The next day Winter awoke to see Nobody sitting on her mattress staring at the dent he had left behind. She hadn't slept. He could see the dark spots under her eyes.
He had to remind himself once again that this was no longer Helena. That he couldn't call out her name. The woman had emboldened him further with their first interactions. Now he had to watch the her wilting, the fire within blown out.
"Good morning," she said.
Winter remained silent to which she smiled, turning to face him. She had caught him staring.
"You didn't sleep," he said.
"I don't sleep," she said. "Kinda painful if I'm honest. I feel better when they take this collar off though. What do you do around here?"
Winter decided to file that statement away for later. He stared at the woman. What did he do around here?
"Do you train too?" She asked.
He gave a small nod. He spent hours in the training room. Winter didn't enjoy walking among the other soldiers. They gave him looks that left his stomach churning. The soldiers knew what he was capable of and he frightened them. The exception being Rumlow.
He couldn't always remember the things he had done. The chair took so much from him. He could recall screams, but he wasn't sure if they were his own or his victims. He assumed both.
"Sometimes…sometimes I have these memories. They don't quite feel like my own. There's a man. He has bright blue eyes and blonde hair. He's always smiling, but he seems so sad," she said.
Winter remembered the man who always visited her. The blonde who had earned her kindness. He had earned her laughter. Winter stared down at his metal hand, clenching the fingers into a fist.
"Do you like being here?" She asked.
He watched her lean closer, eyes holding a slight fear. The sight made him ache. He didn't want her to be afraid. He wanted her to feel safe around him. That would be impossible. He was a murderer.
Before Winter could find the words, to tell her that he despised their situation, that he wanted to be free more than anything in this world, the door to their room opened.
Rumlow peered in with grin. Winter rose from his cot with Nobody. His jaw tightened, her name was Nobody now. He pushed the young woman behind him, blocking her from the soldier's view.
"Playing guard dog?"
His face remained stoic he would give them nothing. Rumlow moved into their room, chest puffed out.
"We need her for training," Rumlow said. "Move."
Winter refused. He didn't like the look in Rumlow's eye. He didn't like Rumlow period.
"Want to lose her again?"
Winter tensed. He felt a small hand on his bicep. He glanced down to see her offering a pity smile.
"I'll go, no need for this," she said.
Winter gave a sharp nod. He wouldn't argue further. He stepped out of her way and watched her leave. Her small form creeping behind the soldier.
Nobody was sitting with Winter, listening to stories about the outside world. His words made her wonder if she had a life out there before this. Command had said she was being hunted by others so she must have lived a life before this. What had happened to her?
"Winter?" She asked.
The man cut his train of thought off. She was staring at him like a helpless child.
"Did you know me before this?" She asked.
"Yes," he said.
"What was I like?"
He tensed. Nobody gripped onto his arm.
"Please?" She asked.
Winter sighed. She sensed he didn't want to rehash her history. That her past was painful.
"A tad combative," he said. "Loving and a little too kind for your own good. That led you to a man who took advantage of your kindness. He disappeared on you. He left you to suffer and his enemies attacked because they knew about your relationship with him."
Since Nobody's return to their room, Winter had done everything to protect her and keep her away from the soldiers. They didn't leave the room unless training was required.
She looked at him like he hung the moon. They learned that the collar returned her disease. The damage to her body remained and the collars removal provided a momentary reprieve but her abilities did not permanently heal her. The endless damage to her brain from the chair and the constant use of the collar took their toll.
Winter could not bring himself to ask Command to stop placing the collar on her. He knew the response. Command feared Nobody. The things she was capable of was beyond them all.
He would never admit to her that he felt the same fear. A fear mixed with a pride that he couldn't explain.
He learned that her favorite thing to do was draw. He had caught her etching out a landscape with her nails on a wooden table. They didn't speak much to one another, but he ensured she had what she needed.
With this prerogative, Winter had stolen a pen for her but he was determined to find her more if he was allowed to leave the facility again.
Often, Nobody would draw on her limbs. The sketches she made frightened him at times. She was fond of creating a shadow creature with features that left viewers unsettled.
He had even seen Rumlow flinch at the sketch. When she could no longer draw on herself, Winter offered his own arm. He didn't mind. The act brightened her eyes and he would do anything to see that occur once more.
That night, as he stared at the new drawing on his forearm of a face he couldn't recognize, Nobody spoke up.
"You're a gentle soul," she said.
Gentle soul? He stopped running his eyes over the lines on the fragile face she had drawn. He glanced up, soaking her in. She was chewing on her bottom lip, seeming to question her words.
This version wasn't much different than the original Helena. This one didn't have any ties, though. She could leave everything behind and be happy with the decision. No more HYDRA, no more danger. Just the two of them.
"Y-you're my only friend in all of this," she said. "I'm thankful for you. Everyone else is so cruel."
He lowered his head, eyes meeting the drawing again. He felt guilt swim through him. He was reminded of his part in her being here. She didn't even know the truth behind the man she spoke to. He preferred that.
"…This place is destroying you."
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"Command isn't who you think he is. He has hurt both of us."
Nobody frowned. She didn't enjoy the thought of Winter being harmed. She had seen him in action. She knew he was dangerous, but she couldn't understand what he would have done to deserve pain.
"But Command said-,"
His face tightened. He wasn't getting anywhere.
"He'll say anything to get what he wants," Winter said.
Nobody shook her head. She couldn't understand. Command would always stop the torture the others gave her. He would tell her how much the training was needed. Whispering about men who would come to take her, to enslave her.
"But he said I was in danger?"
Winter pushed his hair back in frustration.
"There are people trying to hurt you, but he is one of them," Winter said. "You have to trust me. I want to keep you safe. They know I want to keep you safe and that made me risk."
Winter grabbed her hand, rubbing his thumb across her palm. He took in a slow breath. Having her in front of him, believing in him, he never thought he would get the chance.
The way her eyes seemed to drink in every word he said. She was giving him hope. Everything he was saying was so dangerous. He was risking everything, but he was ready to leave while he could. While he was still awake.
"I trust you Winter," she said.
Fury was afraid. For the first time in a long time he was willing to admit that. The videos of his niece played on repeat when his eyes closed. She had been walking in the last one, but he wasn't sure that had even been her. She could be dead now. Just an idea for Pierce to use against him.
The thought of her body in some hole made his stomach roll.
Fury stared down at a framed image of Helena. They had gone to the beach that weekend. She was so excited to leave the house, she had forgotten her suitcase.
Her laughter rang through the air.
Fury wanted to be selfish. No. He wanted to be okay with being selfish. He couldn't, though. His position took away that right. He had to protect the rest of humanity. If anything, he would have the memories.
His phone call with Hill last week played out in his mind. He had hesitated, telling Hill to wait a bit longer, that he wanted to be certain.
Nick called for his car and dialed Agent Hill's number. He needed to make his move.
The winter soldier had returned to their room bruised and disoriented. She attempted to catch him when he stumbled in. Of course she had been flattened instead, but at least she tried.
Nobody brushed back his hair, burying into his crystal eyes. He was so lost. She knew he wasn't willingly apart of this hell. When he had spoken with her the night before, he had ensured an escape was possible. She wouldn't let him down. If he was unable, she would take control.
"Winter?" She said.
He tensed. His eyes moving to hers. He recognized her.
"You're safe now," she said. "I promise. When you're in my arms, no one will dare touch you."
Of course this was a lie. She had no strength with the collar on. The words still seemed to carry some effect. His face seemed to soften. She ran her hand over the side of his head. Her heart ached for him. No one deserved this.
"I will get you out this. Trust me," she said. "You will never suffer again with me at your side. I won't let you."
She wanted to weep when he brought his hand to her cheek. He was still in there. He knew her. They were in this prison together and she wouldn't leave without him. She would murder everyone in this place before they could drag her away.