The general consensus was that it should be a mink or some sort of similar mustelid, and he would be very very soft.
... yeah, so for a day or so I was sending scioscribe and rachelmanija snippets of mink!Zemo in email, and now you can read them too. So here's 2000 words of Zemo being a mink, in two different scenes that I guess connect in the same fic somewhere.
Bucky had texted an explanation of the situation—such as it was; the text read Zemo pissed off the old lady we were talking to and she turned him into a weasel—but Sam still wasn't prepared for the sight of Bucky with a foot and a half of sleek brown fur draped around his neck. Especially when it hissed, shot off his arm and ran underneath the sofa.
"Yeah, same to you!" Bucky yelled after it.
"What the fuck," Sam said, crouching to look under the sofa. Something skittered deeper into the darkness and hissed at him; he caught a flash of two bright eyes. "Are you sure that's him?"
"Absolutely sure. It happened right in front of me. Also," Bucky said as he went into the kitchen and poured himself a drink, "he bit me twice. Little bastard. I'm going to make a glove out of him. He'll only make one, but I only need one."
The shadow under the sofa growled.
"That's Zemo," Sam said again, just to be sure.
"The old lady said something about getting in touch with his inner nature. Which is apparently a weasel," Bucky said. He slammed back the glass of whisky and poured more. "Sounds about right."
"Actually I think he's a mink or something."
"Well, aren't you an expert on small annoying legless mammals all of a sudden."
"Mustelids," Sam said, because he couldn't help himself.
"Weasels and minks and all of that. They're mustelids."
They determined by googling on Sam's phone that Zemo was probably either a sable or a European mink. It was hard to get a good look at him; he had retreated as far as he could into the shadows. Bucky tried luring him out with Turkish delight, mostly for the entertainment factor, Sam was pretty sure, but Zemo was having none of it. From what Sam could see, he had curled up in the farthest corner against the wall with his tail over his nose and two bright eyes glaring at them.
"Well, this certainly complicates things," Sam said.
"I don't see why," Bucky said. "I'm sure everyone will be completely on board with us walking in with a weasel under one arm and telling them it's the world's most wanted terrorist."
Sam tapped his arm and pointed.
Zemo had emerged from under the couch. He was now prowling around the bottom edges of the kitchen cabinets. He passed out of sight for a moment, and then reappeared on the kitchen island; he must have climbed or jumped.
By the time he started nosing at the decanter of brandy, Sam was in silent paroxysms of laughter and even Bucky looked like he was trying not to smile, and mostly failing.
"This is the cutest goddamn thing I've ever seen," Sam said, and took a picture.
Zemo glared at them and went back to trying to nose the stopper out of the brandy decanter, which finally popped out and clattered onto the countertop. Clearly stymied by the logistics of trying to pour anything in his present shape, he tried to stick his head down the neck of the decanter instead.
"Yeah, I don't think that's good for you," Bucky said. He went over and Zemo hissed and flattened, but Bucky used the metal hand to pick him up by his middle. Zemo squirmed, bit one metal finger, and then gave up and went limp, dangling like a tube sock as Bucky carried him back over to the couch.
Sam eyed both of them as Bucky sat down and planted a hand on top of Zemo to stop him from escaping.
"What?" Bucky said. "Look, I think we need to plan our next move."
Sam took a very cautious seat at the other end of the couch. "I think we mostly need to figure out what to do about that," he said, pointing at Zemo, who was lying resentfully underneath Bucky's metal hand, stretched out to his full length. "Did she say how long it would last?"
"I thought you were the local mustelid expert." Bucky cautiously raised his hand. Zemo stayed there for a minute and then scampered up to the back of the couch, where he glared at them from his new, higher vantage point.
"Fast little bastard," Sam said, leaning backward in case Zemo had decided to upgrade to biting people's faces.
"Tell me about it. I had to catch him three times on the way back here."
Zemo had crouched down defensively on the back of the couch. In spite of himself, Sam was actually starting to feel sorry for him. Or at least mildly sympathetic, even though from all he'd seen of Zemo, this was probably entirely deserved. But it had to be a psychological blow to go from being as in control as Zemo normally was, to weighing a couple of pounds and having no defenses except claws and teeth.
Bucky casually put a hand on top of him—the flesh and blood one, this time; Zemo looked like he was thinking about biting and then gave up and lay down. "You know," Bucky said, "I just had the worst idea."
"If this involves spying on people with a mink, I'm having it too."
Zemo raised his head and looked at them. Mink expressions were borderline unreadable, but he still managed to look exasperated.
"Right? They won't see him coming."
"Except it's not like he can use a radio."
"We could put a camera on him," Bucky said. "Don't they do that with dolphins?"
"And rescue dogs," Sam said.
Bucky was now running two fingers down Zemo's spine, in an automatic kind of way, like petting a cat. Sam found it strangely hypnotic to watch, especially the way that Zemo was clearly trying to look unaffected by it, but was also slowly going limp on the back of the couch.
[so obviously a bunch of plot happens here, no idea what exactly - mink!Zemo spies on the bad guys, gets caught, and I guess he gets tied up and thrown into the water or something? Anyway he almost drowns in a canal or storm drain or something.]
"Is he alive?" Sam refused to admit that he was actually, to a very large degree, invested in the answer. It was just ... a lot harder to dislike Zemo when he was small and adorable and furry.
"Think so." Bucky ran a hand down the limp, sodden body, rested his palm for a moment over Zemo's small chest. Then he nodded and handed him up to Sam.
Sam had already, with a certain amount of resignation, taken off his jacket. It was still warm from his body heat. He took the limp scrap of sodden fur from Bucky, very carefully; it hadn't really sunk in how tiny Zemo really was, or how breakable. He was also very, very cold. Sam wrapped him up in the jacket.
Bucky, with a look of resignation, climbed back up and shook himself off.
"We better get you dry too, man."
"I know," Bucky said, and he gave the jacket-wrapped bundle in Sam's arms an indescribable look. "I'm not a mink. I'm not meant to go in the water."
"Don't think he can hear you."
There was a very soft hiss from the depths of the jacket. The corner of Bucky's mouth quirked up in the faintest and smuggest of smiles.
Zemo was a surprisingly light burden in Sam's arms on the hike back to the safehouse, unmoving for the most part, but every now and then Sam could feel a little bit of stirring inside his jacket, like Zemo was wriggling around a little.
Back at the safehouse, while Bucky changed into dry clothes, Sam took Zemo into the spare bathroom to examine him under brighter light.
When he unwrapped him, he found a tightly coiled weasel-shaped body and two beady eyes blinking at him. Zemo hissed and showed his teeth. There was a wounded, defensive quality to it.
"Man, I literally just carried you back here, okay? I'm going to look and see if anything's broken. You can hold still for it, or I'll have Bucky come hold you."
Zemo gave a little sigh and flopped down, his long weasel-like body conforming to the rumpled folds of the jacket.
"I just want to make it clear that I'm not a vet, so I'm doing my best here, okay?"
Sam tried not to think about how utterly weird all of this was, and examined him lightly with his fingertips. Zemo's fur was damp and plastered together, but it was starting to dry out, turning soft. Sam could feel Zemo's rapid breathing under his hands, the quick beating of the small heart, the tiny shivers. Zemo was panting slightly, a stressed animal reaction.
"How's the weasel?" Bucky asked from the doorway. Zemo jerked and flipped over, springing to his feet for an instant before he fell over.
"Hypothermic, but I don't think he's hurt other than that." Zemo shook his head and flattened his ears. "Sorry, gonna pick you up one more time. Don't bite me." Sam picked him up. There was no biting, although Zemo's small, coiled body felt tense. "Give me that towel?"
Bucky did, with a wry expression, and watched Sam wrap the towel around him. "What are you going to do, carry him around all evening?"
"I'm going to put him next to the radiator and then google whether you can give glucose to small hypothermic mustelids," Sam said, and went off to do exactly that.
The treatment for hypothermic dogs and cats was basically just warming them up again, but fluids were helpful for human hypothermia victims, so he started to fill a teacup with water, and then—feeling like a complete idiot—made tea and brought Zemo a cup of that. Sam figured it couldn't possibly kill him and he'd probably appreciate it. Zemo was lying in a towel-wrapped bundle in front of the radiator, his head sprawling onto the floor, but he raised his head at Sam's approach and then dipped his nose to sniff at the tea, and lapped at it a bit.
"How come I don't get this kind of treatment?" Bucky said from the couch.
"Because you aren't this cute," Sam said.
He went over to the grouping of couches and chairs, chose a chair for himself, and reached for the maps they had marked earlier from Zemo's explorations. Outside the windows, dusk was settling over the city.
"So I'm thinking tomorrow—" Sam began, and then there was the scrabbling of small claws on the back of the chair. Zemo climbed over the armrest and plopped next to Sam's leg, nestled down, and relaxed.
Sam looked up, saw the expression on Bucky's face, and glowered at him.
"He's in your lap," Bucky said.
"He's next to my lap."
There was some kind of plan here, Sam thought; there had to be. Zemo was always working an angle. But he put his hand on top of the narrow ridge of Zemo's spine, running his fingers down the soft fur. The mink twisted around and laid his head on top of Sam's thigh.
Bucky looked annoyed and also jealous.
"I brought him tea," Sam pointed out.
"I literally fished him out of a storm drain!"
This was going to be so fucking weird when he turned back, Sam thought. This entry is also posted at https://sholio.dreamwidth.org/1401847.html with comments.