seen the young boy leave in. The difference in the way that people look at you by yourself versus having Sam over your shoulder is night and day. Though you’re not a familiar face, your demeanor and appearance are familiar enough. All of you were lost, closed off, and in mourning. 

While you didn’t know Donya, you knew Heinrich. Though your friend hadn’t been of the same reputation, you understood how it felt to lose someone in these circumstances. A found family having a square of their patchwork blanket ripped away. 

 

You found a small group of people seated around a table, two of them closer to your age, one of them much older, and the other being the young boy you had seen earlier, sitting closely at the older woman’s side. Approaching them, you offer an easy smile. You didn’t know too much Lettish, but it appears that they’re speaking some sort of Pidgin between Latvian, Russian, and some English to fill in the gaps in communication. You could work with that. 

“Is it alright if I join you?”

 

The group looks you over, then look amongst each other, before the eldest nods, gesturing to an empty seat.  

 

“Thank you.” You take the offered seat with a sigh, resting your arms at the table. “I haven’t been here too long. I came here from a camp in Germany, this was the closest shelter I could find.” Not the whole truth, but not a lie either. 

 

“Hard times.” The elder woman says with a nod of understanding, though she doesn’t fully look at you, still wary. 

 

“Why’d you come here?” One of the younger people, a boy with mussed brown curls and a furrowed brow asks plainly. Though the question is brusque, you understand the apprehension. 

 

“I lost my only family.” You respond, genuine sadness creeping into your voice. “He… he was very sick. I couldn’t… I didn’t want to be there without him.” 

 

The group seems marginally less tense at your response, the girl beside you placing a hand on your shoulder. “I know how you must feel. Losing family when you’ve already lost so much…” 

The rest mutter their agreement in assent, the youngest boy taking more comfort in the elder woman’s side, a hand clutched in her shawl. 

“I apologize for our lack of hospitality, as well as your loss.” The woman says, placing a hand over the young boy’s. “We’ve faced a loss very recently as well, so I’m sure you understand.”

 

“Of course.” You say genuinely, a pang of guilt twisting in your stomach. “I’ve heard about her… Donya. I know she was a wonderful woman.” 

 

There’s a wave of sadness that washes over the group upon hearing her name, a moment of silence overtaking them before anyone speaks. 

“She was… Mama Donya…” The girl starts, before trailing off, the boy continuing in her stead. 

“She helped us, all of us. She gave us clothes… food, taught us… she was like our mother.”

 

Their sadness is palpable enough to make you tear up, leaning into the girl beside you who’s arm has now moved over your shoulders. You can tell she needs this comfort more than you, so you embrace her in kind.
“I’m so sorry.” You offer, willing your own tears away in favor of rubbing the girl’s back as she sniffles into your jacket. 

 

You are sorry, and can’t help but wish you were here under different… more honest circumstances. You hadn’t given yourself the chance to mourn Heinrich, even if he hadn’t passed with you there. You want to mourn with them, be embraced by them, feel their loss with them as though it was your own. 

 

“They’re preparing a funeral for her.” The older woman says, now comforting the other boy at her side as well. “While you didn’t know her… I know that she would want us to welcome you, as she did for so many of us. You should come, to honor her. She would have wanted that.”

 

You stay with them for a moment longer, allowing yourself to mourn your own loss as well as theirs, before excusing yourself as politely as you could. The tears you shed are a mixture of their pain as well as the betrayal you felt for them, knowing that the information you had gathered would be used unwittingly to them. 

 

You’re at war with yourself as you depart, torn between wanting to prove that you had been successful in your search, and wanting to let them mourn their loss in private. With any luck, perhaps someone else had found something out, so you wouldn’t have to betray the trust of the people who had just let you into their world, albeit briefly. 



You collect yourself before you rejoin with Sam at the landing, hoping that you don’t look as much of a mess as you currently feel. 

“Find anything?” He asks when you meet him, looking a little frustrated. 

 

You only contemplate your answer for a moment, before sighing and shaking your head. 

“I did, but not what we’re looking for. They’re… a very tight knit group. And they’re in mourning. I heard talk of her funeral, but not any details about where it is.” You lie, squaring your shoulders.

“No luck with you either, I’m assuming?” 

 

With a grunt, Sam heads towards the staircase. “Well, you were right about them not trusting me.” He concedes as you follow him down the stairs. “I guess I understand, it's hard to trust someone comin’ in here with what they’re going through.” 

 

You withhold the urge to say “I told you so” in favor of a nod. “Maybe Bucky or Zemo found something.” You shrug, leaving things as they were as the two of you rejoin Bucky. 

 

Zemo’s back is turned to your group, but you see the Turkish Delight he had set out on a stool, as well as the handful he passes off to the little girl he speaks to. There’s a conspiratorial air in the handoff, and it’s enough to tell you that he had been successful in his scheme. 

“Cute kids.” He comments with a tight smile upon rejoining your group, though he’s clearly not making much of an effort to hide the fact that he had learned something.

 

Though you match stride with Zemo as you depart from the shelter, you can see the look that Sam and Bucky share from over your shoulder before trailing behind you. There’s a silence amongst the four of you, and you allow yourself to lean into Zemo when he puts an arm around you, but you know that there’s a conversation waiting to happen.  

Chapter Text

“Well, I got nothin’.” Bucky says once you’re back at Zemo’s apartment, the door having just fallen shut behind you. “No one’s talkin’ about Donya.” He sighs as he takes a seat on the couch, head tipped back against to rest against it. 

 

“Yeah, it’s because Karli is the only one fighting for them.” Sam starts, heading for the couch as well. “And she’s not wrong.”

 

“What do you mean?” Bucky looks at Sam incredulously as he takes his seat.

 

You take a perch upon the arm of the sofa closest to Sam, listening to the conversation intently as Zemo sets about preparing tea that you assume Oeznik had a hand in setting out for you. 

 

“For five years, people have been welcomed into countries that have kept them out using barbed wire. There were houses and jobs. Folks were happy to have people around to help them rebuild. It wasn't just one community coming together, it was the entire world coming together.” Sam elaborates, looking between Bucky and then you. “And then, boom. Just like that, it goes right back to the way it used to be. To them, at least Karli's doin' somethin'.” 

 

“You really think her ends justify her means?” Bucky asks, looking even more perplexed. “Then, she’s no different from him.” He gestures to Zemo. “Or anybody else we’ve fought.” 

 

“She’s different.” You agree with Sam, looking amongst the two men. “She’s not… she’s not motivated by the same things as Nazis, or Ultron.” You reference the conversation from earlier, shrugging and setting a hand on your thigh. The more you learned about the Flag Smashers, about what they were doing… the more you began to understand. While you couldn’t see yourself in their ranks, not capable of the same measures they had taken, you knew their frustration all too well. 

 

Though Sam nods at your contribution, Bucky doesn’t seem convinced, shifting his intense gaze to Zemo as he approaches with a tray of tea in his hands. 

“That little girl. What’d she tell you?”

 

There’s a moment of hesitation, where Zemo looks between the three of you, before setting down the tray.
“The funeral is this afternoon.” He decides on, taking a cup of tea for himself without supplementing any further information.

 

“You know, the Dora’s coming for you any minute.” Bucky’s gaze doesn’t let up. “In fact, they’re probably lurking outside right now. Keep talking.” 

 

“Leading you to turn on me once we get to Karli.” Zemo hums, shaking his head. “I prefer to keep my leverage.” 

 

You see Bucky get up, and your eyes track him vigilantly as he crosses from around the coffee table over to Zemo. You’re on your feet and by the Baron’s side as Bucky takes the teacup from his hands, and smashes it against the wall behind you. 

“You wanna see what someone can do with leverage?” 

 

Zemo meets the intensity with a tipped head, silently challenging the other man. 

 

“Take it easy. Don’t engage him.” Sam says from behind you, as you move to place yourself between Bucky and Zemo. “He’s just gonna extort you and do that stupid head tilt thing.”

 

There’s a tense silence, and despite you having taken the space between the two men, Bucky still leers at Zemo.

“Let me make a call.” Sam says, taking his leave with a pat on Bucky’s shoulder. 

 

“Would you like some cherry blossom tea?” Zemo offers blithely, to which Bucky scoffs. 

 

“No, you go ahead.” Bucky takes his leave as it’s said, heading towards one of the other many rooms in the apartment, leaving you and Zemo behind. 

 

The Baron lets out a breath, before looking at you with a slightly amused expression. “Tea?” He offers, gesturing to the teacups that were still intact. 

 

You can’t help the laugh that escapes you, amused at how unbothered he seems despite the poorly diffused tension. “Sure.” You shake your head, passing a cup to Zemo before taking one for yourself. 

 

“You know, I think I liked you better in my coat.” Zemo purrs as he passes behind you, a hand sliding across your lower back as he does. He takes a seat on the couch, beckoning for you to sit beside him. 

 

Taking him up on his offer as you take a sip of the floral tea, you roll your eyes, smiling against the rim. “Your coat is definitely comfortable.” You concede, making yourself cozy at his side. “But it looks so good on you. I can’t admire it the same if I’m the one wearing it.” 

 

“A fair point.” He hums, placing his arm over the back of the couch behind your head. “I’ll admit, there is something adorable about seeing you in clothes far too big for you. Like my little girl can’t dress herself.” He teases, but there’s no condescension in his tone. Just a soft fondness as he pulls you ever closer, ushering you into his lap. 

 

“Hey.” You snort, pushing his shoulder lightly. “I resemble that remark.” The two of you share a small laugh, before it gradually dissolves, the two of you left staring at one another. “Besides… This jacket was given to me by someone very important to me.”

 

“Your friend. Heinrich, yes?” Zemo mutters over his tea, eyes on you to indicate that he’s listening. 

 

“Yes. Heinrich he… he was very sick. He was actually on his deathbed the day that I left camp to meet you.” You explain, thumbing the hem of the jacket between the fingers of your free hand.

 

“Then why did you leave?” 

 

You sigh, contemplating your answer for a moment. “I didn’t want to. I was actually terrified at the idea of it. But Heinrich didn’t want me to stay.”

 

“Really?”

 

“He’s a stubborn bastard.” You laugh, though it’s a bit melancholy. “I think he knew that… when he was gone, I would only stay there, and stew in my own misery. He wanted better for me than that.”

 

“Tough love.” Zemo agrees, reaching a hand up to run it over your cheek. “Do you regret your decision?” He asks seriously. You know it’s an even bigger question, one that pertains to all of this, everything that you had been thrown into. 

 

“No. Not for a moment. It would… I would have disappointed him. And that would have been worse than anything else, to dishonor him like that.”

 

“You’re a wise girl.” He hums, looking at you more fondly. “He sounds like he was a good man. You know, my father’s name was also Heinrich. Maybe the name carries that cavalier nature with it.” He smiles, before taking a sip of his tea, the topic dropping off naturally. 

 

“Who are the Dora?” You ask after a moment, the concern over Zemo’s impending imprisonment weighing heavily on your mind. 

 

“The Dora Milaje. They are a highly trained, highly skilled group of warriors. They serve as special forces to Wakanda.” He explains, his cup of tea set aside in favor of idly twirling a piece of your hair between his fingers. “And they hold quite a grudge against me, seeing as I killed their king.” 

 

You lean back a bit, looking at Zemo carefully. “You killed their king?” You reiterate in slight disbelief. 

 

“Unfortunately, yes.” He sighs, dropping his hand. “He was not targeted specifically. In fact, I find my actions deeply regretful, in hindsight. I deprived the world of a good man, a son of his father, and a country of their leader.” He sighs, picking up his tea to take a sip. “So their grudge is not by any means unwarranted.” 

 

Absorbing the information over your own cup of tea, you contemplate this information. While this new knowledge is somewhat shocking, you suppose it tracks with what you knew of Zemo thus far. Though there’s something to be said of his character as well, taking into account how he made no effort to justify his actions, and even expressed regret. 

Part of you wishes that others had the privilege of knowing him as you do now, of seeing a man capable of sympathising with those he’s wronged, while still acknowledging his own wrongdoing. A man so desperate for more time to experience the world, to right the wrong, that he holds leverage to have just a moment longer. You’re not deluded enough to believe that it’s solely to spend more time with you, but you like to hope that you’re at least part of the reason he desires more time free of imprisonment. 

 

You get to spend a little while longer this way, finishing your tea in a comfortable silence as you sit in Zemo’s lap. You’re both content to simply be with one another, to have a brief moment of respite to hold each other. But it’s not long before Sam reenters, followed by Bucky. 

 

“Okay, ew.” Sam says first, a disgusted look on his face upon seeing the two of you. 

 

“Don’t be so childish, Sam.” Zemo admonishes, though clearly slightly amused by the reaction. “Is it so wrong for us to enjoy each other’s company?” 

 

“You’re practically twice her age, and she’s sitting in your lap like you’re Santa Claus.”

 

“About a decade or so short, though I’m flattered that you think I’ve aged so handsomely.” Zemo pats your hip as a silent means to urge you out of his lap. 

 

“I’m also totally capable of making my own decisions, just for the record.” You state with a pointed look at Sam, mouthing the word “asshat” at him as you get up. 

 

“And what would you like for Christmas, little girl?” Zemo murmurs over your shoulder after he rises off of the couch himself, pressing a kiss to your ear. 

 

“Now you’re just trying to be nasty.” Sam groans. Bucky doesn’t show the same measure of discomfort, and even looks slightly amused as he shakes his head. “Y’all better leave that here, we need to get to that funeral.” 

 

“Of course, lead the way.” Zemo gestures, heading towards the door. “Oh, wait, that’s right.” He adds smugly. 

 

“You can leave that here, too.” Sam points at Zemo accusingly, but allows him to lead the way, with you following close behind. 

 

“Who’s Santa Claus?” You ask aloud, earning a mixture of laughter and groans from the group as you head out.   



The more you see of Riga, the more you wish you were here under different circumstances. Even with the ground still wet from the rain, there’s still kind faces greeting you along your journey, the air equally fresh and welcoming. The city is a beautiful place, and it pains you to think of the refugee camp you had visited earlier in the day. A mass of people within Latvia with nowhere else to go, confined to the walls of what was now their makeshift home. 

 

You’re not far along your way when two faces among the crowd stand out; one of which you recognized as John Walker, the new Captain America. While you couldn’t place it, there was something about him as he approached, something that didn’t sit well with you. 

 

“Karli Morgenthau is too dangerous for you guys to be pulling this shit!” He announces once he’s within earshot, earning what seems to be a collective eye roll from your group. 

 

“Ah! How’d you find us now?” Bucky asks with a wide gesture of exaggeration, despite not appearing to be entirely surprised. 

 

“Come on, man. You really think two Avengers can walk around Latvia without drawing attention?” Walker’s partner comments, descending the steps alongside him. 

 

“No more keeping us in the dark.” Walker follows up. “You could start by telling us why you broke him out of prison.” He says, pointing a finger at Zemo. 

 

“He did that himself, technically.” Bucky says as both of your groups converge, coming to a stop at the end of the stairs. 

 

“Oh, this better be an unbelievable explan--” 

 

“Hey, take it easy before it gets weird.” Sam intercepts Walker with a hand on his chest. 

 

“And who the hell is this? A stray you guys picked up?”

 

“Why is that the most creative insult you Americans can come up with?” You say with a click of your tongue, before Sam claps a hand on your shoulder as a silent order to not engage. 

 

“She’s none of your concern is what she is.” Sam says, corroborated by a nod from Bucky.

 

“I just said no more keeping us in the dark, this? This is throwing a blanket over an elephant in the room. I have a right to know who we’re working with.” 

 

“I’m no one.” You spit out each word venomously as you look up to meet the man’s gaze, unwavering in your stance. It earns a squeeze on your shoulder in warning, followed by an unamused laugh from Sam.

 

“You can call her Hase, how’s that?” Sam says, which you follow up with a glare directed at him, shaking his hand off of your shoulder.

 

“That still doesn’t explain why he’s here.” Walker insists, gesturing again at Zemo. 

 

“I know where Karli is.” Zemo speaks up, going to walk around Walker before he’s stopped, Walker placing a hand square on his chest. 

 

“Well, where?” 

 

You can see Zemo fuming without even having to look at his face, watching the way he moves the hand off of his chest to continue walking, you and Bucky following close behind. 

“All we know is, it’s a memorial. So we’re gonna intercept her there.” Sam explains, going to continue along the way. 

 

“That means civilians, high risk of casualties.” 

 

“All right, good. We’ll move in fast, take her by surprise.” Walker says as though it’s the easiest thing in the world, before Sam quickly dashes his plan.

 

“No, I wanna talk to her alone.” 

 

“I’m not losing her again.” 

 

“Look, the person closest to her died, she’s vulnerable. If there’s any time to reason with her, it’s now.” 

 

“What? No. Wait, no! No! Stop! Hold on, stop. Stop, okay?” Walker says, jogging to the front of the group to stop headway once more. “I think we’re way past reasoning with her, unless you forgot that she blew up a building with people still in it.” 

 

“Sam, you walk in there cold, she could kill you man.” Walker’s partner agrees. 

 

“And if I walk in hot, op goes wrong, more people will die.”

 

“You’re gonna let him do this?” Walker asks, now looking at Bucky. “You’re gonna let your partner walk into a room with a Super Soldier? Alone?” 

 

“He’s dealt with worse. And he’s not my partner.” Bucky dismisses. 

 

“I used to counsel soldiers dealing with trauma, okay? This is right in my wheelhouse.” 

 

“I know. And I know those soldiers, which is why I know this is a bad idea.” 

 

“Wait, John.” Walker’s partner speaks up. “If he can talk her down, it might be worth a try.” 

 

This seems to satiate John for the time being, though he doesn’t look entirely thrilled with the prospect, scoffing before he looks at Zemo once more. 

 

“We’ll deal with you later.” Walker vows, to which Zemo simply raises his hands in defeat. 

 

“And I’m sure it will all come to an agreeable conclusion.” He says with a degree of condescension in his tone. “My associate is just up ahead.” With that said, he rounds the group to take the front, approaching the same young girl from earlier. 

“Hello, my friend.” Zemo greets her, producing a 500 euro note from his pocket. “This is for your family. Can you show us the way?” 

 

The girl looks over your group, seeming hesitant, and you smile at her softly when her eyes land on you. Nodding, she gestures for your group to follow. 

 

“What the hell?”

Chapter Text

You’re led to another building in the heart of Riga. There are a few people about who all seem to be here for Mama Donya’s funeral as well, all filing in through an entrance the little girl gestures to, before following them herself. 

 

“Karli’s in there.” Zemo says, turning from the group to look towards the entrance that Sam is now headed towards. 

 

As Zemo’s back is turned, Walker grabs one of his arms, wrangling him into a pair of handcuffs. 

“Hey. You got ten minutes.” He says to Sam as he locks one of the handcuffs around Zemo’s wrist.

 

“Really?” Zemo grunts as the handcuff is locked into place.

 

“Then we’re doing things my way.” Walker continues, ignoring Zemo to watch Sam head towards the memorial. 

 

“Aggressive.” The Baron comments as the other cuff is secured to one of the many furnaces in the boiler room. “But I get it.” He sighs when Walker gives him a look. 

 

Though you don’t comment on the fact that this is in no way necessary, you roll your eyes, moving to stand at Zemo’s side with a frown. Part of you wishes you could go with Sam, and attend the funeral as you had been invited to by the refugees you had spoken with earlier. But you knew that no one currently present would allow you to. It left you bitter. 

It seems foolish to think you could help Sam talk Karli down, since your information on the Flag Smashers wasn’t as extensive as his. Much less what you knew of her. 

At the same time, you knew her in a way that Sam couldn’t, understanding the frustration she felt for her family, for people like you. For people like Heinrich. You knew loss just as she did. But you didn’t know enough. 

 

“Are you alright, my love?” Zemo asks in Sokovian, bringing up the hand that was still free to tuck a strand of hair behind your ear. 

 

You can feel eyes on the two of you, but pay them no mind, resolving to keep your eyes on Zemo rather than the present company. 

“You’re the one in handcuffs, and you ask me if I’m alright?” You tease, sharing a small smile with him. 

 

“You look troubled.” He says with a soft huff of amusement. “Besides, I’m quite used to handcuffs, rabbit.” 

 

“I spoke to some people earlier, at the refugee camp. They told me about the funeral.” You admit, seeing the intrigue spark in Zemo’s gaze. 

 

“And you didn’t say anything either.” It’s an observation rather than a question, one that makes him let out a seemingly satisfied hum. 

 

“I didn’t want to.” You concede, jiggling your leg to ease your restlessness. “They invited me to go with them. And… I wanted to. I wish I could try to talk to Karli myself, I know how she feels right now.” 

 

“She would exploit that. Her cause is noble, albeit misguided, she would use your softness to her advantage.” He sighs, though there’s understanding in his gaze. “You are still hurting. It’s a common ground, I know. But she has recruited an army with less leverage.” 

 

“Can you two stick to English, please?” Walker interjects from where he sits, prompting an unamused look from both you and Zemo. 

 

“That’s a bit xenophobic, don’t you think?” Bucky says in your defense, looking less than thrilled with Walker himself. 

 

“What, you’re not concerned about them…” Walker trails off, gesturing vaguely with his hands. “Plotting?” 

 

“The most those two are plotting is where they can sneak off to make out.” 

 

“Is that necessary, James?” Zemo asks, looking past you to meet Bucky’s stare. While you, on the other hand, are burning up with embarrassment. 

 

“Are you kidding me?” Walker scoffs, looking between the two of you, to Bucky. “What is she? His girlfriend? So you’ve not only been harboring a fugitive, but his girlfriend ?!” He shakes his head in disbelief, laughing bitterly. 

 

“It’s not like that. She came with us because she knows about the serum.” Bucky says, which doesn’t seem to satisfy Walker in the slightest. 

 

“You know about the serum.” Walker says, looking directly at you now. “How?”

 

“None of your goddamn business.” You push off of the furnace, meeting him halfway. 

 

“Oh, I get it now.” He laughs, running a hand over his face. “You’ve taken it too, haven’t you? What makes you any different from them?” Walker glares, searching your face as though he’d see the signs of it on you. 

 

“Because I didn’t get a choice.” You grit through your teeth. 

 

“What? Did someone hold you down and make you take it?” He asks, clearly not taking you seriously. 

 

Yes! ” You scream in his face, the rest of the room now completely silent. “Before the Flag Smashers even existed. I was strapped down to a table. And forced. Like a lab rat.” You hiss, glaring at him a little harder now, before spitting in his face for good measure.  

 

Walker’s partner, who you had learned is Lemar, comes over to place a hand on Walker’s chest, standing between the two of you. “Okay, is sharing time over now? Do we all feel awkward?” 

Though he doesn’t pursue you any further, Walker still glares at you, nostrils flared as he wipes your spit off of his face. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay the hell out of my way.”

 

“I could say the same to you.” 

 

“Hase, enough.” Bucky has walked over now too, placing a hand on your shoulder. You’re ready to shake him off, but when you look at him, you find understanding in place of where you expected to see ridicule. “Not worth it.” He shakes his head, and it does manage to cool you off considerably. 

 

Nodding at him, you fix one more long look at Walker, before returning to where you had stood beside Zemo, who leans in close to you as you do. 

 

“I know this isn’t the most appropriate timing, but that was rather sexy.” He growls flirtatiously, managing to make you smile.

 

The next five minutes or so pass by uneventfully, Zemo and you sharing the occasional word, but nothing nearly as exciting as the brief spat between you and Walker. 

But you can tell that Walker is getting ornery, his mask already pulled on, having resorted to pacing rather than sitting still. You and Zemo track him with your eyes as he does, not entirely dissimilar from how one might watch a caged animal pace. 

 

“Uh-uh. No, no no. This is a bad idea.” Walker says, testing the weight of the shield on his arm. 

 

“It hasn’t been ten minutes, John. Just sit tight.” Bucky says, unbothered by his pacing. 

 

“Don’t do that, don’t patronize me.”

 

“He knows what he’s doing.”

 

Walker stops just past where you and Zemo are stood, looking at the clock on the far wall, before seeming to make up his mind. “I’m going in.” He states, making a beeline for the door with Lemar on his tail, only for Bucky to stop him in his tracks. 

He takes a few steps back, but stares straight at Bucky. “This is all really easy for you, isn’t it? All that serum runnin’ through your veins. Barnes, your partner needs backup in there.” John pauses, looking just past Bucky with a slight lean, before addressing him once more. “Do you really want his blood on your hands?”

 

You can see Bucky’s resolve begin to crumble, his worry over his friend’s safety beginning to overwhelm his sense of reason. 

 

“No, you can’t. You’re going to ruin any chances of him getting through to Karli if you go in now.” You insist, stepping forward. 

 

“Stay here.” Is all Bucky says, fixing Walker with a look, before turning to leave. 

 

“Bucky!” 

 

“Stay. Here.” He says once more, a note of finality in his tone, the three of them heading towards the funeral. 

 

You let out a frustrated huff, watching them leave, before you hear the sound of Zemo’s handcuffs clinking against the wrought iron of the old furnace. 

 

“Would you mind terribly?” He asks once you turn to face him, struggling to fit a bobby pin into the lock. 

 

You’re at him in less than a second, trying to get a good hold on the cuffs in order to break them off without hurting him. “Where are we going? Are we going to escape?” 

 

“No. Maybe.” He says, grunting as you rench the cuffs off of him. “First, we need to have a chat with Karli. Then we can see about making our dashing escape.” Once he’s free of the cuffs, he cups your face in his hands to press a long kiss to your lips, before turning to leave. “Come, we don’t have much time.” 

 

You don’t need any further prompting than that to follow him, being led through the maze-like interior of the building. You don’t encounter many people along your way, most of the rooms you travel through appear to be storage-related. The further you go, the closer the sounds of running and fighting are, Zemo suddenly pulling you behind a large machine in one of the rooms you enter. You’re both slightly out of breath when you stop, but that doesn’t keep your breath from hitching at the sight of the gun that Zemo pulls out. 

 

“You can’t kill her.” You whisper, looking between the gun, and Zemo. 

 

“I don’t intend to. But she’s going to be prepared for fighting, not talking. And we need to make sure the rest of the serum doesn’t make it out of this building.” 

 

The sound of someone running draws even closer, and Zemo presses a finger to his lips to beg your silence. Nodding, you brace yourself for whatever comes next. 

You can see Zemo silently counting the steps that Karli takes once she’s in the room, before he jumps out in her path, firing a shot at her. From what you see as you come around the corner, she’s been hit, jumping over a table to find cover as he fires a few warning shots for good measure. 

As you get closer, you see the vials now scattered on the floor, recognizing the blue vials in an instant. 

 

“Is this what I think it is?” Zemo asks aloud, bending down to pick up one of the vials. You stand at his side now, looking from the vials, to Karli peeking around the table, and then to Zemo. 

 

“No! No!” Karli whispers, seeing the bitter smile on Zemo’s face, before he smashes the vial on the ground. 

 

Once the first one is shattered, it’s like a dam breaks, Zemo stomping on each vial. You find yourself torn as you see Karli get up, running to meet the man awaiting her at the top of the steps. Do you stay? Or do you chase her? 

Your decision is made for you when you feel a familiar tingle at the back of your neck, turning a moment too late as the shield Walker wields flies forward, hitting Zemo in the side of the head. 

 

“No!” You yell, catching him with a grunt before he can hit the ground. Slowly, you lower yourself to the floor with him, holding his upper body in your arms. You’re angry, practically shaking with rage as Walker examines the scene. 

 

“Guess you chose the wrong makeout spot.” He jabs, looking over the shattered vials. 

 

You don’t give him a response, using your body to shield Zemo’s prone form from him instead. Though you keep an ear out in the event that Walker decides to approach you, you’re primarily focused on looking over Zemo, relieved that he’s merely been knocked out cold rather than killed. There’s a faint clinking of glass, but you assume it’s just a result of Walker kicking around the mess. 

You only look up at the sound of incoming footfalls, holding Zemo close as you do. You’re prepared for the possibility of a fight, but you’re relieved to see Sam and Bucky instead, Lemar approaching from the opposite side of the room. 

 

With an exasperated gesture of his arms, Sam sighs. “What did we miss?”   

 

“These two tried to escape, I told you they were plotting!” Walker says, pointing at you and Zemo. 

 

“We weren’t trying to escape!” You insist, glaring at Walker, before looking desperately at Sam and Bucky. “We just wanted to make sure Karli didn’t leave with the serum.” You look at the smashed vials. “And, we did!” 

 

“And what, you were just going to go back to where he was handcuffed? Act like this didn’t happen?” Walker antagonizes, taking a step towards you. 

 

“I don’t know!” You hiss, clutching Zemo closer, protectively. 

 

“Okay, okay, enough.” Sam says, coming down the stairs to diffuse the situation. “I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear that.”

 

What?! ” Walker balks in disbelief. 

 

“Only because the serum is taken care of. However,” Sam says the first part to Walker, before turning to you. “For the record, we had things under control. Next time, you stay put.” 

 

Having the wherewithal to look thoroughly scolded, you nod, turning back to Zemo. 

 

“Let’s get out of here.” Walker huffs, looking over your group, before making his exit with Lemar on his tail. 

 

“We should be making ourselves scarce too.” Bucky sighs, kicking at the pieces of shattered glass on the floor. “Guess you found Karli.”

 

“He wasn’t going to kill her.” You insist, allowing Sam to approach, and take the gun that had fallen next to Zemo. 

 

“Relax, I know.” Sam meets your gaze. “Come on, we gotta go.” 

 

You nod numbly, rising to your feet, and taking Zemo with you. You adjust yourself to carry him over your back, not wanting to risk the possibility of harming him further by carrying him any other way. 

 

“You sure you don’t want me to carry him?” Bucky asks, looking you over.

 

Shaking your head, you move past the two of them, heading towards the exit as you carry your unconscious lover. 

 

Maybe you should have ran when you had the chance.

Chapter Text

Zemo comes to not long after you return to the apartment.  

 

You’ve been doting over him since the moment he awoke, providing ibuprofen to him from Sam, as well as a glass of scotch at his request. Now, you’re seated on the couch with his upper body resting back against your chest, a cool, damp towel over his eyes, and a partially drained glass of scotch in his hand. Though your worries of a possible concussion have subsided, there’s still a nasty bruise forming on the side of his head. 

 

Taking a sip from his glass, Zemo sighs, his free hand holding yours. 

“Were you ever offered it?” He finally asks, the question directed at Sam. 

 

“What?”

“The serum?”

 

“No.” 

 

“If you had been, hypothetically, that is, would you have taken it?”

 

You share a look with Sam, whose brow is pinched in slight confusion. 

 

“No.” He repeats, though he keeps his eyes on you and Zemo. 

 

“No hesitation. That’s impressive.” Zemo gestures with his glass, carefully untangling his hand from yours to remove the cloth from over his eyes. “Sam,” he sighs, now turning his head to look at him. “You can’t hold out hope for Karli. No matter what you saw in her, she’s gone.” You can see Sam ready to disagree, but he waits as Zemo continues. “And we cannot allow that she and her acolytes become another faction of gods amongst real people.” When you look down at Zemo, you find him staring back, his expression unreadable. “Super Soldiers cannot be allowed to exist.”

 

Though you tense, you release it with a sigh, thinking back to your conversation with him earlier that same day. You’re different, he said so himself. He’s not talking about you. 

 

“Isn’t that how gods talk?” Sam replies, sharing a look with you. “And if that’s how you feel, what about Bucky?” His gaze on you doesn’t drop. “What about Hase? Blood isn’t always the solution.” 

 

Zemo appears to contemplate this, folding the towel over in his hands as he does. Reaching over, you remove the towel from his hand, and set it aside for him, placing a kiss on his head as you do.
Thanking you softly, he goes to sit upright, patting your knee when you go to help him. It’s then that the front door opens, and then shuts behind Bucky as he enters. 

 

“Something’s not right about Walker.”

 

“You don’t say?” Sam says, a hint of amusement in his tone. 

 

“Well, I know a crazy when I see one.” Bucky continues as he heads straight for the kitchen, tossing his coat aside. He retrieves a decanter of what Zemo had told you was bourbon, not scotch, from the cabinet, pouring a glass for himself. “Because I am crazy.”

 

“Can’t argue with that.” 

 

“Shouldn’t have given him the shield.” Bucky says, taking a hearty swig of scotch. 

 

“I didn’t give him the shield.”

“Well, Steve definitely didn’t.”

 

Before the argument can continue, the door is being kicked in, revealing Walker himself and Lemar as they barge into the apartment. 

 

“All right. That’s it. Let’s go.” He declares, looking straight at Zemo, who appears to be nonplussed. “I’m now ordering you to turn him over.” 

 

You stand and put yourself between them and Zemo, though the latter puts a hand on your shoulder with a shake of his head. 

 

“Hey, slow your roll.” Sam has risen from his seat as well, advancing towards the two intruders. “And let’s be clear, shield or no shield, the only thing you’re runnin’ here is your mouth.” 

Zemo picks up the decanter of scotch on the table, heading towards the sitting area on the other side of the room with you in tow.

“Now, I had Karli and you overstepped.” Sam continues, now pointing a thumb at Zemo. “He’s actually proven himself useful today. And we’re gonna need all hands on deck for whatever’s comin’ next.” 

 

“How do you want the rest of this conversation to go, Sam, huh?” Walker looks amused, scoffing to himself. “Yeah. Should I put down the shield? Make it fair?” He laughs, setting the shield down. 

 

You and Zemo are perfectly placed to watch what then transpires next: a tall, elaborately-dressed woman makes her entrance, and promptly throws her spear into the pillar next to John Walker’s head. Two more similarly dressed women make their way into the apartment from behind Walker and Lemar, and your immediate thought is that they are the most beautiful and fearsome women you have ever seen.

The leader of their group addresses Bucky in a language you have no hope of placing, but it only furthers your wonder. 

 

“Release him to us now.”

 

That’s the only thing you understand, and it makes your apprehension rise when you realize that these are the Dora Milaje that Zemo had told you about. Turning to look over at Zemo, he meets your gaze, taking a slow sip of his scotch. 

 

“Hi. John Walker. Captain America.” He extends his hand in greeting, before letting it fall with a nervous laugh when it’s not met. “Well, let’s uh, put down the pointy sticks and we can talk this through, huh?”

 

“Take it easy, John.” Sam says, though he’s clearly amused. “You might wanna fight Bucky before you tangle with the Dora Milaje.” 

 

“The Dora Milaje don’t have jurisdiction here…”

 

“The Dora Milaje have jurisdiction wherever the Dora Milaje find themselves to be.” Her words send a chill down your spine, and despite the circumstances, you’re awed by her entirely. 

 

“Okay, look, I think we got off on the wrong foot.” John extends a hand to place it upon the Dora’s shoulder, and his hand is swiftly caught by her spear, before he’s kicked back with a force that sends him flying into the spear still stuck into the pillar behind him. 

 

Your attention is drawn into the fight, watching the way the Dora work in tandem as they battle Walker and Lemar. It’s an elaborate dance between them, so perfectly in sync, their fighting style unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. 

Even as Sam and Bucky enter the fight, attempting to talk the Dora Milaje down from it, they don’t struggle to hold their ground, adjusting to their new opponents with a practiced ease. The only thing that pulls you out of your trance is Zemo’s hand on your wrist. 

 

Turning to look at him, he signals for you to stay quiet, leading you into the bathroom, before locking its doors behind the two of you. 

 

“We’re leaving.” He says softly, grabbing his coat off of the bathroom vanity and swiftly throwing it on, before then moving to the tub. “Help me move this.”

You don’t delay, pushing the tub aside to reveal a hidden grate in the floor, which he wastes no time removing. 

You share a look, and he nods, climbing down into whatever lies below, with you not far behind.



The first ten minutes are spent in total darkness, and nearly complete silence; the only sound being the footfalls of you and Zemo as he navigates the tunnels as well as your breathing. You’re left to rely completely on the hand firmly clasped in your own, leading you onward into the pitch blackness. 

Once it’s deemed safe, you finally come to a stop. There’s a moment of tense silence, before Zemo illuminates the space with his phone, turning on its flashlight.

 

“Do you think they followed us?” You ask softly, taking in the look of concentration on Zemo’s face as he looks from the screen of his phone to you.

 

“No.” He sighs through his nose, reclaiming your hand to continue forward at a slightly more relaxed pace. “Even if they had, these tunnels are labyrinthian. They would not be able to find us.” Despite the assurance, he still seems tense. 

“Oeznik will be meeting us outside of Riga, and from there we will be leaving for my family home.”

 

Another silence spans between the two of you, leaving you to ponder your current position. You knew that despite your escape, this was far from over. You’re holding hands with a wanted man, a man whose imprisonment was considered top priority. It brings you back to the first time you had seen him in his cell, then to the moment of his escape. Though you longed to entertain the idea that the two of you would be able to outrun everyone pursuing him, that you’d be able to find a life outside of this, outside of everything. You weren’t naive enough to believe it was possible. 

 

“I shouldn’t have dragged you into this.” He finally says, sighing as he squeezes your hand. “It was selfish of me.”

 

“Do you think I would have stayed behind?” You ask, pulling his hand to urge him to stop, but he doesn’t look at you. “Zemo, answer me.”

 

“I know you wouldn’t have.” He mutters, looking pained. “But that’s exactly why I shouldn’t have allowed this, from the very beginning.” 

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Were it not for me, you would be safe.”

 

“I never would have been safe to begin with.” You counter, refusing to let him shoulder a burden not belonging to him. “I’ve never been safe, not once. And I never will be.” 

 

“You heard Nagel in Madripoor, you’re presumed dead.”

 

“As far as he knows. And even then, what life would I lead? Nameless, no money to my name. My best case scenario outside of this is spending the rest of my life in fear, and eventually dying either in a camp, or on the streets.” You shake your head, and squeeze Zemo’s hand tightly. “I know you feel responsible for putting me in danger.” You bring your other hand up to cup his face, making him look at you. “But there’s no life for me where I’m not.” 

 

You close the space between you, and press a kiss to his lips. 

 

“You’ve shown me a life I never thought was possible. I’m not afraid anymore. Because you’ve given me a chance to see the world in a way I never have before, and you’ve given me the courage to live in that world.” 

 

Zemo stares at you in stunned silence, overwhelmed with emotion. “You truly feel that way?”

 

“Yes. I do. And I’m not going to let you go on believing otherwise.” 

 

He surges forward to catch your lips in a fierce kiss, passion pouring forth and flooding the embrace like a wildfire. It sets you alight in its blaze, and you happily let it consume you. The world slows to a stop in that moment, the earth only continuing its gradual rotation when he parts from you. 

 

“We best be on our way, then.” He says, now smiling with significantly less tension on his shoulders. 

 

Your remainder of the journey through the tunnels is free of any further mishap, though it does prove to be a rather long walk. Zemo explains that the tunnels let out a few miles outside of Riga, and by the time you emerge in the midst of an open field, the world has fallen into twilight. Much to your surprise, you find that Oeznik is already there, waving at you and Zemo from where he stands beside a sleek black car. 

 

“It’s good to see you, sir.” The Baron’s butler greets Zemo, who embraces him as he had only a few days ago. 

 

“And you, old friend. I cannot thank you enough.” Turning to you, he holds out his hand, beckoning you forward. “I believe a proper introduction is in order. This is Hase.” 

 

You feel meek under the two men’s gaze, a soft blush spread across your face as Oeznik opens his arms, and you step forward to meet him. You press a kiss to one another’s cheeks in greeting, finding the old man smiling warmly at you when he pulls back, hands still on your shoulders to look at you. 

 

“It’s good to meet you, miss. I’ve heard so much about you.” 

 

“Oeznik.” Zemo sighs, though it’s done so fondly. 

 

“All good things!” He assures with a laugh in English, before opening the side door of the car for the two of you. “More time to chat later, yes?” 

 

“Thank you, Oeznik.” You say softly before sliding into the backseat after Zemo. Once you’re seated, an arm is drawing you close to your Baron’s side, and a kiss placed atop your head as you rest it upon his shoulder. 

You watch Zemo scroll through his phone as the car pulls away, the news loading on his screen once he has a signal. Though there are a few headlines of little interest, there’s one that stands out amongst the rest: and it’s the image of Captain America brandishing a bloody shield, standing over a dead body in the midst of Riga. 

 

“This is not good.” Zemo sighs, clicking on the article published less than an hour ago, featuring a video of Walker holding the shield overhead, and repeatedly bringing it down on the Flag Smasher that’s laid over the steps of a monument. 

 

You both tense as you watch the video unfold, a reporter voicing over with a description of the events. The scene changes to show people from the refugee camp in Riga being arrested for harboring the Flag Smashers, with news of more forces being expected to arrive within the next 12 hours.  

 

“He took the serum.” You say numbly, in disbelief. “How?”

 

“We must have missed one.” 

 

“I should have kicked his ass. I…” You trail off, sitting up. “I didn’t even see him take it, I could have…”

 

“Stop. This couldn’t have been foreseen.” He shuts his phone off, sliding it back into his pocket. “It has already happened, do not trouble yourself with what could have been.” 

Though you can tell the news still weighs heavily on his mind, he pushes it aside in favor of comforting you. “I still haven’t thanked you for looking after me, earlier.” He mutters into your hair, running a hand up and down your shoulder. 

 

“You would have done the same for me.” You pout, nuzzling your face into the fur of his collar. 

 

“Not without putting a bullet in Walker first.” He says it with such conviction that it makes you snort out a little laugh. “I’m completely serious. Consequences be damned.”

 

“I know.” You say softly, tracing patterns against his side from where your arm is curled around him. “I carried you back to the apartment.”

 

That makes his chest vibrate with a laugh, and he squeezes you closer. “Really?”

 

“Yeah.” You smile, looking up at him. 

 

“I wish I could have been awake for that.” He hums, turning his head to kiss your nose. “My little rabbit might have a little lion in her, too.” 

“You should rest.” He says after a moment, placing another kiss on your forehead this time. “I’ll wake you when we reach the airport.”

 

Being too tired to argue, the fatigue of the day setting in, you only nod. You make yourself fully comfortable against Zemo, closing your eyes, and gradually drifting off into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Upon arriving at the airport, you’re woken up as promised, feeling as though you had hardly slept at all. You’re groggy all the way from the car to the jet, clinging to Zemo’s arm like a child the entire time. This doesn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. He adjusts easily to your weight against him, only parting from you upon reaching the jet itself, buckling you in just as he had the first time you had ever flown. Still quite tired, you fall back asleep before the jet is even prepared for take off. 

 

You wake up of your own accord more than halfway through the flight, stretching your legs out first, and then your arms. You groan softly upon feeling your joints pop, slowly coming back to conscious self. 

A small part of you wondered if you had dreamt up your escape with Zemo, but the man seated across from you proves otherwise. Despite this, you still look to the seats where Sam and Bucky had sat on your previous flights, half expecting them to be there. 

 

“Relax, zayka. It’s just us now.” Zemo draws your attention back to him, looking at you over his copy of Discourses on Livy . “Did you sleep well?” He asks, marking his place and setting the book aside. 

 

“I did.” You respond, closing your eyes as you stretch the kinks in your neck. “I’m not totally convinced that I’m awake, though. This seems too good to be true.” 

 

“Is that so?” Zemo hums, rising from his seat to close the gap between the two of you, setting his hands on the arms of your chair to lean over you. “Shall I convince you otherwise?”

 

You hum as though you’re contemplating the offer, leaning back in your seat to look up at him. “How would you go about doing that?”

 

“I have a few methods I could employ.” He humors you, a smile creeping across his lips. “I could pinch you.” He says, bringing a hand up to give your cheek a soft squish, making you giggle. “But that’s not how I prefer to go about things.”

 

“Oh? And what is?” 

 

Rather than answer you verbally, he responds by dipping his head lower to catch your lips in a kiss. It’s slow and languid, but not lacking in passion by any means. You can still taste the scotch from earlier on his lips, and it leaves you to sigh softly in contentment through your nose. He parts from the kiss a moment later, though he lingers just a centimeter from your lips.

 

“Convinced?” 

 

“I don’t know, maybe you should kiss me again just to make sure.”

 

He places a quick peck on your lips, before standing up fully, and making his way back to his own seat. 

 

“Hey!” You pout, crossing your arms over your chest. 

 

“What? Did you not ask for another kiss?” He teases, raising an eyebrow at you, accompanied by a slight tilt of his head. 

 

“You know what I meant.” You huff, trying to keep the smile off of your face as you commit to your childish act.

 

“Do I? Perhaps you should try being more specific.” He’s clearly quite amused with you, trying to mask his own smile with a hand on his chin. 

 

“I want you to kiss me like you did before!” 

 

“Before what?” He’s having fun with you now, trying to see how long he can tease you and stretch this out. 

 

“Before…” You bite your lip, contemplating how to answer. “I want you to kiss me like... “

 

“Like…?”

 

“Like you did when I first woke up.” 

 

“Ahh, that kiss, of course. Hmm. Why do I feel like something is still missing from your request?” You’re clearly puzzled, and he stares at you expectantly for a moment, before clicking his tongue. “Manners, little girl.” He tuts, shaking his head. 

 

Please kiss me like you did when I first woke up.” You amend, still pouting heavily. 

 

“There we are.” He gives you a wide grin. “Why didn’t you say so sooner? Come here.” He pats his lap in invitation. 

 

Despite your urge to keep up the childish charade, you’re far more invested in receiving the affection now promised to you. You waste little time unbuckling yourself and crossing from your own seat to his, claiming his lap as your throne. You drape an arm over his shoulders, and he brings up a hand to cup your cheek, guiding you into another slow kiss. 

You feel more confident in kissing him now, the act not as clunky as it had initially felt when you shared your first kiss with him in Madripoor. It no longer feels like a lesson, your lips moving against his like muscle memory, requiring less thought and leaving you to simply enjoy the experience. 

Zemo seems content to let you drink your fill, indulging your need as you kiss him with no intent to stop. There’s no impending crises, no fear of interruption, no planning to be done. And he’s more than happy to be the object of your affections, as you are his. 

 

You’re chasing something without wholly recognizing what it is that you’re after, a familiar spark of warmth in your belly beginning to spread, desperate to be addressed. It isn’t until you’re practically panting, shaky breaths exhaled through your nose forcing you to part from the kiss in need of oxygen. 

 

And oh, how he revels in how beautiful you are in that moment, with your eyes heavily lidded and mouth slightly parted to account for your labored breathing. The want in your eyes is dizzying, and the urge to let you drown in it is overwhelming. 

“Something wrong, pet?” He mutters, eyes flicking between your lips and your own heated gaze as he drags his thumb over your swollen bottom lip. There’s frustration in that stare, and he can tell it’s because you still don’t know how to word what you want. 

But you’ll learn. He tells himself, more intent on teasing you. 

 

“N-no.” You huff, unable to find your voice beyond that, more keen on diving in for another kiss, which he does grant you. 

But you keen needily when he guides you away with the hand still on your cheek.  

 

“We will be landing soon, my dear.” He shushes you, moving to pet your hair. “You need to get back in your seat.” 

 

“But I want more.” You whine, earning an admonishing look that only makes your pout return full-force.

 

“You will listen to me.” He warns, now dropping his hand entirely. “Or you will be punished, understood?” 

 

That sends a thrill through you, and you don’t have the slightest idea why. But you have the wherewithal to look thoroughly berated as you climb out of his lap, and return to your seat. It earns you some praise, which is enough to curb any lingering disappointment as you buckle yourself in. 

 

Zemo returns to reading his book, and you’re left to sit and contemplate the slight discomfort of the heat still stirring in your stomach. You have trouble placing it, identifying the desperation that kissing him made you feel. The closest thing you can liken it to is… 

The thought makes you flush, some heat migrating from your stomach to your face. There’s something akin to embarrassment when you think of the way Zemo had touched you when you bathed together. 

You squirm in your seat as you attempt to will the thoughts away, but images of his hands and mouth on you still flash behind your eyes.   

 

The touch of red dusting your features isn’t lost on him. He spares you the occasional glance from over the top of his book, watching the way you clench your thighs together in your seat. He didn’t consider himself a sadistic man, however, he does take pleasure in watching you silently flounder as you are now. 

He knew that his time with you as a free man would soon be drawing to a close, but for now, all that matters is the present. 

 

The jet touches down not too much later, but it feels like an eternity to you; as does the wait to exit the jet, and then the process of walking from the airfield to another car. You hold onto Zemo’s hand the entire time, but you’re restless, only exacerbated by his proximity to you in the backseat of the car. 

He chats amicably with Oeznik throughout the ride to his manor on the border of the Czech Republic, a hand placed on your knee, and giving you the occasional squeeze. 

 

At some point, it hits you: he’s playing a game with you. While you might not know exactly what the rules may be, you know that he’s not playing it fairly. It absolutely infuriates you, and yet, all you do is pout. The fact that you had no knowledge of how to tease him back frustrates you, so all you do is sit there and stew. 

The ride drags along for you, though you know that it realistically couldn’t have been much longer than fifteen minutes. While you’re committed to your little pity party, you do still thank Oeznik when he opens the door for the two of you. 

There are further words exchanged in reference to dinner being prepared, but it falls to the wayside once you and Zemo are left alone in his garage. 

 

You’re impossibly cute this way, he thinks. He can tell that you’ve surmised what he’s doing, and that you’re less than amused by it. But the little pout on your lips only spurs him on.

“What’s wrong, little girl?” 

 

“You’re teasing me!” You say, just short of stomping your foot. 

 

“Teasing you? Oh, my dear, I would never.” 

 

“You are! I know you are!”

 

“How so?”

 

That brings you up short, and you trip over your words for a few moments longer, before letting out a huff. 

 

It’s then that he decides to have some mercy on you. 

Closing the space between you with a few strides, he tucks his hand beneath your chin, forcing you to look up at him. 

“You need to use your words, little girl.” He chides, stroking his thumb across your bottom lip. “You will not get what you want by pouting and throwing a fit. Now, what do you want?” 

 

You swallow thickly as you look up at him, your mind suddenly void of thought. But he waits patiently for you to find your words again, not trying to rush or discourage you.
“I… I want more of…” You collect yourself with a determined huff, before trying again. “I want you to touch me, like you did when we took a bath together. Please.” 

You struggle to get it out, the words cling heavily to your tongue. You weren’t embarrassed of the act itself, truly, but it was awkward to be standing here before him, stumbling over your words like you really were a little girl with a crush. 

 

His eyes on you are so intense and disarming, but there’s a glimmer of beguilement that just makes you squirm more. Despite your struggle, Zemo is clearly pleased with you, and places a little kiss on your nose. 

“There we are, not so hard, hm?” He hums out a soft chuckle, letting his hand fall to his side. “While I’d love to play with you more, we do have to get ready for dinner. So it will have to wait.”

With that, he turns to head into the manor proper, knowing that you’ll follow him. 

 

And you do, as always, like a lost kitten. 

 

The Baron’s illustrious family home is just as fantastic as you first recall it being, even more so now that you’re not here within a dream, or on a time crunch. Your stroll down its massive corridors is leisurely, the Baron himself content to take his time; whether this is at your expense or to revel in the feeling of being within his own home, you’re unsure.

Along the way, you encounter a few people who appear to be the staff who maintain the manor, and Zemo stops to talk to each individual. 

You watch how familiar he is with everyone, how he asks after their wellbeing, their families, their lives. He knows each of them by name, and even makes it a point to introduce you. You’re polite, albeit a bit on the quiet side, though you make it a point to thank all of them before they depart to continue with their work. 

 

“You know all of the people who work for you?” You ask softly as one of the maids, Anja, excuses herself after a voice hails for her through a walkie on her hip. 

 

“Of course.” The Baron says easily, beckoning for you to match his stride. “The people who work here are all Sokovian. They were displaced after the Battle of Sokovia, left with nowhere to go.” He clarifies as the two of you walk, coming to a stop in front of a portrait of Novi Grad. “My family has been Sokovian nobility for generations, so I felt it only appropriate to preserve the culture that we all share by providing for its people.

Most of those present here have worked for the barony for generations as well, I grew up with many of them. This manor in particular is a piece of Sokovian history itself, and there is no shortage of hands required to maintain its glory.” He looks from the portrait to you, a gleam of sadness there. “I only wish I could be more active in its preservation.”

 

“That’s… such a beautiful thing for you to do.” You say after chewing your thoughts for a moment, but it doesn’t exactly do him justice. “I don’t think many people would do as much as you have, it’s very generous of you.” You add, still in slight disbelief over this philanthropic side of Zemo.
While you hadn’t been integrated with society for very long, you knew that money didn’t come without corruption. And usually those with an exorbitant amount of wealth at their disposal were more partial to extorting people rather than helping them. 

At the same time, for the short amount of time you’ve known Zemo, you’ve noticed that he’s not stingy with his money. He provides without thought or question, even to people like Sam and Bucky who had made it very clear that he was an expendable resource to them. It leaves you wondering if maybe he does it as a form of repentance, trying to make up for his wrongdoings. 

 

“I don’t consider it generosity. I consider it what’s expected of me. Sokovia may not exist any longer, but its people are still here. And as their Baron, I will provide.” The anguish in his gaze slowly departs, making way for the passionate man you’ve come to know. “I can bore you with Sokovian political affairs more later, however we’ve already taken quite the detour in getting ourselves washed up for dinner. Come.” With that, he continues onward, leaving you to follow. And as you do, you find yourself with a newfound respect for Baron Helmut Zemo.

Chapter Text

The finery of the Baron’s home is something you don’t believe you’ll ever grow accustomed to. While you had seen a handful of its rooms and amenities, the Baron’s Master Chambers, as it was apparently titled, is so extraordinarily lavish that you’re literally stunned. The room is large enough to fit the entirety of the apartment in Riga, with room still left to spare. You don’t feel fit to even set foot within its confines, Zemo having to actually herd you into the room in order to shut the door behind you. 

You don’t have the knowledge to place the style of furniture and decor, but it spoke of royalty. The trim and furnishings are polished wood with a deep burgundy stain, fine fabrics with intricate designs embroidered on them, lining the cushions of furniture throughout the room. Everything is placed to draw the eye, and you’ve hardly mapped its entirety before you’re being ushered further into the room by its owner. 

 

“Helmut, this is beautiful.” You say in genuine breathlessness, still looking about the room as he peels your jacket off of your shoulders. 

He seems highly amused by your wonder, having to further encourage you to lift one foot at a time for him to remove your shoes. 

 

“It’s refreshing to be in the company of someone who gets to appreciate the manor’s beauty with new eyes.” He says, setting your shoes alongside his own. “And you have as long as your heart desires to do so.” 

 

It’s said so casually that you almost fail to acknowledge it at all, but once you’ve processed it fully, all of your attention is now on him. 

“What do you mean?” 

 

“I meant precisely what I said.” He says with that smug smile of his, stepping into a walk-in closet.

You follow him into it, just watching him as he sifts through the clothing, awaiting further explanation. 

“Should you find it agreeable, I’d like for you to stay here.” 

 

“For how long?”

 

“As I said, as long as you would like to.”

 

“I can… live here?”

 

“Yes.” He says simply, walking to place a folded pile of clothing in your arms. “You may live here. You will be provided for, waited on, treated as royalty. All that is mine shall be yours as well.”

 

“But…” You’re overwhelmed, unable to fathom the depth of his offer, or what it implies. “You… how? Why?”  

 

“Because I want to. Because I can.” He brings up his hand to pet your hair, holding the back of your head. “Because you’ve already suffered enough.”

 

“You don’t even know me.” It’s not said with any cruelty, more with skepticism. “ I don’t even know me. It’s been six years since I’ve escaped, and I don’t have the slightest idea about who I am or what I’m capable of. I could be dangerous, I’m already dangerous.” You shake with the threat of tears, your throat growing tighter as you speak, making your words sound choked. 

The idea of safety, of sanctuary is something you’ve never had the liberty of knowing. You had been given a glimpse of it these past couple days, and even then it was still in lapses. 

 

“Hase.” He sighs, dropping his hand to the small of your back to guide you into a seat within the closet space. “I may not understand, I doubt I ever could. But I know this:” He stoops down to your height, looking at you with a sense of desperation. “You do not pose a threat to me, or anyone else for that matter. You’ve done what you must to survive. I would like to see to it that you have the chance to live. I cannot say what the future holds, but I can offer you a chance to find out.” 

 

Tears had already begun making tracks down your cheeks, but you’re left weeping at his words. You don’t even know why, you want to keep asking him why. There’s so much you don’t understand about all of this, or why he’d risk so much for you. You don’t feel worthy of any kindness, especially when he’s giving it to you so freely. You’ve already struggled to accept the way that he is with you, the affection saturating everything that he says and does for you. This just makes it real, more tangible. And you don’t know how to cope with that. 

 

Zemo doesn’t try to stave off your tears, but he does offer you his comfort by being present with you. He knows that you need to cry, that you need that emotional release. If you bottle it up, it would only come back with a vengeance at a later date, and he didn’t want to consider the possibility of him not being there for you when it does. 

When your cries gradually decrease to a soft whimper, he excuses himself for a moment, and returns with a glass of water, as well as a cool rag, and some tissues. Pressing the glass into your hand, he strokes your hair fondly. 

“Drink, please.” Though it’s worded like a request, it’s meant as an order, and he smiles when you obey him. “Good. Do you feel better?”

 

Strangely, you do. As your breathing slowly returns to normal, you nurse the water he’s given you, forcing yourself to nod. Even now, with puffy eyes and snot in your nose, he looks at you so fondly. 

“Why do you care about me?”

 

Once you’ve emptied the glass, he removes it from your hands, setting it aside before he offers you a tissue to blow your nose. 

“How could I not?” He says with complete seriousness, throwing away your used tissue before taking the rag, and gently wiping away your tears. “Before I met you, I had little faith left in the world, in humanity. I also had very little to live for.” 

With a sigh, he sets the rag beside the empty glass, placing both hands on your knees. “Years ago, before I was put in prison, I was a man fueled by revenge. I made others suffer for my losses. And I was content to die that way. I had nothing to look forward to aside from the inevitability of death. But,” Zemo pauses, tucking your hair behind your ear, then cupping your cheek. “When I met you, you reminded me of what good is left in the world. It is something worth nurturing, as are you. 

 

I told you that I care for you selfishly, which is something I still stand by. I do not know how to begin describing the depth of emotion I feel for you, however, I would like to do my best to express it in any way that I can. Provided you would grant me that.”

 

The ardent way that he looks at you, it conveys words that have been left unspoken.

 

 Love was something you had known as a child, in the blurred memories of your mother and father. That feeling was the only part of them that remained with any clarity. The way your chest squeezes when you return his gaze reminds you of that same impression left in the wake of your lost family. In truth, you weren’t sure how to best express your own feelings for him either. 

You place a hand over his, pressing your cheek into his palm. 

 

“I feel like I’m going to cry again.” You sniffle, followed by a slightly weepy laugh. 

 

Huffing out a small laugh through his nose, Zemo leans up to press a soft, chaste kiss to your lips. 

No further words are exchanged on the topic, but he stays there with you as you collect yourself. He’s content to give you the time that you need to regain enough personhood to rise from your seat, and reclaim the clothing forgotten in your lap.



Dinner proves to be more of an event than you had been anticipating, but it’s a welcome surprise. Rather than it just being you and Zemo, the majority of the manor’s staff joins the two of you for the meal, all seated around a large table. 

There’s more food than you had ever seen in your life; freshly prepared, colorful dishes laid out in a spread that spans the full length of the table’s surface. You’re at a loss on what to choose, and wind up sampling little bits of everything, fully enamored by all the various flavors that each dish has to offer. 

While you’re initially more reserved, but you’re easily drawn into conversation by the friendliness of the manor’s residents, and wind up chatting amicably with many of them. You’re pleased to have more people that you can exercise your Sokovian with, a few of them even commend you on your use and conjugation which has you brimming with pride. 

You watch the way that Zemo interacts with them in lapses of your own conversation. He speaks to all of them as equals rather than people he’s employed. There’s such a strong sense of familiarity between the Baron and his people, despite the fact that they’re employed by him they function similarly to a family, all united by their homeland.

 

The two of you linger even after you’ve finished eating, Zemo only excusing himself once people gradually begin to file out of the dining hall and others begin to clear the table. 

You’re left feeling the most lighthearted that you’ve been in days, the shared meal and socializing proving to wash away the insecurity and anxiety of the past day. 

Your Baron doesn’t shy away from walking the halls of the manor hand in hand with you, and that coupled with the pleasant dinner you’ve had is enough to leave you beaming. 

 

“I take it you enjoyed dinner?” He muses, squeezing your hand. 

 

“I did, it was really nice to just… talk with so many friendly people. Oh! The food was really good too.” You quickly amend the last part, making Zemo chuckle. 

 

“Good. I think many of them were excited to see a fresh face. It’s not a particularly common occurrence.” Opening the door to his chambers, he ushers you in. “I’m pleased that you’ve enjoyed yourself. I’ve personally been looking forward to dessert.” He shuts the door behind himself.  

 

You tip your head in confusion, watching Zemo as he slowly circles to stand before you. Hadn’t you already had dessert? There was a flaky pastry dish with some sort of jam that you would have definitely classified as a dessert. 

 

He’s clearly amused by your befuddlement, but there’s a hunger in the way that he looks at you, the corner of his lips pulled into a slight smirk. 

“You’ve had quite a long day, and you’ve been very good.” He places a hand under your chin, humming softly. “And if my memory serves me correctly, you had a request for me earlier.”

 

Your face grows warm, the heat from earlier that evening making a sudden reappearance. You nod, but quickly amend yourself. “Yes, I did.”

 

“What was that request, exactly?” He taunts, the smirk on his face growing. 

 

“I want you to touch me.”

 

“I am touching you, bunny.”

 

Swallowing thickly, you force yourself to find your words. “Please touch me like you did when we were in Riga, in the bathtub.”

Chapter Text

“Good girl.” He draws it out in almost a melodic way, slowly closing the gap between your mouths as he does. He’s unhurried with his kiss, determined to take his time with you tonight. As he eases you into it, he draws your body closer to his with a hand on your waist, the hand on your chin migrating to cup the back of your head, guiding you to tilt it in order to deepen the liplock. 

 

Your hands, in turn, come up to rest against his chest, fingers curling into the plush fabric of the robe he had put on prior to dinner. You clutch it desperately, so eager to keep kissing him, for more. You nip his bottom lip in an attempt to deepen the kiss further, trying to tug him even closer to you. You’re so greedy for more of him, to feel good, leaving you so caught up that it makes you whine when he pulls away. 

 

“My dear, why the rush?” He purrs, nuzzling the side of your face to place a few kisses along your jaw. “You need to be patient.” He whispers in your ear, releasing a hum of satisfaction when you shiver at the sensation. Capitalizing on this, he brushes his lips against the shell of your ear, issuing a quick nip to the sensitive skin. You let out a gasp, unconsciously tipping your head to the side to provide him better access. He takes the leverage immediately, sliding his tongue along the curve of your ear before placing a soft kiss to the patch of skin just below your lobe.

 

Where you lacked experience, the Baron made up for it tenfold. While it had certainly been some time for him, he was no stranger to pleasuring someone. His ability to manipulate people served him well in terms of sex, giving him the upperhand in finding what makes them writhe and sigh, what makes them melt, what turns them on to the point of tears. 

To him, you read like one of his favorite books; the passages being familiar, but never boring, carrying new meaning, an easy fondness. Zemo adored pleasuring someone sexually, but the way he touches you brings new life to an old treasure.  

 

As he works his way from your ear to your neck, your legs are already shaking, threatening to give out from under you. He had told you to be patient, and you wanted to be, but that warmth pooling in your belly has you somewhere between melting at his touch and demanding more. You’re in agony over the pace he’s set with you, yet it’s the most pleasant thing you’ve ever experienced, making your toes curl and sighs fall freely from your lips. 

 

Every sound that you make is music to him and he’s intent on keeping you singing for him. He graduates to open-mouthed kisses upon reaching your neck, grazing his teeth over your skin in a way that makes your body jump against him. While he had been reserved the last time he had acquainted himself with the expanse of your neck, he currently feels no need to restrain himself. And after placing a kiss to the pulse point there, he begins to suck a mark into the skin, the hand on your waist dropping to your hip with a squeeze as the other cards through your hair.

 

You let out a cry at the sensation of him pulling your skin between his teeth, the feeling is still so new to you. And yet, there’s something so primal about that feeling, knowing that there would be a bruise dark enough to brand you. When he finally surrenders, you’re practically a puddle in his arms. The soreness that blooms from where he had centered his focus stings so wonderfully, you’ve never experienced a pain that felt quite so good.  

 

Once he releases your skin with an audible smack of his lips, he leans away just enough to admire his work. The bruise left in place of his mouth is already a deep reddish purple, and he places a kiss on it that makes you gasp before he’s kissing his way right back to your lips.

The way he kisses you now is a complete foil of the bruise he had just left on your neck, his lips returning to their sensual slide against yours. Your mouth is so pliant against his now, still eager, but measurably less rushed as he eases your lips to part for his tongue. He doesn’t care to be overbearing with its use on your mouth, content to simply graze your bottom lip and your tongue before it retreats from teasing you. He kisses you this way for a while longer, only stopping once you’re left completely breathless. 

 

You’re dazed when you look up at him, and he can’t keep himself from stealing another kiss, nipping your bottom lip before he pulls away. 

 

“You look gorgeous like this.” He rumbles, smoothing out your hair before he grips your hips with both hands, giving them a squeeze, then taking a step back. 

You take up the space left in his absence, hands still loosely grasping his robe. Before you can consider voicing a complaint at the loss, he’s taking your hands in his, and guiding you over to the large, four poster bed. You follow him on shaky feet, left feeling like a newborn foal taking its first steps. Thankfully the journey isn’t very far, and he stops you just shy of the edge of the bed. 

 

“Take off your clothes.” He orders, releasing your hands and taking a step back to look you over. There’s no hesitance from you to obey, not a trace of shame as you shed the clothing given to you, even under his heavy gaze. He makes no effort to hide the way that he admires your body, following your movements as every part of you is revealed to him. Though he had previously seen you naked when you bathed together, he now gets to fully enjoy the sight without the distortion of your position and water. Once each piece of clothing is stripped from you completely, you stand before him proudly, awaiting further instruction. 

Your eagerness to comply is something that he would adore experimenting with further, but he resolves to leave that for another time. 

 

“Good girl, now sit on the edge of the bed.” Zemo praises you, removing his robe as he watches you settle on the bed. With his robe set aside, he’s left shirtless, in nothing but a pair of lounge pants. 

You eye him just as greedily as he had you, surveying him with so much longing and heat as he advances on you after setting his robe aside. 

To your surprise, he kneels before you, placing his hands on your knees. He holds your stare while pulling your legs apart, his eyes intense from where he sits, placing each leg over his shoulder one at a time. 

 

“What are you d…” He shushes you before you can finish your inquiry, placing a kiss to the side of your knee. 

“Do not fret, my love. Just relax.” He urges you, running his hands along the outsides of your thighs before making a leisurely trail of kisses towards your center. With each kiss he places, your heart begins to thud harder and harder in your chest, and you watch him with rapt attention. He repeats the same trail along the opposite leg, this time, stopping to leave another mark on the inside of your thigh. 

By the time he reaches your core, you’re squirming in your seat, grasping tightly at the blanket spread beneath you. 

 

“You’re so wet.” He purrs, drawing you closer to the edge of the bed, then leaning forward to take the first pass of his tongue along your slit. It pulls a soft noise from you as he does, the sensation both unfamiliar and thrilling. 

Zemo takes his time collecting the wetness accumulated from your arousal, switching between broad swipes of his tongue and softly sucking on your labia, purposefully avoiding your clit. To him, your essence is the nectar of the gods in its purest form; heady and flavored with the salt of your skin, and he drinks from you like a man quenched of thirst. 

 

Sitting still becomes even more difficult of a task, your hips twitching forward unbidden, thighs shaking and threatening to close around his head. It’s a feeling like nothing you’ve ever experienced, making you choke on the noises that bubble up from your throat. You shakily place a hand on the back of his head, fingers threading through his hair with a slight tug that makes the Baron groan against you. Those deep, brown eyes still trained on your face as he dips his tongue between your folds to tease your entrance. 

 

He folds his arms over your legs, holding them apart with his hands on your thighs as he dives in further, his upper lip bumping against your swollen clit while his tongue plunges inside of you. The slight intrusion makes your walls squeeze down in your excitement on the tip of his tongue, prompting him to toy with this reaction, working his tongue against your opening, just short of giving you further penetration to satisfy you. 

Once he feels that you’ve been teased enough, his lips migrate to your clit, placing a soft kiss to it before he slowly drags the entire flat of his tongue against the sensitive nub. 

 

The friction of it makes you jolt, but you’re held firmly in place by his arms. It’s maddening, sending shockwaves through you that make your back arch and your head tip back, mouth falling open to release a sound that’s almost pained. The hand on the back of his head tugs at his hair, and you try your best not to chase the urge to push him harder against you. The direct contact on your clit is so intense that it borders on being too much, yet not enough at the same time. 

 

You’ve always been so expressive with him, even outside of sex. Never capable of fully capping the range of emotion that you felt. To watch you fall apart is easily his favorite sight, and as he wraps his lips around your clit to suck, he’s enraptured by the way that your breast heaves and your shoulders shudder. He noisily sucks on your little nub, releasing it with a pop before he’s returning to it with quick strokes of his tongue, vacillating between a stroke and circling it, intermittently giving it another suck. 

It’s quickly building you towards the edge, stoking the flames in your lower body to the point of burning you alive. You’re just short of riding his face with the way that your hips thrust and your hand now holding his face against your cunt, but Zemo is happy to drown as he pleasures you, your arousal now coating his stubbled chin. 

 

With his tongue still focused on your clit, he releases the hold on one of your legs to bring his hand to your cunt as well, easily sliding a finger inside of you. He starts with just one, mapping out your vaginal canal with a crooked digit, a second joining the first once he feels you’ve adjusted to the penetration. 

 

The combined sensations make you cry out as you’re now pushed even closer to your breaking point, and you nearly double over him as you feel your oncoming orgasm approach. And when his fingers hook against that one spot inside of you, it fully pushes you over the edge, blinding you with its white-hot intensity. You don’t hear yourself over the sound of your own heartbeat thrumming in your ears, but a mixture of pleas and expletives fall freely from your lips in an incoherent jumble of languages.

 

He rides you through your peak, slowly pressing his fingers up against your g spot while softly sucking on your clit, letting you freely grind against his face as he does. Watching you orgasm is just as beautiful as it had been the first time, the sight and experience being enough on its own to make his cock throb with need. But he’s content to wait, guiding you through the crashing waves of your end until the aftershock begins to ebb, and your hold on him relaxes.

 

You release your grip on his hair, still resting your hand on the back of his head while you struggle to catch your breath. You hadn’t even realized that your eyes were squeezed shut until you’re blinking the bleariness from them, looking down at the ravaged visage of your lover. Your mind is practically blank, but you still feel a kick of arousal when Zemo slides his fingers out of you, looking at you as he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. 

 

His eyes are still fixated on you as he licks his fingers clean, already missing the warmth and wetness of your cunt against his mouth. 

“Are you alright, my love?” He coos at you, bringing a hand up to cup your cheek. Your response is to lean forward and catch his mouth with yours, kissing him sloppily, tasting yourself on his mouth. 

 

“I feel amazing.” You pant when you pull away, eyes lidded and face flushed, the picture of debauchery. Pleased by this answer, Zemo rises to his feet, and your eyes fall to the way his pants strain against his cock then flick up to his face. You don’t have to think for even a second before your hand is coming up to rest against the firm line in his trousers, palming it with a light pressure.

 

“My little minx.” He growls, supporting himself with a hand on one of the posts of the bed, the other still cupping your cheek. “You needn’t worry about me, we don’t need to do more.” 

 

“I want to.” You say while stroking his clothed erection. While you were still naive to the world of sex, you knew enough to understand what could happen next. Though your body was still reeling in the afterglow of your orgasm, you were eager for more, to experience him to the fullest extent. 

“Please.” You add, your fingers creeping up to the edge of his pants, where a thick, dark trail of hair disappears below the waistband. 

 

Exhaling through his nose as he looks down at you, he contemplates his choice. There was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to have you; he’s wanted that since he first laid eyes on you. Though it had remained unspoken, both of you knew that you didn’t have much time left together. Bucky and Sam knew where to find him, and his capture was inevitable. The act of fucking you, no, making love to you now would feel all too much like consumating this relationship between you both. And to leave you afterwards would pain him, especially knowing how much your separation would already affect the two of you. 

However, it would pain him even further to know that you might never get the opportunity to be with him so intimately. You’re looking up at him with such devotion and want, the idea of telling you “no” made his heart ache. And so, he folds. 

 

“Of course, darling.” He sighs with a smile, leaning down to kiss you sweetly. “Lay down, head on the pillows.” 

With a smile, you obey, backing up on the bed as he had instructed you. You’re left with a perfect view to watch as he removes his pants, freeing his swollen member. Aside from the glimpses you had gotten of him when you had bathed together, you hadn’t gotten the opportunity to see him fully aroused. Though you didn’t have much to compare him to, his length is impressive, the head of his prick an angry red and weeping at the tip. With no burden of societal shame ingrained in you, you find him unabashedly beautiful, smiling at him as he places both knees on the bed, and advances towards you. 

 

Zemo crawls up your body, placing little kisses upon your hip, your stomach, the tops of your breasts, then finally reaching your mouth. Pressing his forehead to yours, he sighs against your lips. “If at any time you’re uncomfortable, or would like to stop. Do not hesitate to tell me.” He waits to receive your nod of affirmation before placing another kiss to your lips, then leans up to position you to his liking. 

Sitting back on his knees, he draws your legs to sit over his thighs, scooting closer before he brings your right leg up to rest over his shoulder. The position leaves you more open for him as he strokes his length, wetting it with the precum leaking from the tip. He gathers some of your arousal on the head of his cock as well, further lubricating himself before finally aligning himself with your entrance. 

 

You’re waiting with baited breath, biting your lip as you watch him prepare himself. The two of you lock eyes once the head of his prick is pressed against you, and he strokes a hand along your thigh. It’s a silent question: are you ready?

The slightest bit of nerves built up in your wait doesn’t keep you from nodding at him, exhaling with a soft whine as he finally begins to press himself inside of you. 

 

A small sting accompanies the stretch to accommodate him, not enough to actually pain you, but enough to make you whimper in discomfort. 

“Apologies.” He whispers with a kiss pressed to your thigh, trying to soothe you through the adjustment to his size. Having never had anything inside of you aside from his fingers, it takes time for you to relax enough for him to continue the achingly slow process of fitting himself within you. The sting gradually begins to subside, but the pressure is still something you’re acclimating to, feeling so full of him but not full enough at the same time. 

By the time he’s nearly hilted inside of you, you’re panting softly, biting down on your lip as you watch him with lidded eyes. 

 

Zemo stills at that point, both for you to fully adjust to him, and to keep himself from finishing too quickly. He watches your face for any adverse reaction, but occasionally glances down, cussing softly in Sokovian as he does. You’re so perfectly wrapped around him, your walls still swollen from your recent orgasm squeezing him in such a delightful way. 

His mind reels with thoughts of how he’s the only man to ever have the pleasure of being inside of you. Though he would have been honored to take you regardless, a baser, more depraved part of him revels in knowing that he’s the one to take you, to claim you. That he has the opportunity to make you his. 

 

Kissing the leg beside his head and nuzzling the soft skin, he watches you as he carefully presses his hips forward, fully seating himself inside of you. The feeling of slight discomfort has completely subsided, making way for a pleasurable thrill to course through you with the movement. You moan at the feeling, now pushing yourself down to grind onto his length, following the instinctual urges written into you to chase your pleasure. 

He takes this as his cue to start moving, and starts to slowly ease himself out of you, before pushing back in. It makes both of you groan softly, his girth wide enough to stroke every nerve inside of you perfectly. 

 

The pace he sets is passive. Now that he’s sure you’re adjusted to him, he’s back to his usual game of teasing you, his thrusts lazy and unhurried. It gives you the opportunity to feel every single inch of him as he slides out, and then pushes back in, your rekindled arousal slightly seeping out from around him. It feels both amazing and frustrating, the pressure of him pushing inside of you being so wonderfully addictive, but too slow to fully satisfy you. 

Whining, you push yourself down against him, trying to meet him as he presses forward. But this results in a breathy chuckle from Zemo, and he moves back to keep you from receiving what you’re after. 

 

“What’s wrong, bunny?” He coos, now only thrusting into you with the first couple inches of his prick. “Is there something you want?” He smiles deviously, the hand not on the thigh over his shoulder falling to rest upon your hip. 

 

“I want more!” You whine, wiggling your hips in frustration. 

 

“That’s not how we ask for things, little girl.” He tuts, holding your hip tightly in place. “Try again.”

 

“Please give me more, I need it.” You whimper out in his mother tongue, practically on the verge of tears. 

 

Hearing you beg is always a treat, but getting to hear you beg in Sokovian, especially in such a wanton manner makes him groan. He rewards you by hastily pressing his full length inside of you, barely restraining himself from simply taking you like a wild beast. You cry out in pleasure, arching your back off of the bed as he eases into a more steady pace. 

What had initially been a slight thrill grows into full waves of warmth and lust as he drives himself into you now. It has you reaching up to grip the pillows above your head, feeling like you need something to hold onto. 

 

The Baron looks so focused on his task, his hair falling over his forehead, lips slightly parted to accommodate his labored breathing. But those piercing eyes are locked on you, watching you as he rolls his hips. 

“So beautiful, so perfect for me. My little bunny finally taking my cock. Does it feel good, darling?” He growls, voice husky and dripping with sex. When you don’t verbally respond, he snaps his hips into you suddenly, making you gasp. “I asked you a question.” 

 

“Yes!” You cry, a thrill going through you at the demand. “It feels amazing.” You practically whimper, letting out an embarrassing sound as he suddenly moves to adjust your position. He brings both of your legs up, holding them apart at the bend of your knee to drive into you at a new angle, practically bending you in half to thrust even deeper. 

 

“Oh my god…” You trail off into a heated moan in response to the feeling of him sinking even further inside of you. Your eyes practically roll back into your skull as he picks up his pace just the slightest bit. 

 

The new angle results in the slapping of skin to accompany the sounds that the two of you make, it’s such a primal and debauched sound that it makes Zemo’s cock twitch inside of you. He’s getting so close, but he’s not ready. He doesn’t want to finish just yet. 

He leans over you, placing one leg to rest on his shoulder so he can bring his hand down to where your sexes meet, rubbing the pad of his thumb over your clit in tight circles while he drives into you. 

 

You cuss loudly, your body trembling in response to the pressure on your overstimulated clit. Another orgasm approaches swiftly, and he leaves you dangling precariously close to tipping over. It’s too much, and it makes you gasp and whine, your body trying to wiggle away from the feeling while also screaming for release. 

“I-I can’t, I-- please!” You beg, not even sure what you’re begging him for, tears pricking the corners of your eyes. 

 

“I want you to cum for me again, let go.” He orders, leaning forward to kiss along your breasts as he keeps rolling his hips and stroking your clit.

 

As always, you do as he tells you, reaching another peak with a cut off whine. The intensity of your second orgasm makes you tremble beneath him, gasping desperately for air as your cunt squeezes down around his cock, still pumping in and out of you. 

He rides you through this orgasm just as he had the first, letting your legs fall to rest over his hips as he leans over you, arms on either side of your head to keep himself up as he keeps rolling his hips forward.  

 

“Beautiful girl, my treasure. You feel so good, such a good girl.” He babbles above you, watching you come back to yourself. Your lashes are damp with unshed tears, eyes glassy and unfocused as you open your eyes to look up at him. His hair now clings to his forehead as a result of his perspiration, the necklace he wore swinging slightly with his motions. 

You bring your arms up to hold onto his shoulders, digging your nails into the skin in response to the feeling of your overstimulated cunt still fluttering around him. His thrusting has grown faster, slightly more erratic now, and as you’re quickly approaching yet another orgasm, you can tell that Zemo is close to reaching his own. 

 

Though you’re overwhelmed with pleasure to a point bordering on pain, you still roll your hips forward to meet his thrusts, dragging your nails down his back. It makes him moan low in his throat, and he leans down to capture your lips in a messy kiss. Despite its sloppiness, the kiss is heated and passionate, breaking slightly for the two of you to moan and gasp between presses of lips and scraping of teeth. 

When he parts from the kiss, it’s to bury his face into your neck, open-mouthed kisses left there as he groans. He was about to cum, he could feel it coming on. And while he tells himself that he should pull out, a more overwhelming part of him is so taken with the idea of filling you with his seed. Marking you in the most primal way possible. 

 

The latter part of him proves to be stronger than the former. You’re hitting another orgasm so suddenly, and it sends him hurtling into his own release, hilting himself inside of you as his cock twitches, cum painting the inside of you in thick spurts. Zemo moans into your neck, arms sliding beneath you to hold him against his chest as he lazily continues grinding himself inside of you. He mutters praises against your skin between kisses as he holds you, gradually slowing to a complete stop with his cock still seated inside of you.

Chapter Text

The two of you lay there panting, holding onto one another as you catch your breath. You’re both covered in a thin layer of sweat, the moisture cooling on your exposed skin. 

Bringing your hand up, you pet the back of Zemo’s head, gently scratching his scalp with your nails. 

“That was wonderful.” You say, barely above a whisper, prompting Zemo to lift his head and press a sweet kiss to your lips. 

 

“As are you.” He breathes, pressing another kiss to your lips before he’s rolling onto his side, taking you with him. He groans at the feeling of his softening cock sliding out of you, holding you close to him with a satisfied sigh. 

Laying an arm across his side, you rest with your head on his bicep, looking at his slightly disheveled appearance in pure adoration. While you weren’t completely sure what love entailed, you firmly believe that it had to be what you felt for him now. Not just because of a mind blowing sexual experience, but everything that had led up to it. The way he cared for and protected you, gave you safety in a world slated against you. You know that your time together would come to an end soon, but in this moment, you truly felt loved. 

 

“What are you thinking about, zayka?” He asks softly, bringing up a hand to stroke your cheek. There’s so much emotion written across your features, but the way you look at him now, it’s as if he’d hung the moon. 

 

“I think I’m in love with you.” 

 

You say it so quietly, to the point where it’s barely audible. It takes him a moment to process it, however, the words are unmistakable. This brings Zemo pause. 

While he knew that this had always been a possibility, it doesn’t make things any less complicated. He wishes things were more simple, that there was a possibility of the two of you being able to have a life together. How much easier it would be if he weren’t a wanted man, if he could truly make you his Baroness. 

But that wasn’t a reality. Your reality was far less kind, and not nearly as forgiving.

 

That doesn’t stop him from loving you back. 

 

Life could be measurably more simple if he didn’t return your affections. Contrary to what the world may see him as, Baron Helmut Zemo isn’t a man of stone. He’s a man of complicated motives, a tactical genius, a manipulative mastermind, a criminal; but he’s still a man at the end of the day. And you had made him vulnerable in a way that he couldn’t bring himself to regret. When you kissed him in the tunnels while escaping Riga, he saw a different woman than the one he had first met in his dreams. Your confidence has been bolstered, replacing the fear that once paralyzed you. You weren’t just a scared little rabbit anymore, he had seen you begin to stand up for yourself, do things you wanted to do rather than what you were told to do. 

He feels foolish to think that he had fallen for you so quickly, the risk had been calculated down to every possibility. And he fell in spite of himself. 

 

“You know that this will never be easy, Hase.” Zemo mutters, brushing his thumb across your cheekbone, simultaneously feeling like the luckiest man alive and the most downtrodden. “In a matter of days, I will be incarcerated once more.”

 

“I can still see you, even if it’s not in person… we won’t really be apart.” You place your hand over his, turning to press a kiss to his palm. You’d still miss him desperately every waking hour without him, but you would never truly be without one another. 

 

“I’ve never been a man of simplicity.” He says, then closes the space between the two of you to press your lips together. There’s so much fervor behind the kiss, a desperate fury to convey the depth of emotion that he felt for you. When he pulls away, he stays with his brow pressed to yours, sighing out a soft hum. “I’m in love with you as well.” 

 

Tears prick the corner of your eyes, but you let out a laugh, overcome with joy despite the circumstances. The two of you lay that way for a while longer, just holding one another, content to let the rest of the world slip away. The reality that you were both left in a state of stickiness from your recent tryst does make itself more known as the time passes. You take a shower together to resolve this, taking turns washing one another. It’s a very tender engagement, sensual, yet chaste; only a few words passed between you, speaking more in kisses and gentle caresses. 

 

Once you’re both clean, lethargy begins to creep in, making your body feel heavy as Zemo helps you prepare for bed. It’s a routine similar to how he had combed your hair and moisturized your face and body less than a day ago when you were in Riga. Though the lavender-scented lotion he had massaged into your limbs only furthers the sleepiness plaguing you, you still make an effort to return the favor. He patiently guides you through his own nightly routine, and you go the extra mile to try and offer him the same tenderness that he lavished over you.  

Your night comes to a close in the small hours of the morning, the two of you curled up in bed together, drifting off to sleep in each other’s arms. 





It’s not unusual for someone’s dream to stand out amongst an endless sea of rippling doors and windows, it’s how you had met Zemo, after all. But the force that pulls you towards the massive vault-like entryway of this dream is magnetic, and you follow its pied piper call without question, curious to see where you’re led.

The setting is unfamiliar, if you had to take a guess at where you were, you’d hazard it was some sort of storage facility. There’s a familiar, troubling heaviness to the air, and it leaves you wondering what exactly had led you here. 

 

Curiosity spurs you onward, and the further you wander, the more puzzling the dream becomes, different landscapes that don’t match haphazardly meeting the next in wobbling edges. Whoever this dream belonged to was clearly in a state of distress, the anxiety they felt bleeding into the dream, making each step forward feel like wading through mud. 

Upon reaching a cemetery, the skies are turbulent, hazy memories passing overhead like clouds, silent echoes carrying on the howling wind. 

 

To your surprise, you see a head of fiery red hair over the tombstones, Karli Morgenthau sitting upon a grave marker, looking up at the skies. 

You stop in your tracks, contemplating whether you should leave or stay and speak with her. What could you even say? What would she have to say to you? While you knew it would be impossible for her to track you down just by being in her dream, you’re left with the fear that you might accidentally say something she could use against you. Or someone else. 

But there’s something vulnerable about her here. She looks so small compared to the vast miasmic state of her dream, and that’s not something that someone can fabricate in the unconscious mind. Karli Morgenthau isn’t the terrifying supremacist leader of the Flag Smashers here. In her own mind, she’s just a girl steeped in her own anxieties.

 

You walk over to where she’s seated, standing awkwardly for a moment, unsure of what to do or say. You eventually settle on taking a seat beside her, looking up at the skies with her. 

“What are you doing here?” Karli asks, sounding more tired than anything else. 

 

You turn to look at her, and find that she hasn’t bothered to even glance at you, glassy eyes still fixated on the skies.        

“I honestly don’t know.” You respond, starting to wonder if you had made the wrong decision. “But I feel like you could use someone to talk to.” 

 

She does turn to look at you then, staring at you with a puzzled look as though she’s trying to pick apart your motives, before laughing bitterly. 

“Why would I want to talk to you?”

 

Shrugging, not taking it personally in the slightest, you smile at her genuinely. “What could it hurt? I’m not here to try and point fingers or argue with you.” You look back at the sky, seeing a blurry glimpse of John Walker holding the bloodied shield of Captain America overhead, the image dissolving as he brings it down. “It seems to me like you just need someone to listen right now.” 

When she doesn’t respond, you continue. “I think under different circumstances, we could have been friends. You and I have a lot in common.”

 

“You don’t know anything about me.”

 

“I know enough.” It’s not an accusation, but an observation, and you turn to glance at Karli, finding her still gawking at you. “I know what it’s like to be helpless, and to feel like you have no control.” You fully turn to look at her again. “I think people are more complicated than just being good or being bad. And right now, I see someone who’s scared and confused.” 

 

“If you know so much, why are you working with them ?” There’s no question of who she’s referring to.

 

“Whether you believe it or not, I’m not working with anyone.” 

 

“Your friend shot me.”

 

“I don’t think you were really up for talking at the time.”

 

“So that makes it okay?”

 

“I told you I’m not here to argue with you.”

 

Karli shakes her head, smiling sardonically. “I don’t understand you.” Your only response is to tip your head, prompting her to continue. “I know about you, about the serum trials before the Blip, about your abilities. I don’t understand how you could just escape from a life of captivity and not be angry. We should be allies, the world cares so little about you, and you’re content to just hide instead of fighting back. Fighting for what you deserve.” 

 

“You know whatever Nagel told you. You don’t know me.”

 

“I know enough to understand that you have a right to be angry.”   

 

“I am angry.” You confess, but you can’t bring yourself to be anything aside from understanding. “I spent the last six years of my life in a refugee camp, afraid that I could be discovered any day. All of my life, all that I’ve ever known is fear. I can’t sit here and claim to understand the world and its politics. But I know that anger is the result of fear.

 

Nothing about this isn’t complicated, but it’s not as simple as what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t get to decide that, neither of us do. That doesn’t mean that innocent people should have to pay for something out of their control.

 

I’m angry, but I can’t let my anger and fear justify taking something that I’ve never had to begin with. People are afraid, I don’t want to be part of the reason that they are.”

 

“That’s very noble of you. But I can’t stand by and expect things to get better on their own. Change needs to happen, why can’t I be the reason that it does?” 

 

“And let’s say the world does change, then what? People will be looking at you to see what happens next, Karli. And people are still going to be afraid, because they watched you come in and risk countless lives for your movement. I might not know much about politics, but I know that people fearing you isn’t the same as them respecting or trusting you.” 

 

“So, what? What do you think I should do then? Because I can’t just do nothing.” 

 

You hum, considering the question. “I think you have a choice.” You say, standing up from your seat. “I’m not foolish enough to think that I can change your mind, and I’m not going to be the one to try and stop you. I don’t think that you’re fighting for something wrong, but letting anger motivate you is going to result in more chaos. 

 

You want to be heard, and the whole world is watching. Don’t let destruction be your voice.” 

 

“Awfully wise words for someone who says they don’t understand the politics of the world.” Karli sighs, rising to stand beside you. “I still think we should be working together. We could use you, we could help you. You don’t need to live in fear of the world… or yourself.” 

 

“Maybe in another life.” You smile, feeling Karli’s consciousness beginning to seep in. “I’m not afraid anymore, but I still have a lot to learn. Especially about myself.”

 

“I’ll be seeing you.” Karli returns the smile, looking almost amused.

 

“I doubt it.” 

 

And with that, you’re gone.

Chapter Text

 

“Are you really okay with going back to prison?” 

 

The Baron looks at you from his side of the table, over the chessboard sitting between the two of you. You seem genuinely curious as opposed to being upset, contemplating your next move in addition to your query. 

“It is not a matter of whether I’m okay with it or not, darling. It is inevitable.”

 

You frown, the concentration in your brow pulling taut. You’ve been pensive this morning, your visit with Karli having left you more thoughtful of the circumstances that you were in. While you’re aware that Zemo was being pragmatic, you find yourself wishing that there was room left for fantasy. Though you preferred realism, you’re not ready to come to terms with the fact that your recent journeys would be coming to a close, especially taking into account that his imprisonment wasn’t a resolution to all current issues. 

Deciding on your move, you reach to move your pawn diagonally, passing over one of his own and capturing it in the process, your pawn now sitting a square above. 

“Karli is planning something big. She didn’t tell me what, but I know that… with the amount of pain she’s in. Nothing good can come of it.” 

 

Complimenting your move, he considers his own, surveying the board. He had initially been trepidatious upon hearing of your excursions in Karli’s dreams. He trusts you, but he was fully aware of how vulnerable you could be in the face of emotion, worried that the leader of the Flag Smashers would find a way to manipulate you in her favor.      

However, you seemed to have left the dream more resolute, concerned about what her determination meant for the world at large. It was admirable, to see that courage that had flourished within you come to the surface with the intent of finding answers. But Zemo is all too aware that possible further involvement could result in your containment. Though he despised the concept of Super Soldiers, you were an anomaly apart from that, and the world didn’t look kindly upon those with enhanced abilities. At best, you’d be fashioned as a government weapon and kept on a short leash. He wouldn’t allow that to happen. 

 

“It will be dealt with.” He assures, moving his bishop to place your King in check. “There are elements not yet at play, but rest assured, there are plans underway.”

 

“How can you be so sure? How do you know that things will work out if you’re in prison?” 

 

“Because I will be exactly where I need to be.” Zemo says it with an unquestionable conviction, leading you to the conclusion that there was more going on than you’re aware of. 

 

You castle your rook to move your King out of check, prompting a chuffed hum from Zemo. 

“And what about me?”

 

“In due time, my dear.” He smiles, moving his knight to place your King in check once more. “You will be meeting with a contact sometime within the next week, Oeznik will be with you.”

 

You look up from the board, clearly puzzled. “Who?”

 

“A colleague of mine, she’ll provide further instruction.”

 

“Instruction for what?” 

 

“As I said, all in due time. For now, all I ask is that you trust me. Oeznik will not allow any harm to befall you.”

 

You’re still slightly hesitant, but you nod, allowing yourself to shift your focus back to the game. 



The two of you eventually come to a draw, stuck in a cycle of putting one another in check. You’re given a proper tour of the manor afterwards, being introduced to more of the staff as well, doing your best to memorize names and faces as you go. Along the way, the Baron diligently educates you further on his family’s legacy as well as the history of Sokovia. It’s investing, but leaves you saddened at the nation’s untimely demise. You’re not sure why you feel so deeply connected to the country despite not having any ties to it beyond the knowledge that you had been imprisoned in Novi Grad for the first part of your life. Your past prior to then is so murky, but the picturesque paintings of Sokovia resonate with you, leaving you with an indescribable familiarity and a sense of loss. 

 

Zemo is in the process of explaining some of the festivities that would take place in Sokovia, the two of you standing before a portrait of the late Sokovian court. At the center is the royal family, bracketed by ranking nobility. All are dressed in traditional garb, despite the portrait having been the most recent prior to the fall of Novi Grad. 

 

Your eyes are drawn to a couple that stands to the left of the King and Queen, and despite the warmth in their disposition, a deep feeling of sadness overwhelms you. The Baron’s explanation of the observance being celebrated fades into the background the longer you look at the portrait, and when you place a hand to its gilded frame, you find your consciousness being transported somewhere else.





“Today we celebrate not only our country, but our people. Sokovia’s heart will always be her citizens and the pride that they have in their homeland.”

 

Masses of people cheer, the streets lined with the colors of the Sokovian flag, reflecting the true depth of the statement. The celebrations of the country’s festival are in full swing, only furthered by the recently delivered speech of the archduke. The man in question steps down from his podium once the cheering and flashing of cameras has died down. His wife flanks him as they make their descent from the stage, shaking hands and embracing members of the gentry along the way.

The silence of his wife is palpable, prompting the archduke to turn to where she stands beside him once they’re cleared of further engagements. 

 

“What’s troubling you?”

 

“She would have been 19 by now.” 

 

There’s no question of who his wife refers to, their daughter having been taken from them nearly 14 years ago. As far as the public knew, she had been lost to a deadly case of the flu, but the memory of her capture was still fresh in the memory of her parents. 

 

Their daughter had an amazing and unexplainable gift. Something extraordinary, yet frightening in its implications. Though the two never held any fear of her, they feared for her, of what could happen to her should others find out. While they had done their best to keep her abilities a secret, there was nothing they could have done to prevent their daughter from visiting the dreams of others in her innocence. 

 

A frightened nanny claiming that their child could see into her mind would sound insane to most, but the severity of the situation led the royal couple to try and pay her for her silence on the matter. 

 

Unfortunately, this prooved to be enough ammunition for the organization that came to visit the duchy upon the nanny’s insistence. Resulting in the archduke being forced to relinquish their daughter into the organization’s custody, or be publicly exposed for their attempt to pay off the staff in question. 

This wasn’t the only looming threat, and it realistically wasn’t a choice. Should the exchange reach the light of day, there’s a real possibility of imprisonment, which would inevitably lead to their daughter falling into their hands regardless. 

 

It was a dark day for them, seeing their daughter being taken away by the mysterious group with nary a hint at what would happen to her. 

 

It was worse than the public belief of her passing, not knowing what had become of her.

 

“She may still be out there.”

 

“She should be here with us, not wherever they’ve taken her.”

 

“I know.”

 

A silence spans between the couple, an unspoken thought of their young daughter on their minds. Before them stretches the gardens decorated for the observance of the Sokovian festival, and memorialized at its front is a statue of their daughter; flowers, candles, and pictures of her all left in commemoration of the child taken from them.



                          



You come back to yourself and recoil your hand from the frame, finding that Zemo’s hand now rests upon your shoulder. You feel like you can’t breathe despite the deep breaths expanding in your chest, tears wetting your eyes. 

 

This has never happened before, seeing memories so vividly while you’re awake. You could often feel the emotions surrounding things and people, sometimes even get flashes of their thoughts, but it’s never been like this. 

 

You’re not sure what’s more disorienting; the fact that you had seen those memories to begin with, or the fact that a visage of your younger self was memorialized in place of the archduke’s daughter. It was unmistakable, and memories like this, memories that weren’t your own, couldn’t be tainted by your subconscious. You’re shaking when you look at Zemo, seeing that he’s speaking to you without being able to immediately register the words. 

 

The Baron leads you to his study, guiding you to take a seat before retrieving a glass of water for you. 

 

“Are you alright? What happened?” He asks softly as you take a drink from the glass, nearly dropping it before he quickly catches it in your hands, setting it to the side. 

 

“I saw something.” You’re finally able to say, wiping the unshed tears from your eyes. “A memory of the archduke and his wife.” 

 

“Boris and Navena Milosevic.” Zemo supplies, looking slightly perplexed. “What did you see?”

 

“A festival of some sort but… They lost a daughter, right?” 

 

“Yes... she passed away when she was very young.” He supplements further, a note of further perplexity beginning to bleed into his tone. 

 

“Do you have any pictures of her?” You need to see it, to have the confirmation in front of you. You need proof that it wasn’t something your mind had conjured up somehow. 

 

Still looking a bit thrown, he contemplates the question for a moment, then moves to one of the many shelves in his study. There are a few titles that he passes over, occasionally flipping through the contents of one of the books, before he appears to find what he’s looking for. 

Zemo looks from the pages of the book, to you, before bringing the book over to hold it before you. 

You’re almost afraid to touch it, nervous of being thrown into another memory, or what you might see, but after steeling yourself, you take the book from his hands and set it in your lap. 

 

Pictured is the memorial dedicated to the young marquess, with a proverb inscribed in Sokovian reading: “Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.” There’s a passage detailing the circumstances of her untimely death, as well as the commemoration of her memorial. 

 

Most damning of all, one of the last photos of her with the archduke and his wife. You swallow thickly as you trace the picture with shaky fingers, your tears resurfacing as you hear the echoes of your parents' voices. 

“That’s me.” You sniffle, looking up from the book with watery eyes. “I was taken away from them, that was me.” 

 

Zemo places his hand over yours, at a loss on how to respond. 

 

He wants to believe you, the conviction in your statement is so strong that he has a hard time considering the possibility of it being untrue. He thinks back to the memories that you had shown him of yourself in captivity. While that version of yourself was clearly in distress as opposed to the little girl smiling in the picture with her parents, the likeness is… almost uncanny. But it leaves so many questions: what circumstances led to this? How did the truth of your existence become so muddled? 

 

He still remembers the way that your supposed death had hung over the archduke and his wife, the sadness that plagued them at the loss of their daughter. What were the odds of you sitting here with him now? 

 

“You’re positive?” 

 

“I don’t think I could have made this up.” 

 

Truthfully, he didn’t think that you could have either. Occam’s Razor is a difficult principle to apply, yet there was no less convoluted explanation. Regardless of his doubts, however small, the circumstantial information added up. This wouldn’t be an easy path to go down, but it was one worthy of pursuit. 

 

“Then I suppose you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.” 

 

You look up from the book spread out in your lap, finding Zemo staring at you in wonder. 

“What do you mean?”

 

“We’re both the last of Sokovia’s royalty, you belong amongst our people. This… this changes things.”  Zemo rises to stand from where he had been kneeling before you, heading towards his desk to look through the drawers there. 

 

You’re still quite stunned by your revelation, as well as how it had made itself known. There had always been an implication of your abilities possibly extending beyond what you already knew, you just hadn’t expected something to surface so suddenly. However, you’re not sure there could ever really be a convenient time for something like this to happen. 

 

Your gaze wanders back down to the book in your lap, trying to reconcile the faces of your parents with your own, fuzzy memories. It feels like a locked closet at the back of your mind has finally begun to open itself, the hinges threatening to separate themselves from the door frame in an effort to reveal contents that had been buried away. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once, to learn more about yourself but know that there’s still so much more left to discover. 

 

Zemo’s return from his desk draws your attention once more, and you see him with several files in hand, flipping through a few of them with an intense amount of concentration on his face. 

 

“There were not many documents spared after the Fall, however--” He pauses, taking a seat beside you, and lifting up a document. “I do have copies of your parent’s last will and testament, as well as information on their estate and it is… interesting, to say the least.” Seeing as you don’t respond beyond looking at the document held up, he continues. “There are some discrepancies, particularly in regards to the fact that despite presumably being assumed deceased, you haven’t been removed as a beneficiary. However, there is still a record of your supposed death.” 

 

“I… don’t follow. What does that mean?” Confused barely scratches the surface of your lack of understanding. The legality of your death had always just been assumed, especially if in the eyes of the Sokovian government, your death was publicized. How could you still be a beneficiary? 

 

“This means we’re going to have to do some digging. Or, more accurately, I’m going to have to call in a few favors from our contact.” With a sigh, he replaces the documents within the folder, and sets them aside in favor of putting an arm around you, drawing you closer. “That can wait. Right now, all I’m concerned with is how you are feeling.” 

 

“I’m not sure.” You answer honestly, letting the book you had been holding be set aside so you could be fully pulled into Zemo’s lap. “I don’t know what to think, I mean.” You exhale shakily, chest still heavy with emotion. “I never really… expected to see my parents again. I accepted that a long time ago. But knowing that they’re actually gone, and that they died missing me…” 

 

“That is quite the burden, I know.” He mutters against your shoulder, curling his hand over yours. “Losing a loved one is always painful, I can’t begin to imagine how you must feel.” 

 

You don’t know what else to say, so you just let him hold you for the time being. Part of you is relieved, in a way. You finally know more about where you came from, so you could actually begin piecing together who you are. Or at least, you have a good place to start. But there’s still a lingering question at the back of your mind: how different would things have been if you had never been taken away? 

It’s hard to even fathom living any differently. You know your life would have been easier, at least in some ways. You wouldn’t have ever needed to worry about struggling, about where you’d spend the night, or what you’d eat. You never would have been subjected to a life spent as a test subject, constantly prodded and watched. You never would have become a Super Soldier.

 

Would you have known Zemo? You assume you probably would have, but… where would that put you now? If you had still survived Novi Grad, would you still be here with him? Like this? 

You turn your head to bury your face in his neck, inhaling the cologne there. You don’t want to consider the possibility of not having him the same way. It makes your gut twist and your heart ache. You intertwine your fingers with his, giving his hand a squeeze. You’re happy that you’re here with him now.

 

“You would be a princess, you know.” He hums into your hair, before tucking your head beneath his chin. “You’d be heir to the throne.” He observes your hand in his, running his thumb along your fingers. “It’s only appropriate that you stay here, your majesty .” 

 

You blush, smiling against his skin. “So I can’t be a baroness?” 

 

“You could be both, Princess Hase of Sokovia, Baroness of Novi Grad.” He purrs into your ear, smiling with you. “How does that sound?”

 

“Like a mouthful.” You giggle, feeling his laugh vibrating through his chest. An amiable silence stretches between the two of you, just sitting there and holding one another, the last of the Sokovian Royalty. It was a lot to unpack, and left even more to consider and discover. What would the remaining citizens of Sokovia think of you? They had already accepted you, to an extent, but would they view you differently now? Would they expect something of you? 

You wish that you knew more, that you could give them answers. But the truth of the matter is, there’s still so much that you don’t know. 



It’s decided that for the time being, the only other person to know of your status aside from your mysterious contact would be Oeznik. 

 

Though he was ready to accept the Baron at his word, you felt the need to prove yourself to him. The emotion on his face was overwhelming when you showed him glimpses into your past in captivity, the same little girl that Sokovia believed to be dead. He fully embraced you and wept, which in turn led to some tears of your own being shed. To feel both his emotions combined with your own was staggering, but there was a sense of joy there as well. 

 

You felt found, seen. Belonging somewhere was strange to accept, but seeing the resolve on Zemo and Oeznik’s faces began to make reality sink in. 

 

You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Chapter Text

“This is the memorial?” 

 

“Yes. Constructed from the rubble left of Novi Grad.”

 

It doesn’t feel like enough. There’s a feeling of anger, however small, that buds within you at the sight of the memorial; standing alone in a barren clearing of stone where a thriving metropolis had been leveled. Small as Sokovia may have been, to know that its destruction was the direct result of pride gave you a newfound understanding of Zemo and his motivations. You couldn’t understand the severity of his pain, but knowing that you would never have the chance, having lost so much without your knowledge, made the loss cut even deeper. 

You look from the Baron to the memorial, and he offers you a nod, prompting you to take a hesitant step closer. 

 

Whispers of panic and terror already whistle on the wind as you approach. You’re nervous. You don’t know if you could will your newfound powers to cooperate, but you find your hand reaching towards the memorial anyway. It’s like something is beckoning you forward, pained memories longing to be heard and experienced. When you enter a person’s mind, it’s like you can feel a door being opened for you. The memorial feels similar, but more akin to a doorway stripped of its hinges, laying in wait for you to see what lies beyond the threshold.

You press a bare hand to the cool stone, and close your eyes, jolting as you’re suddenly flooded with memories. 

 

There’s no order. No definite beginning or end to the chaos that flashes through your mind. You see flashes of what once was, the progression of a country in development, people walking in the streets, children playing, hundreds of festivals passing by in only a second.

Then you see a church of stone, dilapidated in the center of a city that has evolved around it.

“Did you know this church is in the exact center of the city? The elders decreed it so that everyone could be equally close to God.”

 

The voice feels wrong, sloped with mechanical whirs and hums. It leaves a chill that’s unshakable as the memories continue to roll before you. You see the briefest images of yourself, both before and during your captivity, intermingled with the old walls of an ancient castle that had been taken over by what was once HYDRA. 

 

Then you see the Avengers, some of which you knew, others that were unfamiliar. Fighting and searching for something, and it bleeds into the hostile takeover of Novi Grad. The fear is devastating, a child separated from his mother, families crying and screaming as they try to usher their own children and other citizens away from the fissures that fracture the city from the earth. It’s so much, it’s too much, lives lost to an automaton who sought to see the world destroyed to rebuild anew. 

 

Then Novi Grad is vaporized in the sky, rubble falling to the earth, decimating the land around it.

 

You whip your hand away like the stone had burned it, coming back to your body with a gasp. 

 

“What did you see?”

 

“Everything.” The wind feels like it has been robbed from you, leaving you shaking as you try and catch your breath. Zemo brings a hand up to your shoulder, squeezing it to offer you support as you slowly come back to yourself. Placing your hand over his, you stare at the monument with a newfound sense of pain, frowning heavily. “I wish things… could have been different.”

 

There’s an uneasy silence, before Zemo nods, giving a considerate hum of understanding. 

“As do I, however,” He removes his hand, and you turn to look at him, watching him unclasp the necklace he wears. “Sokovia will live on, in us.” He moves to stand behind you, moving your hair out of the way to put his necklace on you. “And in our people.” 

 

You touch the crest of the necklace where it sits on your chest, feeling the immeasurable weight that comes with it. You turn to face Zemo, and an insurmountable crushing realization that this may be your last time seeing him in person hits you. You observe him now, the man that you love, and can’t keep yourself from tearing up. 

 

“Do not cry on my account, my dear.” He says, bringing a hand up to cup your face. “We will never truly be apart.” 

 

“Will I ever get to see you again?” You both know what you meant, not in your dreams, but in person, face to face. 

 

“One day, yes. Hopefully.” He leans in, placing a kiss to your forehead, and then to your lips. It’s a long kiss, yet not long enough at the same time. The world doesn’t stop to wait for you anymore, your time with Zemo is coming to a close. 

He rests his head against yours, not willing to part from you just yet.   

“I will miss you with every breath I take, until I see you again.” 

 

You allow yourself to shed a few tears then, all of which are brushed away by this thumbs as he cups your face. 

“I love you.”

 

“I know.” He sighs against your lips, placing another, softer kiss there. “And I love you as well.” 

 

Baron Helmut Zemo takes a step back, and you know that it’s time for you to take your leave before Bucky and the Dora Milaje arrive. There are no words that could convey the depth of emotion that you feel when you look at him, and take your own step back, not prepared to leave quite yet. You’ll miss him, even if you’ll see him in your dreams. You’ll miss his presence, his comfort, his touch. 

 

Walking away is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and when you meet Oeznik where he stands by the car waiting for you, you wordlessly embrace him. 

 

“Do not fret, your majesty.” The older man says, a comforting hand on your back. “Our Baron is a resourceful man, he will be alright.” 

 

You pull away, and nod, smiling through the tears still stinging your eyes. “Thank you, Oeznik.” 

 

“Of course, your majesty. Besides, there’s work to be done.” He opens the passenger side door for you. “Shall we?”



According to Oeznik, you’re supposed to be leaving for Washington D.C. in a few days' time. You’ve never been to America before, but you’re informed that all of the arrangements had been made for you by Zemo ahead of time. However, you have something you need to do first. 

 

With a bouquet of flowers in your arms, you take a deep breath, before approaching the row of headstones marked off on a map for you. You read the names on each one, silently paying condolences to the graves that look like they haven’t been visited in a while, before you find the headstone you’re looking for. 

 

“I half expected you to still be alive.” You say aloud, smiling at the headstone that marks Heinrich’s grave. “You’re so stubborn, I always thought you’d just… live forever.” You swallow thickly, ignoring the tightness in your throat as you lean down to set the flowers before his grave. “I don’t really know… um, grave etiquette. But I figured flowers were a safe bet. Oh!” You reach into your pocket, pulling out a small bottle of liquor. “I also got this, I know you probably weren’t allowed to have any when you were… you know.” 

You set the bottle down alongside the flowers, awkwardly swinging your arms as you stand back up. “I… there’s so much I want to tell you. So I guess I’ll just. Give you the short version.” You look around the cemetery, finding it empty. It’s just you here. 

 

“Turns out I’m a princess, I guess. I mean, to a country that doesn’t even exist anymore.” You laugh to yourself, starting to feel self conscious. “I know, it was weird to me too. But it… it’s nice to finally know where I’m from. 

 

I wish… I wish I could have told you everything… when you were still here.” You finally break and let out a choked sob, muffling it with a hand over your mouth. 

 

Sitting down before the headstone, you allow yourself to cry, thinking of your time with Heinrich. Your first friend. The only family you had known after escaping captivity. 

 

“I’m sorry, I know you probably don’t want to see me cry. I just… I just miss you.” It’s like you can hear him making fun of you for being such an emotional sap. It makes you laugh through your tears, sniffling as you wipe them away. “I’m going to be okay, and I think… I’m finally going to make a life for myself. A really good one.” Smiling, you set a hand on Heinrich’s grave, remembering all the times that you’ve laughed together. “Goodbye, old friend.” 

 

Picking yourself up from the plot, you dust yourself off, collecting yourself before you head back to meet Oeznik where he’s waiting for you. 

 

“I took down the plot number so we could have flowers sent regularly.” Oeznik informs you, smiling and placing a hand on your shoulder. “And I’ve had groceries sent to the foodbank, at your request.”

 

“I can’t thank you enough, Oeznik.” You smile warmly at the man, who offers you a squeeze to your shoulder. 

 

“Is there anything else you’d like to do?” 

 

“No, I think I’m ready.” 



Zemo’s absence feels the heaviest when you reach your flight, boarding the jet without him for the first time. You take his usual seat to avoid having to look at it devoid of your lover, and request that Oeznik sit with you on your flight. 

 

You used to be so accustomed to loneliness, having adapted to it after years of isolation. Even after you had befriended Heinrich, your solitude had been a security blanket. But ever since Zemo entered your life, you hardly spent a moment alone. He became such an integral part of your every day so quickly. It makes that loneliness difficult to return to now. 

 

You miss him. 

 

While you try your best to conserve your energy, you occasionally allow yourself to reach out to him when you miss him the most, tugging on the mental connection that links the two of you to remind you that he’s still there. It’s not the same as his embrace, but it’s enough. 

 

You visit him in your sleep, of course. But your time zones were so drastically different when you were in Europe and he was… wherever it was that they had taken him. You never seemed to get enough time with him. It had only been a few days, but those days dragged without him there with you in your waking hours. 

Part of you felt foolish to admit, but you were excited to be in the same time zone as him again. Even if you’re meant to be here on business, you allowed yourself the quiet excitement of knowing you’d get more time with him when you slept. 



You arrive at your scheduled meeting place early, as Oeznik had suggested. It’s not too far off from D.C.’s main hub, a small cafe decorated similarly to some sort of car garage. It’s overwhelmingly American, and you have trouble deciding on what to order before you settle for just a doppio. Deciding it would be best to take a seat outside, you find a table out on the wharf and make yourself comfortable. 

Though you’re initially cautious at trying the espresso, you take a small sip to test it, making a face as you do. 

 

“Is the coffee here always this bitter?” You ask Oeznik, sticking to Sokovian to avoid the possibility of offending anyone who may hear you. However, Oeznik just laughs softly, nodding as he sips on his own beverage. 

 

“Don’t worry, your majesty, I brought some along for our trip.” 

 

“Thank you.” You smile gratefully, before forcing yourself to take another sip. 

 

The clicking of heels on the polished wood of the pier catches your attention, and you turn your gaze to see the presence of a woman dressed in purple from head to toe. There’s something about her that you can’t place, despite the smile that she wears, you can tell that she’s a woman of little patience. 

 

“You must be Hase. Oh, my apologies, your majesty.” She does a mock curtsy, before claiming a seat across from you, brushing it off before sitting down. “Oeznik, I believe we spoke on the phone?” 

 

“Yes, ma’am.” 

 

“Good. Now, who am I?” She removes her sunglasses with a flourish, clipping them to the front of her blouse. “Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Or Val. Usually I don’t let people call me that, but I like you.” 

 

“A pleasure to meet you.” You’d be lying if you said you weren’t nervous. There’s a sharpness to her, and you’re left with the feeling that you don’t want to be on her bad side. 

 

“I know how awkward it must be to be sitting here like a big girl, so let’s cut to the chase.” It’s hard to tell if she’s being insulting or considerate, but there’s no time to contemplate it, as she’s pulling a file from her bag. 

“This isn’t much, but it’s a good place to start. I was able to get my hands on your birth certificate and all that business, but there’s still the matter of those pesky files that HYDRA had a hold of. Problem being, HYDRA hasn’t existed for a while now. So, if those files aren’t with S.H.I.E.L.D, my bad, SWORD-- spoiler alert, they aren’t --they’re probably over in Dresden.

 

But. There’s another problem. There’s security all over the place.” She pulls her phone out, flipping through until she finds what she had been looking for, showing you an image of a stationed guard outside of a large office-type building. “After the Blip, this is where those bastards resurfaced. They were cleared out not too long ago now, however, SWORD hasn’t moved in yet, they’re still waiting on approval from the German government. We need to get you in so you can get those files out.”

 

You look over the picture for a moment, absorbing the information, before the realization of what she was implying hits you. 

“You want me to go in and get them?” 

 

“I can’t be doing all the leg work here, princess. I’ve done my part of the relay, but the baton is in your hands now.” She snorts, retrieving her phone and replacing it in her bag. “I’m not going to leave you totally on your own, I can actually get you in! You’re welcome, by the way.” She pulls out a small USB drive, holding it up. “All you need to do is plug this into one of the computers and let it do its thing.” 

 

“That’s it?”

 

“That’s it! Isn’t technology amazing?” 

 

You’re still hesitant. She makes it sound simple enough, given there were undoubtedly more details to flesh out. But there’s one question that still nags at you. 

“But if they aren’t HYDRA, who are they?”

 

“Clever girl. I can see why Zemo took such a shine to you.” She gestures with the USB drive as she talks. “That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Well, here’s the thing. As far as SWORD and the CIA knew, they were just another government research facility. But do you know the mythology behind the name HYDRA?” She doesn’t wait for your answer. “When one head is cut off, two more take its place. They might not have the same snazzy uniforms, but walks like a duck, talks like a duck. It’s a fucking duck.”

 

“So… it is HYDRA?”

 

“Gold star! Yes. Now, any more questions? Or…” She tips her head in question, holding the drive back out to you.

 

You reach to take it from her, only for her to hold it just out of your reach. “But! Before I just hand this over, we still have some business to discuss in regards to our friend Karli.” Her smile is one of amusement, though it just elicits a sigh from you. 

 

“Right. So, you have an idea of where she’s headed?” You ask, leaning back in your seat. 

 

“Not just an idea, I know where. She’s going to New York City to disrupt the GRC Patch Act, and according to my sources, she’s already there.” 

 

“And you want me to try and stop them? By myself?”

 

“You and I both know there are already a few hands in the pot here, right? I just want you to go as… call it an insurance policy.” 

 

“I don’t follow.”

 

“I don’t need you to go in and play hero, we already have enough of those, don’t you think?” She wrinkles her nose a little bit with her smile. “I just need you to make sure that we don’t have any loose ends. People are too concerned with justice here, that if those Flag Smashers are apprehended, they’re going to look like martyrs.”

 

You’re silent for a moment, processing her implications with a click of your tongue. “And you think that killing them won’t make them look like martyrs?” 

 

“Not if it’s… let’s say a happy accident.” 

 

You look to Oeznik for the first time since Val had joined the two of you, trying to gauge his feelings on the matter. You weren’t entirely sure how you felt about being involved to this extent; there was no telling what exactly Karli had planned, but Val seemed to have all the cards in her hand. It was like she knew how everything would play out from start to finish. 

 

“Listen, we both want the same thing here. We don’t want to see any more Super Soldiers running around and making things more precarious than they already are, right? Only a few people know about your involvement here, and that makes you the perfect person to help with this.” 

 

Oeznik offers you a nod, prompting you to turn back to Val. “Okay.”

 

“Perfect! I’m glad we had this little chat.” She sets the USB drive on top of the folder she had brought with her, and slides it over to you. “I’ll be in touch.” She rises from her seat, sliding her sunglasses back onto her face. 

 

“But how will I get into the facility? You said you could get me in.”

 

“I did! I also said I’ll be in touch.” Val smiles widely, pushing the seat back in before walking away. “See you around, princess!” She calls over her shoulder, leaving you stunned. 

 

“Are Americans always so abrupt?” You turn to ask Oeznik once she’s out of earshot, looking over the files she had left with you.

 

“I’m not sure, but it’s why I usually do my best to avoid them.” The two of you share a look, and you let out a little laugh, to which Oeznik smiles in return. “We’ll leave for New York tomorrow morning, would you like to take a look around while we’re here?”

 

You tilt your head, observing Oeznik curiously. “Is there something we should be looking for?”

 

“No, but I believe you’re overdue to have some fun.”

 

Fun turns out to be visiting the Smithsonian Museums of D.C. Most of the topics you had only general knowledge of, but the experience of getting to learn and physically walk through and see everything made it all the more easy to absorb. While it’s not the traditional definition of “fun”, it’s exactly the kind of break from life that you needed.  

 

Oeznik takes you to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History last, which turns out to be your favorite out of all of them. You take your time wandering through the halls and exhibits with childlike wonder, participating in any interactive portions of the tour, included but not limited to getting to hold a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Though its many legs initially frighten you, there’s an unbridled joy once the insect crawls into your hand. You then make it your mission to hold every bug and small animal that you can on your visit, showing each of them to Oeznik with a thrill as you do. You’ve never really gotten to interact with many animals, spare for the occasional stray when you were living in Germany. 

Though Oeznik is clearly not as thrilled about the beasts as you are, he still smiles fondly when you present each one to him.    

 

When you’ve completed your walk through the final museum, night has taken over the skies. Seeing the way the city and its many monuments light up in the evening is the perfect close to your day. 

Being that your safehouse isn’t terribly far, you decide to walk in lieu of driving to fully enjoy the sights along your way. 

 

“Thank you for this, Oeznik. Today was… really nice.” 

 

“Of course, your majesty. I’m happy to see you enjoy yourself.” He walks alongside you, observing the cherry trees that have just started blooming. “There’s so much beauty in the world that you have yet to see. I would be honored to provide you the opportunity to see more of it, when possible.” 

 

“Oeznik…” You start, coming to a stop, and turning to face him. “Did you know my parents?” Though it’s a question that may seem unprompted, it’s something you’ve been pondering since the discovery of your lineage. Zemo had told you that Oeznik had worked for the Barony since the Baron himself was a child, and while you knew that it didn’t necessarily mean he’d know all of Sokovia’s aristocracy and royalty, you still had to ask. 

 

“I did.” He confirms, smiling sardonically. “Your father was a good man, with a lot of love for his country, as well as its people. He dedicated his life to relief for the Sokovian people, and the doors of your family’s estate were always open to those who needed it.” There’s so much emotion on Oeznik’s face as he speaks, but the smile remains ever present. “Your mother was a very fierce and ambitious woman, she had taken on the task of trying to preserve our culture, and restore monuments and historical buildings. I believe our Baron looked up to her quite a bit, as well. When you…” Oeznik is brought up short now, pausing to let out a long sigh. “When you were taken from us, the entire country mourned their loss with them. However, your parents were a paragon of fortitude. They were both lovely people. I only wish you could have known them.” 

 

Feeling the emotion rolling off of Oeznik, you place a hand on his arm to comfort him, before you fully embrace him, overwhelmed with both his kindness, as well as what he’s shared with you. 

“Thank you, for everything.” 





There’s a serene air about Zemo’s dream tonight. The setting is unfamiliar, but picturesque; a seaside villa somewhere overlooking an impossibly blue ocean with a seemingly never ending sunset. It’s beautiful and vivid, like something out of a painting. You can almost feel the ocean breeze kissing your skin.  

You find Zemo out on the terrace, leaning against the railing, waiting for you. 

 

“It’s a shame that I didn’t have the time to take you here.” He says as you join him, turning to look at you. “I’ll have to amend that one day.” Taking your hand in his, he presses a kiss to the back of it. “How are you, my love?” 

 

Lacing your fingers with his, you move to place his arm around you, huddling against his chest. 

“I miss you.” You sigh, wishing that you could inhale the scent of his familiar musk. “But I’m well, Oeznik and I visited the museums in Washington D.C., it was nice.” 

 

“And our contact?” He asks, pressing a kiss to the top of your head as he embraces you. 

 

“She’s a character.” You respond after a moment of trying to find the words. 

 

“To put it delicately.” He huffs out a laugh into your hair. “Did she provide the information that you needed?” 

 

“Yes, Oeznik and I are traveling to New York tomorrow to proceed with the plan. I recommend keeping an eye on the news.” 

 

“Of course. And what of the documentation in regards to you?” 

 

“That’s another story, but it looks like we’ll be heading back to Germany very soon.” You sigh, leaning back to look up at Zemo, who dips down to press a soft kiss to your lips. 

 

“Well, we have time.” He hums, running a hand through your hair as he looks you over, smiling that signature smirk of his.

“Would you join me for a game of chess?”