Author's Note: Inspired wholly by lithiumlaughter's "Too Low To Dig." (available on her LiveJournal) She put a buzz in my muse with this one.


As long as she had known him, he'd been vicious and fearless. Perfect.

The little boy with hair of fire red ran hard from the fire burning down his home and family but with a collectedness that was rare for his age where other children fled in panic. Then he saw her and the metal arm gleaming silver, the lifted gun in her flesh hand, and careened to a halt.

The Winter Soldier had collected many such children during the purges. She saw flickering in his eyes the knowledge that he faced the angel of war and death, but she saw no fear.

It made her lower her gun and smile. It made her hold out her silver hand and say to him, "Come," with a warmth that belonged to saving grace, not the invitation into the sea of blood and red.

The boy was fire. He saw her for exactly what she was and took her hand.

Between missions, they froze her before letting her out and strapping her to the tables, letting wires and numbers rewrite her to perfection. She was given a reprieve however for the little spiders, one in particular, the best. Atrax.

"Train him," they said. They didn't say, "Make him ours. Make him like you. Teach him the ways of blood." They didn't say it because they didn't have to.

He was older now, his eyes no less wise to her when she smiled at him that same warm smile and beckoned with metal fingers. "Come."

He came like a fire, like the angel of war and death; he'd destroyed his previous handlers and both of them knew he would try to destroy her because that was Red Room; it was what they taught their own. He couldn't destroy her. He couldn't even make her bleed.

"Teach him," they said. They didn't say, "Show him no mercy. Show him the knives until he becomes the knives." They didn't say it because they didn't have to.

Between the thaws, she thought she dreamed of winter and crushing snow, of blood and fire and wires crossed and uncrossing. Sometimes she thought she dreamed of something else, but she never knew quite what.

The Winter Soldier had collected many children during the purges, but she hadn't brought Atrax along to collect. They were there to purge and she took the child to show him as she had always done and looked without mercy into frightened eyes (they were always frightened, except for him) and—

The world cracked and trembled. Wires crossed and uncrossed and she trembled but didn't shatter because she was death and war and memory tilted into a little girl's eyes: "Stella?" She shook herself. She shook herself but couldn't break free of the buzzing as something inside of her cracked where it should have held, and she couldn't pull the trigger. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't pull it, she couldn't.

Atrax had seen her from the first for what she was and he put his hands to her face and demanded in his harsh Russian accent, "Bee."

She reeled as he gave her an anchor when she desperately needed to fall into the sea of red. She stared into his unfeeling brown eyes and realized she was dead if she couldn't kill. The Red Room did not keep mistakes.

Atrax didn't shoot her. He shot the girl.

They cleaned up together, wordlessly, and he held out his hand. "Come." Though it was death to obey, the Winter Soldier came. Her cracks had not broken her programming yet.

He had always been vicious and fearless. Perfect.

She studied the report in her room once more, the proof he had covered up her failure and the damage that had caused it. The Winter Soldier looked up from the paper and into the mirror. The buzz in the back of her mind was loud, so loud. Wires crossed and uncrossed and she stared at the metal fingers of her hand.

"Bee," the Winter Soldier whispered and it wasn't just a word anymore. It was memory that could never be silenced again. "My name is Bee."