1964-08-27 - Penny For Your Thoughts
Summary: Harper seeks out the Winter Soldier for a professional opinion on SHIELD.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
bucky harper 


Harper has been busy the last few days. A couple of jobs. Some hero work. And then there was the SHIELD stuff. The first two aren't so bad, really. It's the latter that has her in a mood. Worse, in a mood and looking to talk to Bucky, of all people. Dolled up in a blue silk dress, she's skipped the illusion tonight - not that anyone not versed in magic is going to be able to tell if it's her true face or just another disguise. But for once when she walks in, she truly searches the crowd. Tables. Waiters…and the bar.


There he is, behind the bar, finishing up an order. His usual self, in a somber gray suit - surprisingly well-tailored - the glove, the hair knotted back discreetly at his nape. Calm and impassive as usual, as if the prisoner's deadpan is the default, these days.


Harper heads for the corner of the bar where he's working, slipping up onto a stool. "Good to see you back," she greets, a faint smile tugging at one corner of her lips. "Was starting to think maybe you'd made some new friends and decided you were going into a…different field."


Buck still looks rather bland, though there's a tiny smile of his own creeping into place. "Yeah," he says, deliberately offhand. "Something like that. But here I am," he adds. "Mostly just dealing with old health problems."


Harper snorts back a laugh at that, reaching over the bar to grab a stir straw before she settles back into her seat. "That's an interesting way of putting it," she murmurs. "Hey. So. I know this is probably not something you want to talk about, but I'm going to try to keep it to a…pretty simple question. That's as not-personal as I can make it." She fidgets with the straw a bit, but her gaze is steady as she watches him.


He's gazing back at her expectantly. There's always that almost wolfish quality to it - that mingling of feral shyness and the faintest hint of restrained ferocity. "Okay," he says, voice still mild. Not tense, but poised, as he dries a glass - more to have something to do with his hands than anything else.


"Do you trust SHIELD not to fuck up a sensitive op?" Harper's lowered her voice enough not to be overheard by anyone nearby, though nothing's changed in her face or posture to suggest that she's just asked an extremely loaded question.


The Soldier considers that for a long time, utterly still. He's set the glass down, not even pretending to busy-work, and rests his hand on the bar, leaning his weight forward a little. "I do," he says, finally. "I do."


Harper purses her lips slightly, eyes dropping to the bartop as she nods. She spins the straw between her fingers, tapping one end on the bar before clenching the other between her front teeth. "You trust them to go after where you came from?"


Now she's snagged his interest in a far more personal way. He inclines himself in just a barest fraction more, but that whole sense of his presence has changed - a far cry from the man with sandy feet and a perplexed expression out at the beach. "What do you know of where I came from?" he asks her, and there's that betraying flatness in his voice. Winter may be chained and confined, but he's still very much there.


"What they put in your SHIELD file." Harper looks back up again, taking the straw out of her mouth to spin it between her fingers. "Trust me, I've got a whole lot of questions that are a lot more personal, but honestly, they're none of my business, and I'm trying really hard to keep them to myself. But I've got a couple of…friends might be stretching it. Acquaintances. I gave them the short version of just where I came from, and they went running to SHIELD, and now they think they're going to bring the whole thing down. Which, don't get me wrong, I'm not against. Except I've got some reservations about the people I've met so far, and I don't want their blood on my hands."


She's struck a nerve in the worst possible way - she can see it flare to life behind his eyes. But his body language is still calm, and he waves over a server, murmurs something to her about needing a break. Then he's jerking his chin at the back of the bar. "Meet me out back," he says, voice still low. "I'm not discussing this further here," his tone brooks no argument. Then he's slipping away to the door behind the bar.


Harper nods once, though she doesn't leave the bar immediately. That would be suspicious, after all. After a few minutes, though, she slips from her stool and makes her way out to the back. She's wary, alert - she saw the shift in him, for certain. But she's the one who brought it up, and she's prepared for the consequences, it seems.


There's an alley out back. Surprisingly neatly kept, really. He's back there, smoking an unfiltered Lucky Strike - veracity for his excuse, and a means of calming nerves vibrating like plucked strings. Bucky's just waiting, watching her. Only when they're within steps of each other does he look to her expectantly, prompting with an arch of brows. As if afraid of asking questions aloud.


Harper finds herself a spot against the wall - just out of arm's reach - and reaches into her clutch to pull out a cigarette of her own. She's not in the habit of smoking often, but it's too convenient a social excuse not to carry them. "Weapon X," she says quietly, once it's lit. "Or one of many related installations, at least. I looked at yours," she turns toward him, almost apologetic. "Only fair if I show you mine, right?"


"What did you see, in mine?" he asks, voice light, almost airy. There's that odd changeability to him, a sense of things shifting. "And Weapon X, I know." And has fought against some of their results, in battles past.


"They didn't show you the file?" Harper quirks a brow, taking a drag of her cigarette. "You seemed to be pretty cooperative." She crosses one arm over her chest as she lets out a thin stream of smoke, considering. "Name. Jacket. Certain sensitive bits redacted," she adds with a sidelong glance. In other words, she doesn't know the codewords. But she knows there's something she doesn't know, and that it was important enough to keep out of the version of the file available to the majority of SHIELD agents.


He shakes his head at that. "I'm trying to cooperate. Trying to sign on, actually," He takes a deep drag off the cigarette, turns enough to refrain from blowing smoke on her. "Now how did you get to it? Because I'll bet you a drink you didn't do it legit."


"Now why would I tell you that?" Harper smiles faintly, flicking a bit of ash from her cigarette. "I'll grant you, not legitimately." But there's something else he's said that's caught her attention. "After everything you've been through, you trust them enough to sign on?" It's not accusing. If anything, there's an almost…hopeful note in her voice.


Buck lowers the cigarette, slowly. "I don't," he says, with that halting deliberation, "Have a lot of choices at this point. Of the options available, I think they are the best one. I know people in the hierarchy, people I trust. I don't have any illusions as to what they'll do to or with me, unseen politics being what they are….but…ultimately, yes, I do."


Harper nods slowly, taking another slow drag from her cigarette. "My…acquaintances want SHIELD to go after the program," she explains. "Thing is, I don't think they've got a real understanding of what they think they're going after. I'm not convinced SHIELD has the resources. And if they did, I'm not even sure it would be the best use of them, given the risks and potential rewards. And I get that maybe I'm not the only person who can make that decision. But I don't know that I want to work with them, and at the same time, I don't think I can let them do it blind. Which puts me…in a pickle."


He cocks his head, that faintly canine gesture. "You want SHIELD to go after Weapon X," he says, as if in search of confirmation that he understands her rightly. "Why would SHIELD do that? They may be international, but….functionally, they're US heavy. Canada's an ally."


"I don't," Harper clarifies. "I don't want to see other kids lied to about what they're doing and conned into doing someone else's dirty work, but I think a showdown between SHIELD and whatever's left of Weapon X - the parts smart enough and dangerous enough to go underground and stay there after the clusterfuck last year - doesn't end well for anyone. Not for the public perception of mutants, not for the future of warfare, not for either agency or any country. Unfortunately, I don't know that others agree with me."


More consideration, occasional more measured drags on the Lucky, and he nods. "I think you're right," he allows. "But I don't set policy in SHIELD. They don't listen to me, not yet. At best I'm a possible asset, at worst a weapon they'll hasten to dispose of. But these friends of yours are hoping to do just that? To what end, other than freeing who might remain?"


"Seems like the last is the goal." Harper lets the cigarette burn, the orange glow at the end flickering with the evening breeze. "Except I've tried to explain to them, there's a solid chance most of the people there don't want to be 'rescued.' You know what they told us?" Of course he doesn't. "We were the SSR, take two. The next generation of Captain America. No serum, so they worked with people who already had powers. They were training us to defend the country, to be good American soldiers. How many ten-year-olds do you know who wouldn't think that was great? How many would start to think it wasn't after eight years of being told the same thing?"


There's something terribly sardonic in the look he levels at her. "Ten year olds? What about twenty seven year olds?" IS that how old he is? He doesn't look even that old. A pang of something, and he drops his gaze. How old are his brothers, really? Who will rescue them, when their one would-be champion is an amputee veteran with mental problems?


"Start young was part of the strategy," Harper clarifies, taking a brief drag. "As close to power manifestation as possible. Catch them off guard, raise them into it, they won't think twice about it later. And if they do, they won't have anywhere else to go. No friends, no resources, no idea how to live life outside the program. It's a solid plan," she shrugs. "With most kids." Not her, apparently.


"But you're here, how?" he says, quietly. "And the rest of the kids….where did they go, when it was all shut down?" He suspects. Of course he does.


"I don't know where they went," Harper shakes her head. "I don't know if they were successfully shut down, honestly. Things got chaotic, I saw an opportunity, I took it. I'd had some questions for a while. And I went digging, and I didn't like the answers I found. I do sort of hope someone at least felt good about how they'd trained me when I disappeared," she muses.


That makes Bucky's lips thin out, and he eyes her, even as he knuckles out the cigarette on the brickwork, drops the butt to crush it under a bootheel. "You and I are more alike than I realized," he admits, almost grudgingly.


"You know, I was going to say how I trusted your opinion on the SHIELD thing because everything I've seen so far tells me you know what you're doing, but then you had to go and be flattering and now I'm rethinking my opinion." Harper smiles faintly, giving her cigarette a flick. "Seriously, though. Sorry to intrude, and dig. It's sort of a…thing with me. Not knowing things gets under my skin."


Buck gives her that dry look. "Really?" he asks, tone arch, teasing, "I hadn't noticed. You've dug into SHIELD and found me, whether or not that's what you were looking for to begin with." He spreads his hands, gloved and not, still faintly mocking. "No. If you've read my file, you know what happened to me." Part of it. Svartalfheim….that he's not recounted to anyone part of SHIELD.


"Hell of a thing," Harper carefully snuffs her cigarette, slipping the half-used remains back into a holder. "At least the program never actively went into our heads. That I know of. That'd be awkward." She takes a deep breath of the night air, letting it out slowly. "Thanks for listening. And sharing. Still not…sure what way I want to go, but I'm a little less worried about SHIELD doing something stupid."


"Awkward?" There's laughter in his voice as he repeats that back to her. "That's an understatement. All I can really offer as a voucher for their sincerity and lack of stupidity is that I'm not dead now…or imprisoned, or mindless. And that I think I'll survive longer working for them than I would otherwise."


"Yeah," Harper muses. "That last bit's a fair point. I've been lucky so far. They've probably been too busy getting their shit together to start looking for me so far, but that doesn't mean it'll stay that way. And the for hire work pays all right, but…" She lets out a huff of breath, shaking her head. "I dunno. Guess they got into my head enough that it's not exactly satisfying."


For a moment, he looks as if he's going to make some cynical statement….and then he bites it off, almost perplexed. Then he sighs. "Yeah," he says. For this one, he has to blame Steve. The Russians…their attempts to inculcate ideals were never more than half-hearted. "I wish you luck."


"Thanks, Jack." Harper pushes off the wall, headed for the street beyond. Turning to face him as she walks backwards, she cracks a smile. "Glad to see you back out in the world. Was getting boring."


He hesitates for a long moment. He could ask her help, with his brothers. But….he knows what SHIELD knows, thus far. And telling her…..that's another leak. "Thanks," he says, finally, hesitating.


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