1963-08-07 - Hanging from a Balance Beam
Summary: It's not a wise idea for Winter to upset Autumn.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
bucky rogue 

Jack and Scarlett had taken off out of town. Hitting the highway— the open road. The bike he'd stolen from a gang of white supremacists had been tuned and given some love, and the old Interceptor rumbles along the highway with a happy purr for well over an hour. Hair flapping in the wind, goggles protecting his eyes, Jack Frost had left his cares and woes behind and just set out to drive away from all of it. From the violence in the streets, the mobs, the mission— just to spend some time with the red-tressed woman on the back of the bike.

After a while they'd pulled into a side road, following signs, and the bike puttered up to a secluded glen near a trickling river, abandoned long since in favor of more popular, closer campgrounds.

Jack doesn't say anything as he nears the riverside— he removes his leather jacket, seatting it on the crook of a low tree, and looks out over the flowing water and lush foliage.


All roads lead to New York, but do all roads from New York go anywhere worthwhile? This existential question underpins the reality for two riders on the back of a behemoth growling and snapping at anything prone to come near. Just another sight of a master assassin and highly wanted criminal riding with a giant-destroying girl on the back. She goes the full nine yards: motorcycle jacket, gloves, black helmet, the same take no prisoner pants she wore before. So much for the sundress. Somewhere along the way she replaced all the mod getup with riding attire, possibly by marching into one of the subversive shops in Greenwich Village and coming out like that. In the end of the tale, it won't matter.

What matters is she can deal with road rash without obviously having road rash issues, and safety gets its nod. Roaring away from a mission doesn't mean abandoning it. Simply getting breathing room eases the redhead's posture a bit. Speed does the rest. Speed and not having to worry about leeching another person's life force away from them. Maybe the Interceptor doesn't reach her favourite speeds — subsonic to multiples thereof — but it cruises along plenty fine. She might almost lament when it ends.

But then the greenery is enough to betoken a grin from the girl, who ponders swinging her leg over and bounding down to the river. Probably not the best thing for her image to resemble a demented undine. So then she approaches the business mildly more sedately, perching on the seat of the bike and stretching her legs out. "Pretty, isn't it?"


"Yes." Jack keeps his left arm hanging stiff at his side, but props his right on his hip near his waistline, looking at the flowing water and the lush greenery. Such a stiff contrast to the city. To the heat and oppression and the smell. It's warm out— hot, even, now that they're not cooled by the air of the highway.

"Better than the city now. Too much.. everything." He inhales through his nose, then exhales outwards, a thick bandana holding back his tousled hair and keeping sweat from his goggles during the ride. He removes the red kerchief and brushes his brow with it, running it over his tangled, mussy mane, and then tucks it into his back pocket absently.

"Should avoid city for a while," he says, still looking at nature around them. "The summer is a bad time. It will only get worse, I think."


Whether Scarlett herself is a city girl matters little when her soul resonates in a key of dreamy poetry and fantastic visions, tempered by the march of the seasons. Her arcane awakening may well have altered her vision some, though not in a fashion that would deprive her the simple delight of breathing in cleaner air. Cooler shade provides a bulwark against the sticky New York heat certain to last deep into September without relief. The zipper and snaps on her coat fall to her gloves, and after a good tug, she manages to ease the outer leather shell off her shoulders. Dropping the garment over her shighs, she stretches out a little further. All those years of yoga do impressive things for balance.

Her helmet strap goes next, and she hangs the black shell like a prize skull off the handlebars. Not precisely the best treatment but, to be fair, helmets are merely eye candy and packaging. "Too much to think about or too much noise and attention? Sometimes the city has a way of getting under the skin and causing no end of distraction."

City, men, Stark Industries. Take one's pick. "You mean you'll stay out here and make my roving harder, or are you asking me to jet off for a holiday?"


"I cannot stay," Jack says, shaking his head. "I have things I must do. Just… I have seen this before. The heat and the fury and the crowds." He crouches down, examining the water, and drags his ungloved right hand through the stream to let it flow and trickle around and take away the muddied sand from the riverbed.

"But you I would see safe. You've seen one riot. There will be others. Many are angry and demanding… a voice. Action." He cocks his head towards Scarlett a little. "If you decide to take vacation, see more of the Americas… this would be a good time to do it."


"You have your job and that entails a certain responsibility. Have you found a place and everything you need to start up, or will that be part of the process?" Scarlett tips her head mildly to the right, and systematically separates her plaits into rippling waves stricken by the very rarely seen white racing through her hairline to the very ends. The process requires little concentration after removing the elastic, and soon she wears a bracelet of them over her glove. "Summer breeds bad behaviour, short tempers, and an excess of rage. Every little hurt bubbles to the surface. I don't believe the autumn will find us any more peaceful. These wounds go too deep."

Ignorance is bliss about what she might be feeding someone programmed by handlers to stir those embers into a full bore fire. "I cannot leave. Classes start in less than a month, and where would I go? To a family I cannot remember on a coast I haven't seen?" The idle comments tumble out before she even thinks to withdraw their existence, unable to curb her tongue. Damning in all fronts.

"The only travel I think I can look forward to may be a short trip. Possibly somewhere exotic, but probably around the block."

Jack turns to face Scarlett, staring at her thick mane of lustrous red as it waves to the side, a banner caught in the breeze. "As you like," he tells her, facing the woman. "Just be careful. I do not think it will get better."

He concludes that little lecture and walks towards her, then passes her and moves to the bike. Digging in the saddlebags, he comes up with a simple meal— cold, fried chicken and fresh bread. Not much, but it's recently made and smells of well-cooked food.

He finds a grassy spot and sits down, rolling out the cloth wrapping the meal as a little tablecloth and faces the water, boots propped up in front of him and his elbows resting on his knees.


"I intend to take your warning to heart." She runs her fingers through the flooded tendrils curling in their way, waves that crash upon a sooty shore drawn against her shoulder. The leather pants are much more aggressive than typical women's wear, right down to the zippers vented over the ground-grinding boots, a proof of punk inspirations seeded even now. "I mean it. You should not have to rescue you me at every turn. Though I imagine the florists can already anticipate a healthy bill at month's end from me, so it balances out."

Lecture met with levity, Scarlett slides off the bike. It rustles a little on its tires as her feet flatten the grass, and then her leggy stride circles around to brush a spot out of any chaff or dust. One never knows what allergies could be present in a stranger, even if her own body wouldn't know a toxin or allergen if pumped full… minus, of course, Terrigen Mists, but please let's not go there.

"Look at us, proper outlaws thumbing it to the man. And suddenly you remind me I am starving when I am never in the least bit hungry." Her eyes widen in promise of food, even should she usually refrain from devouring it all. "Where on earth did you find that? To think I rode this far with such a tempting morsel right in front of me speaks to my willpower."


"Asked the kitchens at Stark Tower. Told them I needed food— it was very cheap." Bucky tears the bread loaf in half and sets it near Rogue's spot. It's cold, but fresh and moist. He eats with his usual steady, cross-jawed pace, going through the rather plain meal with mechanical motions.

He's quiet, then, watching the streams— the sway of grass and wind, the whistle of brush. Something scurries out from the underbrush and scampers back into the safety of cool loam and dense vines, before either of them can get a good luck. No hungry predators out here today, little chipmunk.


How can a girl resist fried chicken or bread? The bread dies a horrible, rapid death torn to pieces under her gloved fingers, though she pauses to strip off one and rest the leather over her thigh with her coat. Scarlett's manners still deserve commendations from Good Housekeeping or anotehr bastien of feminine social standards. "You paid? The next one will be on me, then." Her smile flames through the sylvan repose they share, and she pops a morsel of bread into her mouth. Its kin have been utterly demolished. So be it.

While they eat, the world churns by in its own stately procession and she tries to determine the best way to ruin a chicken in perfectly good fashion. Any animal daring to run off with her meal suffers the very real threat of a bit of bark thrown at it. No additional words are needed, no poetry to lighten a mood.


They eat in peace, then Jack lays back on the grass, propping his head up with his right hand and folding his left arm awkardly over his belly. He closes his eyes, a bit of dappled sun on his face, and inhales deeply through his nose.

"I can almost forget it sometimes," he says, after a few quiet minutes. "All of it. Everything. I don't feel anything. I don't think anything. I can just sit and … be. No work. No mission. Just the sunshine. I miss it sometimes."

He exhales slowly, then his eyes open, looking up at the leaves swaying over head, trying to listen to the whispering story they tell the two under their awning.


Two words stand out, triple underlined in red, proofreader's marks left on the margin. Where she can nibble on the crumbs of bread, Scarlett manages not to choke upon their minute presence. She folds her knees beside her in a manner better suited for her dresses, rather than being a hooligan on the back of a motorcycle calling that he go faster, hand resting in the grass as a support.

"You can exist in the moment. That is something of a catharsis. You could call it transcendence, too, and that's what happens when I meditate or practice yoga," she replies. "Hollowing out a space to be without being."

Greenery rustles and the water churns through its bed, bound endlessly for the sea. The heat bears down without bordering into unpleasant territory. "Your mission?" Two words. Just two.


"To survive," Jack says, still seeking meditation in the skies. His eyes are empty and a thousand miles away. "To try and find… something. Real. To hold it. Maybe change things for the better." Oh, he's a good liar. It comes effortlessly— that mantra drumming at the back of his head behind layers of brainwashing. 'Protect the mission'. 'Conceal your identity'.

"What is your mission, Scarlett? Why do you follow me?" he asks the redhead, turning to look at her. "You mentioned a boyfriend. Is he not nearby? Or do you prefer to not see him as often? I would think he would be angry to hear you were on a motorcycle with a strange man a half an hour from civilization?"

"The most noble cause of them all, save perhaps acquiring knowledge. One could be the other, though." Scarlett puts down a few bones from the chicken into a fold of the cloth, anticipating tossing them out at some other point where they might descend to the creek's stony bed and in turn become nourishment for small fish and plants when they dissolve away into nothing.

The real power of a lie is to believe, without doubt, you speak the truth. When the lie is your reality, conviction erases any semblance of an untruth even in the face of mounting evidence. A stolen thought. A broken code. These extravagances do not in any way undermine the power of a man conditioned to accept something at face value, and present it to others as the same. In that way, Frost is more dangerous than ever.

The bohemian lets it pass. "You saved me without need. I want to help you and see you happy." They've covered this; she does not budge on the reasoning. Only the words change, shortened and simplified, more keeping with the manner he best prefers instead of more florid ones. When he mentions a beau, though, her eyes briefly widen. News flash at 11, girl taken by surprise. "I did?"

Faultlines in personality and memory do not assist her, nor the massive violation of her psyche eradicating all that came before. Whispers float through abandoned corridors in that deep palace. "You aren't a stranger to me, and conversely someone might ask where he was the night of a riot. Though we are… what we are. I don't really give it a title. We have a very complicated relationship. His class is entirely different from mine, and we come from two different worlds. Whether he sees me anything other than a student lies outside my knowledge. If he doesn't like it he can pop out of the bushes and clarify his position."

"Class means nothing," Jack says, shaking his head. "An invention, designed by the wealthy to convince the poor they do not deserve happiness. Equality has nothing to do with where you were born. It's a matter of who you are. You are either great, or you are not. I don't know where he is, either, but if he were here to tell you that he is better than you because of an accident of birth— I would tend to disagree."

He sits upright smoothly, hooking his elbows over his knees. "But, as you said. He is welcome to speak his mind."

He reaches for the last drumstick, plucking off a morsel of meat with his teeth, then flicks the bone end over end to splash into the water. The dollop of rippling wakes vanishes into the current and the bone sinks to the stream's bed, to be eaten by the fishes and flowing water until there's nothing left of it."

"I am fairly uncertain of my capacity to convince an entire nation and people that class is merely an artificial construct imposed by a small group in power jealous of their prestige and importance." Scarlett looks down at her fingers where the curved contour of the index and middle follow her palm, nested within the span of the other. "We've been fighting this battle as a society for a very long time. People far more charismatic and compelling at making their argument in a way others hear have not made perfect headway. /I/ do not possess anything beyond what they did, and in many ways, possess much less." Lest it be considered she complains about weakness and her lot in life, the girl holds up her hand to catch a bit of chaff released from the trees or some blossoming weed, letting the seed in its cottony sheath land upon her skin.

"Between us, things are clear as mud, as they like to say." Her lashes curl against her cheekbone, drawn in intricate dashes gently scripted by coppery hints. "A difference of position and age. I do the best I can. And the rest of the time, I live. Survive. Sometimes that is the best we /can/ do, weather one situation until a better one comes. You have been such a bright, shining spot for me and I don't believe that will change. Even if you and Pepper date. Or don't because she has Mr. Stark."

A glimmering of thought teases over. Things said and not said.


Jack growls a little under his breath. "I do not entirely understand what their relationship is either," he admits. "It seemed… not correct to pry into it. But she thinks much of him. Serves him at any hour of the day." He tugs at a cloverleaf, plucking the vegatation, then crushes it leaf by lead between thumb and forefinger until pulp rubs against his fingertips.

"It seemed obvious in the moment but hindsight suggests I read it wrong. All of it. If she has even the merest of chances for Tony, she would be unwise not to pursue him. He is wealthy and powerful. I am neither of those things."

"Power and wealth mean nothing against someone's personality, you know." She blows the chaff towards him, scenting the ruined clover. Scarlett may be treading through uncertain waters here, though they do end up paralleling the same course. And at the end of the day, she has a very quick out that may give freedom should they dip badly. "Mr. Stark represents something valuable to a great many women. No doubt he encounters all sorts attention from those eager to date him, in hopes the right girl will catch his eye. There's a secure setup for life. If that's what you value. I don't. Ms. Potts may not be driven by those factors, either. She may want you for you, or any other complicated possibility that I feel uncomfortable discussing because I do not know her, nor her motivations."

Her lips hollow out as she sighs, head tipped back to consider the sky. "Truly, you think being anonymous makes you less desirable somehow? Maybe to a few, but that exists for everything in the world. Sorry, darling, the world doesn't work that way. Affection knows no limits like that. The heart wants what it wants, and deny that, it will find a way to make you know."

"Not anonymous. Unwanted. Unloveable," Bucky says. "But it's… something in her eyes, I think. She talks highly of him. Breathily. I am sure she craves his affection, even if he's not given them." He exhales and looks down while Scarlett looks up. A microcosm of their relationship— of the differences between them.

"I've seen and done things, Scarlett. You don't ever come back from the places I've walked." His eyes flicker, hard, a little tic at the corner of one eye. "I make a poor suitor. I'd make a poor mate for her— for anyone. There's no future for me, so there's none for anyone I'm with."


Anger floods through her in a wave permeated in a collision of elemental forces and primordial ones, overlaying the essential nature of the girl. "Stop it." Two words delivered like a fencer, a strike from a lunge position carried on the blade of her tongue, guard high. "You're wrong. Unwanted and unloved, is that what you really think? Who wounded you so badly that you would believe it?"

Leather creaks as she drops onto her knees and prowls over to him on the short distance, her hair a bloody veil and the leather oiled enough to gleam, fatal reminders of present choices. "Would you like some truths, Jack? I have no memories of my childhood. None. Nothing. As far as anyone is concerned I fell out of time fully grown. Seen and done things? I remember that, though, the way people look on their knees begging. Revulsion and horror in their eyes. How a body sounds falling lifeless to the ground. The perverse joy someone took in the idea he'd rape me and leave me hanging from a meathook to play with after the fact. You can probably dish out a list of a dozen, a hundred terrible things, in lyrical, graphic detail. It's not a contest but only there to say I am all too aware no one in this world is perfect, some of us are much worse off than others. We still have to do the best we can."

A beat. "And love doesn't /stop/ because we are flawed. Love ignores our wishes and our whims. It throws us into freefall and ceases all arguments, all divisions, because as a force it does not care at all about that. It hurts us, it burns us, it gives us a reason to live. There isn't any reason /stronger/ than that."

Jack's eyes narrow in confusion as Scarlett crawls towards him, frowning in confusion as she closes the distance. He listens with quiet attention to her full story and he might laugh at her words, but for the anger in her eyes. There's no mistaking it— no faking it. That mental readiness to kill someone, and the knowledge of having done so. Like knows like. The threat of violence is so much stronger when offered by an expert. Something about her words niggles in his ear, but he moves past it, chalking it up to a language barrier.

"It surprises me we could stand in the same field and see the world two different ways," Jack admits, shaking his head. "You have a romance in your mind that I simply cannot agree with. The world will end— life, people, eventually nations and places. Sometimes, all we can do is huddle together for what little warmth or respite we can find. Better to find a moment's shelter than pretend it'll make the storm go away."


Scarlett stops just short of him, listening for the answer conjured by Hydra's favourite son for purposes brewed under a red star. She truly does listen to every sound and fits together what he says. It does nothing to suppress the piqued maelstrom fed by forces he might not believe exist. How could they possibly be explained or accepted, even though fire and ice rage across the twilit cosmos of her soul?

"According to physics, the world will burn out in a few billion years when the sun eats it," she says, "and the Aztecs thought the sun would go out if we failed to make blood sacrifices. The storm comes. Endure it. Delight in the companionship. Try taking a risk."

And then she seizes him by the shirt, both hands buried in the cloth, leaning forward. "Stop putting up the worst arguments as your defenses because you fear getting hurt." They are nigh nose to nose, a distance of breaths and inches separating them. "That's life."

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