1963-11-07 - Assassins and Ghosts
Summary: After a long day in the office, Peggy and Ava leave to go home. They are stopped by an attempt on Peggy's life by a man supposedly 20 years dead.
Related: None Yet
Theme Song: None
bucky peggy ava 


It's actually an almost reasonable hour for Peggy Carter to be leaving work. Somewhere between 7 and 8 in the evening, but she might make it home before dinner is totally cold. Things have been semi-close to calming down, the new junior agents settling in, their new, strange other additions not causing too much trouble. So, out of the office before midnight. Whether it's Peggy or Ava who talked the other into leaving at this hour, it's not clear, but now the director is stepping out of that little noodle shop next to one of the newer agents, the two women walking down the street like they might have been old friends out for dinner.

"…So, you're…Settling in alright? I'd say you've proven yourself well the last few weeks. But I knew you would…" The older woman clips out to the younger agent, her quiet smile approving, if still reserved and professional. She's in her trench coat, but it's unbuttoned and unbelted, the evening still a touch unseasonably warm. A purple dress fitted proper for her rather noticably expanding waistline peaks out beneath the flaps of that coat. She's stopped bothering to try and hide her 'delicate' state.

*

According to the personnel records in the office, Ava has not actually found herself an apartment. And it's pushing toward winter now, temperatures falling during the evenings. Which mostly means she just looks even more like a vagrant than she usually does, with a sweater layered under her oversized coat, a knit cap pulled down over her head, and fingerless gloves on her hands. She insists it's cover.

"It isn't so different from what I was already doing," she answers, a faint smile touching one corner of her lips as she glances back toward Peggy. "Only instead of checking in at the bar to see if there's going to be work in the evening, I stop in here to see what's happening today. And if the vampires and the other things gone, it's less…fighting. So far."

*

The explosion flattens everyone for a half a block and blows out two dozen windows.

Movies never capture explosions well. They make fire and smoke, a great slow-moving ball of heat that climbs skywards like a torus-shaped caterpillar. Most explosions don't have that kind of heat or intensity. It's just a great, rolling wall of pressure that leaves eardrums ringing, punches you in the chest hard enough to hurt your heart. The resonating shockwave leaves the pedestrians deafened and stunned, even people who've been hit by such detonations in the past.

Peggy Carter and Ava would likely not appreciate at the moment that a subtle metallurgical flaw in the heavy steel electrical box on the corner had failed rather unexpectedly, and the shrapnel that /should/ have killed them instead blasted the wrong way, mostly up and back into the street, ventilating a passing car with 1" steel bearings and leaving cratered impact holes in the brick facade."

*

"So far. Things will change… They always do." Peggy states quietly to Ava, her commentary almost an exhausted one. Eventually, one gets tired of fighting. Or maybe it's just been a long year. "Ava…I really think you should come home with-" And then it hits. She doesn't get the rest of the sentence out as that massive, concussive explosion hits the block, too uncomfortably close to them but not violently injuring yet. Glass rains from the windows behind them, the car windows on the street. Everywhere, really, it feels like.

Peggy goes sprawling. She knows how to take a fall, she's taken many and, in truth, from closer explosions before. She swears, hitting the ground hard, body covered with debris and glass as she crawls towards the shelter of the nearest car, coughing some debris from the base of her throat. She blinks through watering eyes. "Ava?…Ava!" She calls, not even certain she can hear if there is a response. Her ears are ringing. Dark eyes frantically look around for her younger colleague, protective and worried.

*

A shadow leaps off the roof of the building a block away. A human— falling forty feet and landing with a heavy flex of his knees. He vanishes into the smoke still in the air, the ruptured gas lines leaking hazy film and secondary fires from a burning gas tank filling the area with smoke. The gas in the air ignites with a *whomph* and many small flammables in the asphalt and acros the street on the other sidewalk ignite as the condensed gas starts burning merrily, fire supplying the light that's now missing from the broken streetlamps and squelched storefront displays. It gives the area a weird, hellish look, lit only by the flames and ambient city lights.

The figure turns towards Peggy and walks towards her, quickly, a pistol levelling off. It's a man— short, with shoulders so wide they're almost deformed. His face is hidden by some kind of modified gas mask, with red lenses and a strange metal grill over his mouth. A strange, weirdly futuristic machine pistol levels at Peggy's head from barely three yards away and he tightens his finger on the trigger. ,

*

Ava doesn't get blown far away. Not by any real skill or talent, but rather because there's a car in the path of where she goes flying. She slams into the side of of the car, falling flat to the pavement in the first moment.

It's a flash of memory - a warehouse in Odessa exploding in flames and electricity, the currents snapping through her and a nameless agent until it was hard to tell which was which. The beginning of all of it.

Her ears are ringing too hard for her to hear Peggy when she lifts her head, but there's nothing wrong with her eyes. She sees the strange man, stumbling and swaying as she pushes herself up from the ground. "Peggy!" she shouts. "Cover!"

Feet still unsteady beneath her, she braces herself against the car before using it to push off as she launches herself at the man with the gun. The first few steps are unsteady, but the next few are stronger, and by the time she's within range, she has her balance back, springing up toward his shoulders in a move that's straight out of a Red Room manual.

*

The only thing that saves Peggy Carter's life is that Ava handsprings and rodeos the strange man. He grunts in surprise as she hauls him into a flying guillotine triangle, the gun barking with a strange *rat-tat-tat-tat* as high velocity bullets smack into the pavement and walk up the side of a parked car. When she twists to take him to the ground he dives and rolls with her. He's /heavy/, too heavy, and the rotational intertia he transfers to Ava is far more than he should be able to. He pushes her ankles apart before she can sink a choke with her knees around his neck, the gun skittering under a nearby parked car.

They separate and he comes up fast, /too/ fast, using his fingertips to push off the ground. Ava fetches up against a car in a sitting position and he drives a knee for her nose with enough force to crush her skull like a melon facing a sledgehammer.

*

Maybe she's getting old. Maybe she's just tired, it's been a long day, and not everyone is always perfectly on their game. Or maybe Bucky is just that good. But if he'd pulled the trigger the moment he raised the gun? Peggy Carter would probably be dead. Still, she can't hear a damned thing beyond that ringing in her ears as her head lifts, looking for Ava. She can read lips, though, and the frantic shout from the woman is enough to draw a confused look and then a sudden jerk of her head in another direction. Right towards Bucky. A terrifying cut of a figure, nothing she would recognize in him now, but she locks eyes with him, and that gun, for just a moment. It's one of those moments that one's life flashes before their eyes.

Then, split of a second later, she is moving. Shocked or not, aching or slow, Peggy has no time to worry about it. She jerks herself aside, around the car, trying to put some sort of cover between herself and the strange armored man. Her coat's swinging open wide now, to show soft body and casual dress. She certainly doesn't LOOK like a woman a highly skilled assassin should be seeking, but looks are deciving.

Then the gun is sent skittering and Peggy follows her instincts and training more than safety. She wasn't letting Ava fight this man alone. She dashes back into the mess of it, reaching for that gun, though it's gone beneath a car and that's going to be hard to get to. She'd still rather have it in *her* hands than his. So she leans down low, grabbing for it and trying to figure how the damn thing works. It's definitely different than a regular piece.

*

Ava is going to be feeling…so much of that in the morning. She rolls with him, though she has to adjust for the extra weight, dragging her elbow against the pavement (all those layers will at least save some skin) until she's slammed up against a car again, driving the breath from her lungs in a grunt.

Head spinning, she looks back up for her target only to find it headed right for her face. Both hands come up to guard her face, forearms shoving his knee to one side as she tips her head to the other, barely avoiding getting her face caved in.

That won't save her, though. She reaches for that leg, a blue spark building behind her eyes as she readies a different sort of weapon.

*

The strange pistol is just out of reach, though Peggy can get her fingers on one corner of the pistol grip, tantalizingly. A fingernail scrapes a plastic panel and bumps it a few millimeters closer— if she can just— reach— a bit— more…

Behind her the assassin's knee flies at Ava's face. She deflects it— barely— but even vectored a few inches away it's got enough power behind it to knock her sideways, and the blow leaves a six-inch dent in the solid steel of the Oldsmobile.

A few fingertips get purchase on his leg and he grunts in pain, shocked— literally— as electricity arcs through his heay, rugged dungarees. There's just enough resistance from the heavy cotton to give him a moment to reach down and grab Ava's upper arm, his left hand gripping hard enough to leave microfractures in the bone. She'll have a palm shaped bruise. With a shout of pain he flings Ava back the other direction into the storefront in a pile of broken display glass.

*

"…Bloody hell….Dammit!" Peggy hisses, leaning down farther, practically pressed into the ground as she reaches for that damn gun. She can't just leave it there, though she's now regretting not just pulling her own weapon and going at the man. But it looked too dangerous to leave. She takes another few seconds to flatten her less than agile body, finally scraping fingertips over the hilt enough she can spin it in her direction. That means she's grabbing the muzzle instead of the handle, but that's alright. She drags it out from beneath the car and rolls onto her butt, at least leaving both her hands free to bring it up.

Peg knows Ava is a capable fighter, but their opponent was entirely too capable also. She spins the gun in her hands, getting a proper grip on it and then levelling the thing in the direction of the fight. SHe's still one of the most capable marksmen on this coast, but it takes a few moments of focus, breathing, and seeing where the fight is going before she can at least cough out a single shot from the thing. Or so she tries. Maybe it doesn't work like a normal gun. But once she's confident she can take a shot and NOT hit Ava, she will try.

*

For half a second, Ava reaches out to grab Bucky's shoulder, ready to try to use his own momentum against him, before she feels the full power of that grip. On second thought, sometimes it's best not to grab the tiger by the tail. Instead, she tries to direct her fall, spinning in the air to roll once and come up in a three-point stance.

Again, she's protected by the layers of clothing, but not enough to save her completely. Her hands are sliced, and while a waterfall of broken glass cascades from the back of her coat when she straightens, one piece in particular stays stuck in her calf. It doesn't stop her - she starts running toward him again, trying to get close enough to keep him from taking another shot at Peggy.

*

The assassin moves fast, and just as Peggy gets that gun up and puts a finger on the trigger, he's on her. His left hand reaches out and closes over the muzzle of the compact little Skorpion SMG, and the muzzle flashes with light and exploding powder— but he doesn't even look /hurt/ as he closes his palm over the gun. The barrel swells and *cracks* dangerously, obviously broken by the overpressure. He rips the gun from Peggy's hand and flings it aside, then hauls his fist back to crush her skull.

Then Ava slams into him again and the assassin struggles for balance, a strike to his outer thigh momentarily taking him off balance. It's like kicking slab steel— there's just zero give in his muscles. He turns to deal with Ava head on, hands rising to protect his head in a classic Sambo stance— the martial combat style of Russian special forces. He lashes out with a stomping, short kick at her calf, then snaps two punches at her and swings his left arm at her in a huge haymaker. Metal glints in rips in his jacket sleeve.

*

A slight yelp of surprise escapes Peggy's lips as the man is suddenly THERE, grabbing at that gun. Her dark gaze is a bit too wide, she was not expecting this tonight, and he's got her trapped against a car. She did not position herself well for this fight. But the most damage has been done to the gun and that is fine with her, it meant neither of them could use it. She jerks to the side as she sees his fist hauling back, her shoulders slipping around, body moving as fast as possible to get out of the way so she simply wouldn't be there when his fist comes back down.

ANd then Ava is there. She can do nothing but take advantage of the fact he's distracted again. Peggy stumbles back up to her feet, getting out of that pinned corner as she now reaches for her own weapon. No hesitation this time. Gun drawn, the grip far more comfortable, she levels it for another shot at the attacker's chest. She wanted to get the meat of him and NOT risk hitting Ava, even as they still fight.

*

Ava isn't being very helpful for giving Peggy a shot. She's moved in close, meeting his kick with a sweep of her leg, catching one punch on her forearm, ducking beneath the second, which leaves her low for the haymaker. Right where she wants to be.

As his arm swings up, she turns her back to him, stepping in close to slam one elbow back at his face as the other arm snaps up to wrap around his arm, ready to pull him into a flip to the pavement.

*

They're dancing too closely to give Peggy a clean shot. Not one that isn't possibly going to hit Ava— or travel through the assassin and then hit her ally. And the fighting is furiously intense. Fast. Blows and counterblows and riposts and parries that are almost too fast to follow. He checks the elbow to his chin with an outturned forearm, and when she flips him, he twists and lands on his feet. He grunts, both hands reaching behind him, and he grabs the back of Ava's shoulderblades, reaching up and over. With a shout and a grunt of force, he throws /her/, and unlike a judokin's shoulder flip— he just flings her bodily ten feet away from him, to smack into the brick storefront.

He twists, never stopping his movement, and snatches the gun from Peggy's hand. Leather creaks and splits, and steel-covered fingers under it crush the gun's action. Without losing a beat he lunges for Ava with a flurry of punches and low kicks, that mask grating with each fast pant he takes as he tries to pin her against the wall and take her out of the fight entirely.

*

Enchanced. Both the assassin and Ava were enchanced in their own ways, Peggy could see that. This was not a fight she could win alone. This was barely a fight Ava could win with her back up. The man in the strange glasses and face mask was terrifyingly good. Peggy curses beneath her breath again, it being impossible to find the shot she needs. Instinctively, she takes a few steps back, trying to stay out of the range where he could grab this gun from her too.

Apparently, that is for naught, though. He still manages to get the gun from her hands, even if she fires it once into his palms even as he's crushing it. His hand doesn't seem actually BOTHERED by that shot in any way, but then his hand also did not even see flesh. "Who…*are* you?" She hisses into the night, but the fight is moving too fast for any real conversation. She can't let Ava fall to him, though, so, as he lunges at her with that flurry of punches and kicks, Peggy is at his back. Violent, quick, not as strong as him, but she was using his distraction on Ava to hopefully get a tight arm around his throat, crushing at wind pipe. If she could just choke him out…

*

Ava hits the wall hard, crumpling with a stifled cry as the piece of glass in her calf is ripped free. Her hands come up instinctively, but her mind is a fog. Stolen years of training, stolen instincts, but there's nothing more than a teenage girl's strength behind them, and that's been shaken by repeated blows now. She manages to dodge a few, swipe another aside, but she takes a hard blow to the gut, another to the chin, and it looks like she's on the ropes.

Ava has one thing that the average agent doesn't have though. One last ace up her sleeve. Through the pummeling, she reaches up to the side of his head, to any exposed skin she can reach, and lets go of the power inside of her. "Peggy, let go," she pants, even as the electric spark in her eyes takes over white and iris alike, lips glowing with the power that explodes out of her body.

*

The assassin swings a fist and leaves a massive series of spiralling cracks in the concrete near Ava's head. He hauls back to hit her again but Peggy tackles him from behind. He looks… more surprised. Than anything. Gripping Ava's throat with his right hand, he just bears his chin down with /impossible/ strength, until he pushes Peggy's forearm out of the way. What sort of workout routine could possibly strengthen someone's neck muscles?!

He grips Peggy's wrist in his left arm and twists, breaking it casually with a sick, wet *crack*, and then shoves her away from him. Her other hand tears his mask away as she goes, sending it skittering across the sidewalk.

Those fingers focus on his temple and he stares at Ava, face hard and a featurless mask. "Solchnechyy svet. Yobloko. Seryy," he snaps, in perfect Russian.

He pushes Ava aside, confident that the codewords will work, and turns back to Peggy.

The hair is a mussy mess, the stubble at least a week old, and there is no expression on his face. But the wide, high cheekbones and the sturdy jaw— a face Peggy's seen hundreds of times, and last at a funeral in Germany, during the height of the war.

He takes a predatory step towards Peggy.

*

Even if Peggy couldn't take out the man who attempted this assassination, she could at least get a good look at the man before she dies. Or he runs. Or however messily this ends, it ends. Peggy cries out in pain as that wrist is snapped, not having expected that strength in his NECK of all places. She tries to let go at Ava's words, but doesn't do it fast enough to save herself a broken wrist. All she can do is rip the mask off as she is tossed back, hoping to get one look at him or give Ava the chance to do so.

However, what she sees a heartbeat later was, in no way, what she expected.

"… B-Barnes? Bucky?" Peggy breathes out, her mind first going for the name in his file. The name she shouted across a room during drills more than once. But that wasn't really his name, not a name that would reach through twenty years. Bucky. She'd know that face anywhere. Those eyes. And all fight is out of her for a moment, standing bare, defenseless and injured before him. Shock is a horrible thing but, even for a woman like Peggy, some things seemed to impossible.

Seeing a man over twenty years dead was one of those things.

*

Those words mean something to someone. Ava knows those words. To her, they're almost empty. Just words. But to the agent whose mind she shared? Those words were attached to so much more. They don't have quite the desired effect - she doesn't fall into any preprogrammed actions - but for a moment, she's overcome by a sudden rush of someone else's memories, of everything that went into the conditioning behind those words.

Ava falls to the ground in a fetal position with a wrenching cry, electricity arcing around her in blue-white snaps of lightning. She tries to drag herself out of it, but she's lost to someone else's memories for a moment, reliving that suffering.

*

A heavy steel-fingered hand wraps around Peggy's throat. Effortlessly the assassin lifts her up off the concrete— to her feet— then off her toes, her pumps dangling and scraping for purchase. The fingers start to tighten around Peggy's neck. He'll kill her without blinking.

Then his eyes flicker.

He mouths that word. 'Barnes'. His eyes flicker again— and though the fingers stay tight, they don't tighten any more. He holds her aloft there, feet kicking, dangling, eyes going out of focus. Barnes. He mouths the words again. Barnes.

Then they move to Agent Carter.

"Peggy." He makes it more statement than question, examining her red, swelling face, swiftly turning closer to blue. "Peggy. Carter."

Then he looks down, at her open, swinging jacket, and her swollen belly.

"…Pregnant?" His face twitches repeatedly. Erratically. Horror flickers for just a moment— then shock, then confusion, then more confusion. Abruptly he drops her to the ground, looking down and seemingly confused, as if his arm has betrayed him. He looks at Ava, wide-eyed, seeing nothing on the ground, then back at Peggy. He takes one step away, then another. Scooping up his mask, he walks off, then the steps turn into long strides, then the *slap slap* of leather boots as he breaks into a sprint to carry him away from the abrupt, brutal attempt on Peggy Carter's life— leaving her and Ava on the ground, deaf, wounded, maybe worse— with no story better than a vengeful revenant from the dead having made an attempt on Peggy's life.

*

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