1963-08-18 - A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Summary: Russians don't like thieves.
Related: The Age of Innocence
Theme Song: David Bowie - Space Oddity
bucky rogue 

It's a quarter past infinity, broaching on the holy day of Lady Chaos. Take a right turn at the dark side of the moon and floor it. Warp gravity enough and the concept of being here or there will no longer matter. They will be in the proper place, at the proper time, which is here and the now.

A man lies upon the ground in New York's nest of half-forgotten harbour frontage. Here tidal flows poison the water, an anaerobic environment suitable only for a thick patina of mud to settle around the age-old piers punched into the sediments left by the last glacial epoch. A lonely tugboat fords the waterfront, chugging along while its pilot dreams of a better future up Maineway. He curses the gulls and the price of diesel, impoverishing him week by week. No one bothers to skim along the forgettable warehouses, the jobs already being exported to rising cities in the East and the South, places where labour unions don't hold the city by the throat and some of them aren't choked to death by Mafia interests. New York will grow and change, as she always does.

The CCCP's foremost assassin has his head in the lap of a suffering Pieta, a Mary for the postmodern age. She bends over him in pure torment, wracked by the sorrows and despair of a thousand nights spent in service to a cause barely understood. In becoming the lightning rod for his past, she is subject to alien impressions and fleeting thoughts, the muscle memory of jumping from walls and ducking behind cracked mortar, stealing down streets, taking lives not her own. Her eyes are his eyes, green deepened to a sepia tint of an earth that forgives her children all sins.

The anti-messiah for liberty gives up those secrets while her shaking fingers cup the curve of his prosthetic arm with a tenderness reserved usually for infants, lovers, and holy relics. The other curves against his cheekbone, barely in touch, but the involuntarily quake of the fanned, slim digits respond to the gravitational pull of his being to his flesh again, as though to pull another tiny draught forth from the cauldron.

Each time is an invasion. Each time is a communion. No lover quite invades their other in this fashion, for no physical interplay will ever match the commingling of profane and divine as such can provide.

Who is she, is he, but we?

Their heartbeats lock to a chord, their breathing stolen in the same cycle. His chest falls, hers rises. He blows out the contents of his lungs for her to drink back in. Neroli and concrete whirl around them in a fugue, a barrier holding the rest of the world at bay, intangible but present. Her aura radiates away from her, supercharged by stolen energy, and yet Scarlett — Jacquetta, perhaps, the so-named witch duchess of Luxembourg in spirit if not name — shudders in terror and ecstasy after not only biting the forbidden fruit, but consuming it whole. Tears track silvered down her face, dropping onto his brow. Joy is not the benediction she offers, but a worse sacrament by far.



Oh, but her forgiveness is killing him. A death by inches, but death nonetheless— every touch of her fingers to his cheekbone drains away a little bit more of his vital force. His breathing, slow and steady, becomes almost weak and reedy. That barrel chest rises and falls less forcefully and takes longer to ascend after each reedy exhalation.

Somehow, though, he struggles. He struggles against the unknown force trying to consume him, as the bohemian vampire so tenderly kills with a thousand cuts. Somewhere in the depths of his core he finds that last little ragged slip of strength, a sound or a smell guiding him back to reality.

His left arm, motivated by steel and not by weakness of the heart or soul, swings across and grips the fingers on his face, curling around them in an attempt to trap the bird in an iron cage.

"Please… stop…" he whispers, eyes mere cracks. "Let… me go." He struggles to sit, but cannot yet rise, even his remarkable physique unable to rapidly undo the fatiguing miasma that spreads from Rogue's gentlest touch. He senses her resisting slightly and the fingers clamp on her wrist, warningly now. "Stop."

Then there's a *click* of panels shifting in his hands and a pair of electrodes appear in the palm. He grips her wrist firmly, and her only cue of danger is a *snap-whiiiiiiine* of a battery coil charging.

Fifty thousand volts of electricty snaps into Rogue's wrist and arm, then a hundred, then two hundred thousand— a high-density powercell with enough energy behind it to jumpstart a battle-tank, if need be. A last-ditch resort— second to last, really.

Because his right hand drops to his waist and comes up with that snub-nosed, hammerless revolver, and he jams it against the underside of Rogue's jaw, against soft, fragile flesh.


He says stop and through the maelstrom, his voice — of her own conscience, the whisper of a prayer — reaches beyond the tableaux of broken memories. So she does, curling her fingers to her palms and arching back.

Split seconds make all the difference. Split seconds are not enough.

The road to Hell is paved in broken glass and shards of screams for mercy or new trials. Not so here. She makes no sound, not in the least, when Jack takes winter's vengeance. Only fair, in the great scheme of things.

The terrible, terrible force /hurts/. To the heights of heaven does it hurt, down to the stolen thunderbolts of an imaginary king of the Greco-Roman pantheon whom, this very woman could tell him, does in fact exist outside the capacity of the human mind.

She releases at the outset, though the instinctive reaction to jar away from the agonizing force illuminating her nervous system to the very core through the route of her knees into the earth and out again may be somewhat compounded if he won't let go. He might just flip with her in the primal need to get away from the pain, to flee its presence, complying to the request and the force.

Yet the bohemian's stolen vigor and vitality, so deeply entrenched among the fissures of her soul as to -be- hers, contend to the mechanical forces at play that should fry neurons, slag flesh, and destroy organs.

Among those terrible gifts, an impossible, horrifying strength. If she can hurl him away — gun bedamned — she will, with every iota of force her reeling subconscious mind can make. The gun isn't even registered; how can it be with ozone in the air and so much pain a fugue to the core?

The one difference? He's unlocked the keys to jangling memories and his own muscle reflexes are hers, now, along with the stolen knowledge from other places, other people, other monsters in the dark that bite harder than she ever will. The skill blended to her own knowledge of aikido and wing chun aren't particularly dangerous for hitting someone, but they make an excellent basis for evasions, throws, getting the fuck away from trouble. He might shoot her, yes. She might not be there, hurling herself backwards and dropping into a roll to curl around herself in quaking, uncontrolled nightmares come alive.

There is no God.


Bucky goes flying laterally and slams into a stack of crates, smashing them apart. Pain seems to jar him into motion, adrenaline slamming into his system— endorphins and ancient survival instincts all conspiring to undo whatever the HELL she just did to him.

Guns and ammo go scattering across the floor and Bucky rolls to his knees with a disjointed heave, blinking, shaking cobwebs away. He is a soldier— the soldier attacks. It's as much a part of him as breathing or running. He's moving before he's aware he's moving, knees scrabbling, toes trying to find purchase.

He scoops up one of the heavy guns. Moving on instinct— his unconscious brain doing the work. Magazine in, chamber round, safety off. She's so much stronger than she looks. /So/ strong. The touch. The movements he's noticed over the last few weeks. Mutant.

She's a mutant. He staggers towards the woman, a steel-tipped round in the bolt-action rifle. Scarlett's tough, but Bucky knows every weak point in the human body, every spot where flesh conceals gaps between skin and bone. He chambers the round and walks unsteadily towards Scarlett as she rolls back in forth in crispy, electrocuted agony, all of her muscles spasming uncooperatively and conspiring to rob her of movement. He drives a knee into her shoulderblade, rolling her onto her face and dropping his weight onto her. One hand grips her hair— the muzzle of that rifle buries itself behind her jaw, where the skin is weakest.

"Tell me who you are," he rasps, blinking rapidly— trying to keep his voice steady and not fall over. "Talk." He bangs her forehead against the floor. "Talk." Bang. "Talk." Cold. Impersonal. Just business. "What did you do to me." Bang. "Talk."


Her existence is predicated on twin dualities, the solar force infused by blithe effervescence on the surface and the buried wellspring that plumbs the vastness of the void.

One goes into eclipse when the other emerges, but rarely they co-exist in a tenuous detente of twilight. When they do, the parallel fractures of her faceted existence align to a very dangerous thing indeed.

The girl's movements recover too quickly to be human, though their foundation is pure skill. He knows every weakpoint. So does she, at a level of instinct that runs through her veins and the snub violence about to be imparted upon her is met with an unearthly calm. It is where it is. Hauling her down into the ground with brutal force is a good way to bring out the instinctive urge to lash out, arms to brace under her to keep the violent attempts to smash her forehead into the concrete from quite reaching where the soldier wants. He's a soldier, and she is in her way too.

Who might be the faster? Could she reach him and seize an ankle before the trigger was compressed, sending a barrage into her brainpan?

Not ever going to be answered. She hisses, "/Stop/," the triangle of her fingers locked in place, forearms and elbows lending resistance by tucking tightly, bracing the harder and firmer so her descent won't work. The shuddering is dissipating, the torment bled off. Too fast, too quick.

"Can't. Answer." Blood on her skin, blood in her mouth, the copper sings vengeance and the sheer volume chanting in a cold voice to end him wells up against the tethers fashioned to bind such things. "When. You. Hit. Me."

Just business. He wishes. "Scarlett. Don't know." Pause. "My past." Pause. "Stop. Hitting. Me."


"Then tell me how you did that," Bucky grates, sensing her recovering— too fast. Much too fast. It falls into place for him and he shifts his weight a little, keeping that knee pressed hard into the pit behind her shoulder, a place of maximum leverage. Of course, that's predicated on someone not being able to fly.

"I felt— I was /dying/," he hisses. "I fell into water. Again. I froze to death. AGAIN. I saw. I SAW. You /knew/ you could do that. You waited. And then you tried to take me— take everything from me."

But he hasn't pulled that trigger, his finger tightening upon it. "Why did you let me live?"


Calculations are predicated upon so many things. Distract the girl and she will start speaking in Russian because the whirlwind of her thoughts echo with six languages, cutting between English to the Muscovite rule to German and back through French to another launching off point last heard in post-settlement Iceland or the doomed Greenlander colonies last heard from around the fifteenth century.

A place of maximum leverage slants her down, her hips lifted slightly. Shifts are hard to read, all the more so when her coiling strength relies on no degree of human physiology. He might well be horrified, this child of a red star, to know she might just lift up onto her knees and hands if she actually tried, since he certainly weighs much less than a dump truck, fully loaded and bound for New Jersey or not.

The tracks of her tears strike the ground, small puddles to be smudged into her skin or washed clean. "I saw it," she repeats dully in the near exact same sibilant tone as him. Gods help him if he rips her dress, touches her skin, finds contact. The barbs are out, so far beyond control that the merest touch will snag and seal him.

"No, I /didn't/ try." Emphasis upon the latter, as inflexible vocally as an iron bar in the hands of a chinchilla. "I was caught off-guard. It doesn't happen by choice." Clipped words, short, and to the point. "Think. We've barely touched. Never when angry. Never when distracted. Why, /Jack/?"

Oh, the secrets they could burn into their psyches.

"Because I never want to hurt you." Plain as bloody day, a red dawn rising over a strewn road in Belfast. "Care too much."


There's a long beat. He's thinking of killing her. That part of his broken, fragmented mind lodged in her brain like a shard of glass- she doesn't even need to consult her borrowed memories. It's the smart play. There's a faint tick as metal slips on metal, a tenth of an inch of engagement of steel to steel inside the rifle all that stands between her and possible death. She's tough, but a steel-core round? This range?

At this range, that's pushing even her invulnerability.

There's a click of a safety being engaged and Bucky rises, left hand disentangling from her hair and his knee relieving the pressure on her creaking ribs. He steps back a pace, the rifle held at low port arms, and the barrel easily able to dip back towards her. His stormy eyes are impossible to read, but there's something else there, something new—


"Seems we're both keeping secrets," he rasps, seeing the funny side of it all. Something like a smile tugs at one side of his mouth. "You had me fooled. I don't fool easy," he tells her. "Never had a single idea."


An equally fervent point suggests spinning around in a punishing sweep, leveling the hook of her achilles tendon against his leg at the weak point between calf and thigh. With enough force, she might tear through the tendons and sinews, dislocating the paella, and bring him down. An off-balance shot while she spins away might be enough to leave an impressive concussion in the ground of a dirty street rather than in her skull or through her vertebrae. Or the other option, avert gravity and storm the heavens where any shot is compounded by the ceiling. What's he going to do, call up a MiG from Cuba?

Ground Control to Comrade Jack, commencing countdown, watch your back…

"Curse is mine to bear."

The tone of her voice demands no pity, begging no understanding. It is a peace reached through a faulty, painful process. Scarlett rubs the blood from her face with the palm of her hand, then wordlessly licks it clean. Less evidence. Less to catch her on. His memory or hers?

"You protect me from it all. I protect you." Her gaze flashes, meeting his, stormy and wild over her shoulder: it's probably the first time he has ever witnessed her without green eyes, but her irises are as deep an umber as they have ever been, Gaea's own soul wrought from his. "Would you ever doubt I would take a bullet for you? March into Stark Industries and drag you out if I thought they were hurting you?"


"Not anymore." Bucky unchambers the round with a firm snap-crack of the bolt actuating, and catches the spinning piece of brass out of the air with an expert's motion, barely bothering to look.

"We've got a lot of work to do, Scarlett." His lips twitch. "My rogue little warrior, faking it as a hippy." He chuckles again, that dry and dispassionate sound. "We'll make it work. Let's start from the beginning," he says, settling down onto a workbench, eyes glinting. Here's something Bucky knows better than almost anyone else alive, and he's excited to find an apt pupil.

"How much do you know about building bombs?"


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License