1964-05-04 - Prison of the Mind
Summary: Sofia visits Bucky in lockup to learn the truth.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1964-04-29-sinister-purpose-part-one
Theme Song: One Step Closer - Linkin Park
sofia bucky 


They've got him in restraints that are basically a modified straitjacket. Enough escaping. He's propped himself sitting upright in a corner, but his head is bowed, as if dozing, legs stretched out before him. It's been a long few days.

*

Sofia enters quietly, her footsteps clicking softly against the floor. She is wearing a skirt suit with a nice, fresh white blouse and her usual evening gloves covering her hands. Brunette hair is slightly mussed. For the first time she doesn't look carefully made up. There's absolutely no hesitation. Sofia admits herself to the cell and walks right toward Bucky, removing her left glove as she goes. Brown eyes are intense as they study the man within his rather tremendous restraints.

*

He comes awake, peering at her muzzily through the hair in his face. No way to brush it out, with his hands pinned like that. But his expression's one of utter relief, and he strains towards her a little. Not smiling, but clearly pleased she's here. "Thank God," he says, softly.

*

"Okay. What on earth happened? Don't… Bother speaking," Sofia murmurs, shaking her head. She reaches out and brushes away those hairs from Bucky's face, then places her knuckles against his forehead. A soft sigh follows. "Think it for me." She watches for acknowledgment before trying to reach out and touch the man's mind with her own. The first thought she has is confusion: was he activated? Why did this all happen? Sofia doesn't believe BUCKY would do this. But there's no trouble in believing the Winter Soldier did. She still has to check.

*

He yields with that disturbing ease, as he always does. She's started to know the contours of his mental landscape very well, indeed. He starts with the escape by Loki's aid….and there's the meeting with Kai, the clearing up of confusion….and his genuine intention to find a way to contact SHIELD and end up back in custody. IT goes wrong when his gaze lands on a poster for the event at the Fair…and the idea of Steve just there, out in the open is enough to trigger the conditioning.

Then they're in the Soldier's territory, somewhere rendered technical, all but literally black and white. No emotional consideration, just efficient calculation. The Fair's bright grounds are rendered with that mathematical consideration: ranges, sight lines. He even manages to make it to his intended hide and assemble the necessary data, before slipping away again.

Then the day itself, his old friend a big, colorful figure….and a convenient target. But the bombs going off - genuinely a surprise. Nothing of them's showed up beforehand….and the explosions strike no chord in what's been implanted by the Room. He's not so shocked he can't still render Steve's throat into a liquid mess, but….there's still confusion, curiosity, even as he slips away.

*

Sofia watches all of this calmly. For another long moment she keeps her hand against Bucky's forehead, if only because it is the best place right now for physical contact. While a session might have been done here or there while out of touch this is how she prefers it. Standing close, skin touching skin, minds together.

The small woman is watching as impassively as she can manage but Bucky would still be able to feel the emotions. Concern, soem outrage, a grim determination. Most of all she reaches out to him to offer some small comfort. It's very real, that mental contact, like she was actually reaching out to touch him. Even hug him, if he is inclined to allow it. It's just a mental meeting, but—- what's the difference? It doesn't feel different. Everything passes through the lens of the mind.

When it comes to the assassination and the explosion Sofia is already ready to move. She takes a deep breath. "I'm going to make sure they know. I can show this to the director…" She reaches into her pocket and produces a little figure. It is, of all things, a classic Captain America figurine in his star-spangled costume. This is turned over and over in gloved fingers. "It'll be very clear." A beat follows and then Sofia adds, "I'll do whatever I can. Okay, James? You're… You're not alone. I'll help you."

*

He doesn't flinch away from that contact. "It's just …..I'm glad that you know. Someone will know. I did ….the Soldier meant to kill Steve. Thank God he didn't succeed. But the bombs - nothing to do with me," There's relief, desperation. "I don't know who those guys were." Then he's peering at the figure, then up at her. "Just….they have to know. I can't tell them any more than that. You see."

*

"I understand. I'll make sure they get this. And… Yes. The Captain is good as new, in fact. The common narrative is that yo- the Soldier- grazed him. That's obviously wrong, but…" Sofia shakes her head slowly before offering Bucky a humorless, wry smile. "I should go and get this to the Director so something can be done. But first… There's something I sort of want to try." She licks her lips then, pursing them gently afterward. "I don't know what willl happen if I tear out part of the Conditioning you suffered. But it might be worth an attempt?"

*

"Yes, please," he begs. "I can't….I can't do this anymore. It's luck that Steve's still alive. I nearly killed my best friend. If you can destroy or cripple the Soldier, do it. No matter what it takes." His eyes are suspiciously bright. "Don't stop."

*

"I don't need to tell you that this might not be… Good for you. But I am going to anyway. I'll do whatever I can." Sofia takes a deep breath and then looks to her bare hand. She flexes her fingers slowly then, one, two, three…. And this time Sofia begins to sing. Then she leaves Bucky with a memory.

For some reason James is in Paris. Perhaps he is waiting for orders. The city is open ahead of him and the day is bright and warm. People are smiling. It's a peaceful day, and one good for finding oneself in. A memory that never was and yet somehow clearly is. Indistinguishable from reality, at least for now. The music is playing, piano and all. His mind can fill in the details, and is encouraged to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu1auaUHy0c

Against that backdrop Sofia begins to pull. She doesn't take BUcky with her this time as she explores his mind. She is going to dig out whichever triggers and memories of the Soldier's conditioning she can find and rip them out of Bucky's skull. Gentle, if possible, but this time… If she can manage it all that will be left of what she can find is the memento of Steve that she carried with her today.

*

That song….it helps that he's got genuine good memories of it. Days working with the Resistance…..and then the liberation of Paris. Golden days indeed. He's content to rest in that, both him and an image of Steve, not in the uniforms they made famous, but plain American servicemens' gear. That's celebrity enough to get them blown kisses by passing French girls, though none of them recognizes the pair for who they really are.

But beneath all that, in the scorched spaces where she wanders, it's very different. The conditioning's like some terrible architecture in steel and stone, hemmed about with the energy of pain. Sofia's a power in her own right….but the moment she exerts force towards destruction, it's as if she's triggered a mine. There's a word beneath her hand, followed by others, links in a chain.

Rusted. Longing…but then it's as if part of it collapses on her. Painful for both her and him. The shimmering dream of Paris bursts like a soap bubble….and now she's in the Soldier's territory in earnest, that waste of lightning and ice. Distantly, in the real world, she can hear him screaming again, before it trails off into that hopeless whimpering. But she's caught something, like chipping and cracking a wall of ice.

*

When Sofia loses that dream she'd crafted it's jarring. Enough so that she actually falters for a moment. It's always painful in its own way, delving within Bucky's mind. Trying to navigate the sharp corners and cutting herself on them as she works out the layout. This is- different. A knife slicing into her skull, a pressure against her eyes which threatens to crush her.

Sofia's response is to lash out. She's in the soldier's territory. That's where she wanted to be, right? She grits her teeth even in reality as she steels herself agains the mindscape and listens to Bucky's scream. That strikes a spike of anger, and so she latches onto that crack. She strikes it again, even if it rattles her bones and causes her to tremble.

In the real world there are tears on Sofia's cheeks. They'll soon evaporate but it's proof that she can feel more than she's willing to admit when her mind touches Bucky's. Both of her hands are on his shoulder now, to support herself in case her legs buckle.

That's seeming pretty likely now.

*

She can see a face now, a man with harsh features, no hair but a dark goatee - clearly groomed in imitation of Lenin himself. He's watching calmly as a tech nearer to hand works at a little panel, glancing between it and Bucky, muttering to himself in Russian. Then there's something over his eyes, something else blocking hearing….even the sensation of touch is gone. James is a mote in the darkness and the silence, identity peeling away. No memory behind to bolster it. Trying to reach, trying to remember….and each time, there's pain. Like a man walking on a cliff's edge that crumbles further with each step….leaving him on a yawning gulf of nothingness. Each blow of hers weakens some part of it….and then, despite his earlier urgings, he's fighting. Trying to kick her out, but it's blind thrashing

*

Blind thrashing isn't going to dig a determined telepath out of a wounded mind. It does, however, have Sofia pausing. She is studying what James is looking at and doing. Watching what her actions are doing to his dentity and his brain. Some part of her is faltering. After alll, the soldier isn't attacking Sofia. By what mechanism would a series of conditioned responses destroy an invading telepath? Like a computer being hacked somehow vaporizing the hacker, it proves implausible. It's attacking James. Suddenly Sofia's focus has changed and she's focused, despite her promise, preserving him. The James who is disappearing, not the Soldier. Building him somewhere safe to be. Digging a way through the blackness. Just one ,she hopes, that won't intersect with the soldier's assaults. An avenue to be himself, at least. She's making this up as she goes, with no real way to tell if she is consigning him to the blackness of memory death or giving some modicum of relief. Not until she's finished, at least.

*

This stuff seems determined to defend itself….like a climbing vine that crumbles the structure it grows on, until it's sturdy enough to stand on its own. But….these flailing responses, it is James they're trying to degrade, wear down. The danger his creators anticipated was never an outside invader, but rebellion from within…..and the designed punishments are harsh indeed. He seems to have forgotten Sofia entirely, caught up in this internal battle…..and he's losing, as he always has. Going blank and silent, anything to make it stop.

In the real world, his body jerks, arching against the wall behind him, hard enough to leave bruises. Not fighting her there, either.

*

Useless, then. Sofia might be trying to get between James and the encroaching mental scourge but it proves to be more or less impossiblel. So instead she finally turns on the source of those punishments. He thrashes and arches, hard enough to bruise, and Sofia finally takes the gloves off. Literally and metaphoricallly. BOth are in her lefthand for a second ashe grasps bucky, taking a deep breath. Sofia is singing to him agian as she reaches out with her mind and snatches at the darkness assaulting Bucky then starts to pull. And pull. It isn't resisting. It's targeting James. If she tears enough of the commands our perhaps he'll be okay. If this doesn't seem workSofia is going to have to admit defeat.

Either way this goes it doesn't seem likely BUcky will be entirely whole. Not right away. That's enough to make Sofia continue to cry.while her vocie greets the ear.

*

Something in that internal architecture cracks, breaks. It's like tearing down a building by breaking one beam at a time. But she has….it's progress of a sort, even if the remainder is daunting. He's not dead of an aneurysm or insane, though. And there's a sense of something tearing free. Like letting an animal scrape its way out of a trap…..and he ends up still under her hands, panting and trembling. "Thanks," he says, voice gone hoarse and rusty. "I felt it. YOu did something. It's like you broke a bar on the cage."

*

Taking a deep breath Sofia nods. She lowers her head then and closes her eyes for a second. "I feel like I carved out a window so you could see the light," she responds in a murmur, nodding. "I don't- think I can do more. Not right now. But if you feel it then… Good." She swallllows hrd and gives a soft laugh. "I need to get this to Director Carter."

*

Bucky winces, eyes closing for a moment. "Fuck," he mutters. And then, "Sorry. Uh. I could use some aspirin. But….please, do. Peggy will believe me. So will Steve. Tell Steve I'm sorry?"

*

"I will, I promise." Sofia takes a deep breath. "I can do a bit better, in fact. I can show them what I saw of what happened to the Captain." With a quit smile she takes a deep breath and turns to walk away. there's a brief pause as she looks back at Bucky once more. "Oh, and I'll have aspirin sent down when I can. Of course."

*

Bucky's smile is shaky, but genuine. "Thanks," he says, and then adds, haltingly, "….for all of it."

*

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