1964-08-13 - Winter Mindscape
Summary: Agent Coulson enlists the help of one Professor Charles Xavier in his attempts at putting Bucky Barnes back together.
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coulson bucky xavier 

Little does one know, but Phil Coulson has connections. Certain connections gained during an undercover operation within the bowels of organized crime. It isn't the first time he's utilized the Black Cat as a quiet meeting place; it's a place most people in this city wouldn't dare step foot inside.

Of course, the Senior Agent is well aware of which agents live this ultra secret lifestyle, and as such, they are the ones who have been assigned here to keep an eye on Bucky. Each of them have been given a series of strange words, translated into Russian and English. Words that will trigger them to break into action, if need be.

Escorting Bucky Barnes into the establishment, Coulson can't help but smirk a bit, while keeping an eye out for the man's reaction. He's dressed nicely, of course, having replaced the normal tie that screams 'government agent' with a bow tie and a less businesslike jacket, this one tweed. "Find us a quiet place to sit," he tells Bucky. "I'll get drinks."

A little more than a week ago, a letter was sent via certified mail to a certain publishing house, instructed to be forwarded to one Charles Xavier, a renowned psychiatrist. Here's to hoping the good man will show.

Drinks? Okay. Irony of ironies, among the wardrobe he brought with him when he turned himself in…there were several suits. Lux is a classy place, after all. So he's in a pale gray suit, white shirt, no tie, leather glove on hi left hand. This is the kind of place he might've known as the Soldier….but there's no familiarity in his gaze, as he surveys the bar. He claims a booth with the sightlines on both entrances and exits, sitting down silently. His eyes are mostly on Coulson - that this is being done in such a venue and not in an office or the base is enough to have him off-balance, it's plain.

If the Professor looks phased for being asked to meet at the Black Cat, he doesn't show it. He walks in precisely at the requested time, the man looking… well, he looks a little too young to really be a Professor. Running a hand through his hair, he looks mostly ignored by the crowd as he blends in despite the suit. Glancing around, he makes his way to the bar since… well, he wasn't told who exactly he was meeting, and scanning all the minds here would be rude and impractical.

"Professor Xavier?" Oh, there have been publications, and the occasional headshot. Phil Coulson steps up to the man, a whiskey in each hand. "I'm glad to see you received my letter." He sets one drink down and offers a hand in greeting. "I'm Phil Coulson, with SHIELD," he says, quietly. "I hope you don't mind the surroundings. Some people become a bit put off. I find it a place where people mind their own business, and don't talk about what happens here outside its walls." He lifts his eyebrows in conspiracy, then gestures toward a particular booth housing one off-balance Winter Soldier. "Join us?" he asks, then reclaims the drink and makes for Bucky's selected booth.

Bucky's drink's a Roy Rogers - childish, perhaps, but he's not willing to have real booze. Not when his status is so ambiguous. He watches the Professor and the agent approach with an expression of perfect neutrality, the prisoner's mask he's had years to perfect in Siberia. To all appearances a pale young man with lines of strain in his face…..but it's a face that's been on wanted posters for months now.

The Professor takes the offered drink, "Well, thank you Mr. Coulson." He smiles, "By all means." He walks over towards the table and slides in across from Bucky and Coulson in the booth, "A very… interesting method of getting my attention, though obviously it worked. Now, what can I do for you gentlemen?" He tilts his head, not using his powers just yet, though he might be tempted as he regards the SHIELD agent, curiosity etched into his features.

Once Coulson has claimed his seat, he gestures between the men seated there. "James Barnes? Charles Xavier." He takes a moment to allow them their introductions, before settling his attention upon Xavier. "I wonder, Professor, how up to snuff you might be on American history?"

Bucky just inclines his head in greeting. He doesn't offer a hand, but simply accepts his drink and takes a sip. Now that pale gaze is fixed on Charles, and there's a hint of curiosity there. What does this guy have to do with helping him? And why are they meeting *here*?

Charles smiles a bit, "Fairly familiar, though I'm hardly a scholar of it. Being a veteran I pride myself in knowing what I was fighting for, of course." He doesn't normally mention Korea that often, but in this case, it almost seems like he needs to establish a bonafide, before continuing, "James Barnes. That name does sound familiar." He looks carefully at Bucky then, his gaze intense enough to almost feel like he's peeling away the layers of an onion.

"Well, he served with some particularly notable individuals during the second Great War," Coulson indicates, while turning to study Bucky for a moment. "He was, as we understand it, in Russian captivity for a time, during which certain modifications were made to him that appear to be psychiatric in nature."

He looks between both men now. "I hope you'll both forgive me for being so frank, but given the circumstances, I'm afraid I don't have the luxury of keeping these matters quiet. It's why we're here." Perhaps he noticed Bucky's discomfort? "Three men, well dressed, sharing a drink. It's absolutely nothing to shake a stick at… and it won't be talked about when we leave."

Bucky meets Charles's gaze without wavering, but there's an opacity there. He nods in confirmation to Coulson's statement, and finally speaks, albeit softly. "I served with Captain Rogers," he says. "But at the end of the war, the Russians captured me…..and basically brainwashed me. Used me as an assassin in the time since." This *is* the guy who shot Captain America at the World's Fair, it seems.

Charles nods a bit, "I… see. I'm a bit familiar with that part of history, being a child at the time of course." He pauses, and looks at Bucky. "And I am not without certain, talents." He then lightly places a finger to his temple…

And suddenly Bucky can feel another presence in his head. A friendly one, at least, as Charles speaks in James' mind. » James. May I? « He clearly would like to explore Bucky's mind to see what damage was done… but he does, at least, have the decency to ask for permission first.

Quietly, Coulson sips at his beverage. He doesn't offer further explanation, not yet; for Charles has admitted to having certain talents, and now he's gone quiet. An eyebrow lifts, but he keeps it to himself.

He doesn't get it, at least at first, that indent appearing between his brows. But just as Buck's turning to look at Coulson, Charles speaks….and it makes James flinch, despite himself. At least he's put his glass down first. There's fear there, Charles can feel it, a tenderness like an old wound healed wrong, still infected. But he masters his outward, physical signs; hands steady, gaze level. »What are you going to do?« he asks. No panic there.

Charles says, "It's quite alright, Agent Coulson. I just need a moment to… assess the damage that's been done." He then glances at Bucky, speaking directly into the soldier's mind, » I'm going to look into your mind. It's going to be… rather personal. But I need to figure out the harm inflicted, so I can see what needs to be done to help you. «

While Phil has no idea just what may be happening, he is smart enough to see and guess that something is happening. Setting down his drink, he leans forward just so, looking between the men carefully. "One of my assets already did some work on him," he tells Charles, with some quiet urgency. "Be careful."

A hand rises, as if intent upon stalling whatever is happening. "It is my belief that the Russians use some sort of 'triggering words', designed to… somehow, change him." He glances Bucky's way with visible concern for the man's well-being.

Oh, he likes that not at all. One more person messing around in the wreckage of his psyche. Bucky has a swallow of his drink, which is nothing more than cola and grenadine. »All right,« Resigned to it, clearly. »Do what you need to do.« He yields easily. Too easily, as if some part of him were all too used to this. At Coulson's lifted hand, he says, in a near-whisper, "It's true. They have words, phrases, that work as triggers. I'm a Manchurian Candidate."

When Xavier looks….the mental architecture is like a prison, constructed of physical damage, programming, various forms of torture. But a prison that's currently unoccupied, with the flickering presence that is James somehow outside it. It's not gone, though, still functionally intact. There are traces of other, more benign psychic treatment, even magic, which explains why he's here as James himself.

Even further within that walls though, there are regions as yet unbreached, twined about in darkness like roots, spreading like vines. Perhaps that's where those crucial words lie.

Charles murmurs, "Then let's get rid of those, first." He then closes his eyes, concentrating intently…

Inside Bucky's head, Charles' presence is a quiet assurance. Bucky can sense the power of the man's mind, far beyond psychics he has had experience with before, and the projection of Charles looks at James, » James. This is not going to be easy, but I believe I can do this, with your help. « Charles then takes up a sledgehammer, and looks at James, who also has a sledgehammer in his hands, » This prison, is the reflection of the conditioning, the training they forced on you. I can help you destroy this, but you'll need to help guide me. Can you do that? «

Without much to ads, Coulson resigns to sipping at his whiskey and watching. He's ready to jump at a moment's notice, while hoping that he won't need to.

To Coulson, of course, it's only James looking drawn and uneasy, gazing intently at Xavier. But then, this *is* the kind of bar where two guys staring at each other isn't as out of place as it might be, right?

The Professor nods in the mindscape, » We… can do that. It's risky, but doable, James. « The sledgehammers vanish, and suddenly there are building blocks forming around the prison hellscape in James' mind. Like children's blocks, only the chipped and faded blocks have James' good memories, the Professor placing a hand on James' head in the projection, » I can give you the strength to wall this off, with good memories… and you can decide who you let in there. « Indeed, various faces appear on those blocks, faces that James has a positive association with, as the pain lessens with the blocks slamming into place.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the Professor is just concentrating, murmuring, "This is… most interesting, Agent Coulson. Please, it'll be alright."

Something about the process is painful, by the way he's gripping the table's edge with the hand that isn't metal….and his teeth are gritted.

Charles nods, » Alright, James. Let's find the words. They'll be hiding in here somewhere. « With that, both he and James now have butterfly nets in the psychic landscape, a distance from the prison now as this seems to be a peaceful pastoral setting…

Save for the several spiders chittering, the beasts as large as small dogs. Their mandibles hiss and snap at the pair, until Charles manages to capture one in his net. Once he does, it hisses "Longing" in Russian in a contemptuous tone. While it doesn't have an effect on Bucky in /this/ place, it definitely gives him the chill of someone walking over his grave…

That's unnerving. And a strange set of images altogether. It takes Bucky a moment to pull himself together and go after one. How hard can it be, right? This is his own mind…though his first attempt is very tentative indeed. But he manages to catch one, and it adds, in that inhuman, creaking voice, "Rusted," It makes him shudder, both in his mindscape and in the real world. In the Black Cat, he shivers, as if at a sudden chill.

Charles looks at Bucky, » They can't affect you here. I can keep them from taking over, while we secure them. « With that, he moves and captures another, the spider hissing, "Seventeen!" at James. That chill is there, but the frenzy, the loss of control… that's absent.

He flinches, as they round them up, slowly…but none escapes, and Bucky doesn't lapse into the coldness of that control state. It's Charles who catches the one that says, in a brick-thick accent, "Freight Car" and Bucky relaxes a little ….but there are two left. And they're somehow different, larger, darker…..shadowy shapes. The first one says, in metallic, mechanical tones, "Soldat" The latter intones, once Charles's netted it, "Sputnik."

Whereupon Coulson and Charles are treated to the spectacle of James fainting dead away. Charles is left in a mind gone dark in unconsciousness.

Charles sways a bit, grabbing the table as he nearly gets sucked down into the darkness, breaking the link barely in time. Then he looks at Phil, "I… believe, we got them. Or most of them. There's more to do, but that should take care of most of the problem. With as much damage as there is, it's difficult to tell."

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