1964-12-22 - Project Virgo: Rounding Up the Wolves
Summary: Bucky is in fine fettle, if one discounts the fact the wolves are nipping at his heels.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
bucky rogue 

.~{:----------: features=+views :-:}~.

One of the bennies of the supersoldier serum is that Bucky heals quickly and almost always cleanly. The downside of this is that healing demands a lot of the metabolism….and healing like that, even more so. It's hard for him to stay awake while his erzatz Erskine serum is beavering away and healing him up. So despite the uncomfortable surroundings, he sleeps suddenly, and deeply - assassin narcolepsy.

The awakenings are just as sudden, from the depths up to wakefulness in silent instants. Always that pause to figure out where he is, and with whom, still in the niche they've left him in.

Blessings to be had in the enriched, rude good health afforded by artificial means. Whatever the outcomes conjectured on the chalkboard and the laboratory by Soviet scientists, Bucky proves the excellence of their work. Stab wounds sealed under light webs of pink scar tissue, the bullet plucked by thin tweezers, defy medical thought. Burnout is a known quantity. The starvelings guarding him husband their limited wealth and, when that fails, descend upon bodegas scattered around Hell's Kitchen to purloin energy rich foods they can recognize. After the wilds of Russia and Europe, perhaps, this is more difficult than naught, but he'll have a selection of predominantly cheese and sausage. Bread is thinner on the ground. Bloodied knuckles mean a lot less for those feeding the hypocaust hidden in a man's muscular chest. They watch, such as their roles are sentry, guardian, assassin. Five of them.

Five plus one woman under bitter observation by the tattooed variant, for he has found what he was sent to locate. Diane is long gone, tucked back in her forgettable apartment to dream badly of fearful memories, nightmare vexed. The sterner stuff they face is younger, fairer, braids down to her waist and dark leather to her throat. The niche isn't much different from the other before than he left, save indoors, probably a door kicked in to bring him to what amounts to sleeping on a cot heaped in coats and blankets. Evgeniy keeps glaring at the redhead, who in turn meditates in classic lotus position. Lazar has obtained a sniper rifle from somewhere; Orel is fast up against the wall, eagerly chewing into a honey wheat loaf by himself. Nikita and Volya are stationed by the only entrances.

It's her he orients on, promptly. There's a smile of relief, a croak of greeting not much more coherent than a frog's. No attempt to get up from the cot where he lies, but the metal hand worms its way out from beneath his coverings to beckon her to him.

"Water," murmurs the redhead. Five pairs of eyes swivel away briefly to Bucky, marking his return to the lands of the living, or mostly living. Evgeniy doesn't shift his position, prepared to commit terrible mistakes for the good of the Motherland. The other pups in various stages of disrepair do not break ranks, though the tow-headed one — Orel — beams over his round loaf and hastens along to find a glass bottle without much of a label to speak of. Another jug in Spanish provides ample liquid if their sleepyhead companion requires more to slake his thirst. Hell, they might even have a 50 gallon plastic bottle stored in a corner. The low light makes it difficult to see.

Water, first. Someone thought about a straw; most likely came with a pile of them, or arranged by circumstance.

«Cover the door,» Nikita mutters in shorthand, practically flicking Evgeniy further along. Someone has to guard the entrance, and the angry one gets the job. Whilst seeing things laid out as they are, Scarlett breaks the fold of her legs and gently, slowly walks through a morass of shadows permeated by concern and the faint rust-notes of blood. "Hey."

That's a lot of them at once, and it registers, albeit slowly. But water it is, and he drinks thirstily, throat working….still unwilling to relinquish the hand of hers he's seized the moment she's in range.

Cool, a bit stale, but water all the same. The aftertaste can't be helped much for the time spent in a plastic container or a glass jar will always have an effect. All said and done, Orel gives his assistance with all the open, wide-eyed eagerness of a labrador retriever returning with a yellow tennis ball. Only by some effort will he be shunted off, never mind he contains sharp fangs the same as the rest. Blame his eagerness being blunted by the redheaded bohemienne edging alongside to that bed supporting the Winter Soldier, as temporary as it is.

Her hand is warm, wrapped around one far cooler, sharing an imparted heat from the fiery metabolism making the most of every calorie she can find. Whatever pain and anxiety bedevilled her lie locked up behind those seaglass eyes, wild flames a sheet concealing them where her bangs escape the elaborate stylings of her braids. For once, Jack has his kiss of frost. A moment later, she bends from the waist, stretched out over him, lips to his hairline. So risky. No control, not right then. He returned, there is no need to speak of it, when her benediction is non-verbal, but her palm stays pressed tightly enough to his that any living nerve would be screaming.

"How did you get here?" he asks, when he's drunk deeply….but not enough to overload a shrunken stomach. Orel gets a little smile from him, but the bulk of his attention is on his redheaded girl.

Gaunt, of course, and sunken-eyed, but more himself than he has been. Weak, though, still, when he tries to lever himself to sitting upright. It's a good long while since he felt this feeble.

Orel will go refill the water bottle in time, though he leaves his offering of a round bread loaf, sans a few bites, on the edge of the cot where Bucky should experience no difficulty feeling around and discovering it. Not the most exciting, but the cheeses and sausages await him when he can incline himself upright enough to try for solid food. They might have a few bananas, though one of the wolves of the Volga professes a weakness that will inevitably diminish the bunch down to furtive peels and mournful looks at their creamy absence.

"A gentleman provided an escort," she murmurs, not quite offering the assistance of her arm when appearances matter. He wants her help, he no doubt can wrap an arm around her neck and shove her backwards. Scarlett's ability to resist gravitational tugs aid tremendously in acting as an anchor. "We reached an understanding after he tried to haul me by the collar. Hell's Kitchen, you do take me to the nicest places, Mr. Frost." The smile hides in her words rather than on her face, her veins scintillatingly bright in proximity. For all that she remains outwardly serene, the entirely human turmoil ignores all those other gifts and curses bestowed on her. Neither can be answered, not right now. "You realize I intend to haul you home to recuperate next to the tree, and pin you down unless the world's very security is at risk, babe?"

That has him pulling a face, for a moment….then looking beyond her at the pack. "Sorry, sweetheart. We're a forceful family," he says, gaze darting between them. "And….not enough room, I think. Even though we're missing some. Mat's at Steve's place. I wonder if he'd let me bunk the rest of these guys there, though I can't imagine they'll be willing." The border collie instinct is in full flower. This is the biggest assemblage of them since Quebec.

He says family and she smiles ever so faintly, a wisp of emotion tracing its way across chapped lips bruised by the ample application of a regular bite. Concern marks itself on them all; his weariness, the frenetic connection of the remaining five, her habit of fretting physically for a time. Even in proximity, the quintet show a restlessness typical for any of the soldiers. They string themselves out, boundary lines drawn, the closest of them armed to the teeth and prepared to strike. Chances are it would be no fair fight.

"As I said, we reached an understanding." Probably something about being hung off a balcony and floating inverted, irritated and steely-eyed, that solved that balance. The tenement they occupy — really more of an abandoned floor in some back-alley complex slapped together in the boom of the twenties — creaks, smelling of damp, not bright or welcome. It might as well be the golden hall of Asgard, for all that she curls her fingers around his and kneels, the better to lean in without giving away the gig of her talents. "Put two in my room, that takes care of five. Two more on the rooftop pool or in the attic, where no one bothers going. Set up a lock to confound Mr. Stark, the secret ought to be safe. They fend well. You, James…"

She doesn't look away from him. She wants to. "You're mine. If you will not look out for yourself, no one may protest if I do."

"There are enough guest rooms," he says, slowly. "Up in the area under the roof." Then he's looking to them again, dropping into Russian. "I know somewhere safe," he says, quietly. "Matvei is there already. Captain Rogers' place - the Avengers' house. Or…." An apologetic look to Scarlett, "An apartment, but it'd be five of you in one spare bedroom." Surely they've camped in closer quarters, but packing six Barneses into her flat. "I don't think I want to get them in Loki's sights," he asides to her, back in English. "That'd be a hell of a mess."

She dips her head lightly enough, crossing her arm slightly to support the weight leaning into the cot. "Plenty of rooms in the mansion, oui. Everyone entitled to a room hardly uses one." Tactics and coordination come naturally to Scarlett, a matter of thoughtful consideration. Her fingers twine and untwine around his metallic digits, walking to the spaces between by a shift of one and incrementally moving back up to fit them together again. "Supposing they share well, I see no reason why we could not stow them all away. Sneak sandwiches up, raid the fridges by dawn?" Her smile chases the sun, a glance raised. "Fourteen A hasn't been occupied for weeks. Hide them inside?"

"Itr's not just Steve's, though," Buck muses. "The rest of the Avengers….they'd probably follow his lead, but loose lips sink ships." A moue of thought at that. "They're good at sneaking. But….not reliable. What if someone rents it? The Mansion sounds better to me. They've got space to train, gear tough enough to stand up to it. I don't think we could keep 'em secret from the Avengers, even if we could do it from the public. Mr. Stark wouldn't be able to resist poking them."

Flaming braids coil around his side in neat helixing whorls. Her cheek presses to Bucky's side where the powerful thud of his heartbeat vibrates through its strong calcified cage. Soothing, that timpani beat, cascading in a basso line throughout the wee hours of the morn. "No reason I could not see about letting it for myself. Privacy of a whole floor? Your idea is wiser." Hers, perhaps, more content. All said, she trails her hand up his side and brushes against the collar of his shirt. "Mansion, then, barring anywhere else. Arrangements made through Steve should quell any concerns. Though perhaps remaining quiet on that front is best, and ameliorating what we can. Being an Avenger means a certain measure of trust. Protecting them matters, and protecting you matters."

"That assumes they'd consent to stay," Buck says, slowly. "And that the Russian government wouldn't come after them. They can defect, if they want to….but would they? Something is drastically wrong at SHIELD - some of them were getting abused, hurt, beaten. I can't believe Peggy'd let that happen." His brow's furrowed….but he looks to the brothers again, and asks them, in his careful Russian. Explains the options - the two apartments, or the Avengers' mansion, complete with maybe a Steve Rogers or an Iron Man or who knows what….

Fingers trace his wrist, his palm, straddling the immaculately shaped digits beaten from ore to this refinement. Scarlett finally glances over at the remainder of the facsimiles of him, and shifts to her knees. "They can be uncomfortable. Here." His concerned expression beckons to the gentler echoes of her nature, compassion an amalgam with all those complicated feelings that emotive language and abundant adjectives so rarely encompass well. Weariness borne over many long hours bring her onto the bed, wrapping her arms around Bucky's waist and curling herself into the hollows of stomach and chest. So what, they watch. When has she not lived in the spotlight for the past year and a half?

For the five remaining, explained in time, the flat stares and odd looks speak volumes. Decisions do not exist in their world. Not really. Volya stays largely silent and Orel's gaze slides to Lazar; Nikita's follows. Evgeniy bares his teeth, and the initial mutters turn to a few scuffles where the decision points rotate around security of walls. The Ghost has but one question, "Adam and Kyr?" The missing.

He wraps his arms around her, tenderly. Let them watch. Let them see one of the sweetest compensations of real freedom. He rests his head against her hair for a moment, inhales that scent, such a contrast to old sweat and blood and metal. "In SHIELD hands, as far as I know," Buck admits. Then he's looking at each of them in turn. "Are you….do you all have the hunger? For those drinks? I haven't been right since I drank what Fanya gave me. And….the darkhaired man, near Voronezh. He was telling me that you'd die. That you couldn't be stable here, away from their care. Is that true at all? Do you know?"

Tempting, to sink into oblivion and banish the lot of those onlookers with a possessive little snarl and a pointed look likely lost on those with no concept of privacy, not that way. The rearrangement of those haphazard blankets and sweatshirt layers under Scarlett's weight involves very little movement. She simply flattens the layers to him, and that's Mr. Barnes securely swaddled for the moment. Let that be a plus considering the old memories crackling up through the connection when he mentions the hunger. Her eyebrows sharply loft and she raises her head. "Not contagious by touch," she murmurs, though that might well be lost. A little longer to hold the cares of the world at bay. In some respects he's not real until physically assessed, embraced, drowned in the darkness of the soul and emerging polished and clean from the other side.

"Don't talk about it," Nikita opts to speak when the others are silent, the guilty brotherhood of bleak eyes and frank, long stares. "Think, it gets worse. Hollow. The hunger."

"But that is where it comes from," Buck says, on a sigh. Lips thinned out, those lines around mouth, between brows. Worn more than they, in so many ways. "What do you all want? Is there a consensus? I'll help in whatever way I can, but….where do you want to head?" He turns to set feet on the floor, but he's still got his arms around her. Reluctant to relinquish that closeness.

"Adam," says Lazar woodenly. Toneless, abrupt, his is the admission of a winter storm slipping over a field of casualties. "Kyr. Not without them."

Evgeniy bites his knuckles, teeth scoring the flesh, a bruising line that bleaches out white where his natural underpinnings would suggest olivine hues. The sharpness of each nip hardly registers. What is pain to a godling beyond men, and those shaped to serve the motherland without hesitation? All's fair and done, allowing no further measure. They share that bleak absence of hope, the terrible measures beyond them. "Bites you." Russian, that. "Takes out the stomach. Never enough. No pleasure in the food. None. None."

Scarlett shuts her eyes, extricated with him, and he nonetheless must be free to move. Though she would rather place him back to safety, that isn't their lot tonight. On a moonless glow of the shortest day of the year, choices hurt so hard.

"They can be gotten out. You can do it, I know," His tone is matter of fact, at that. The idea of working against SHIELD, even obliquely….it's bitter. He was supposed to be on the side of the angels, again….and not just the particular one holding court in the Village, the dark prince. "And with them, what? What then? Lazar, you're the leader. Where are you and your men going?" Sergeant to sergeant, that. Responsibility - they defer to the Ghost, so the Ghost gets to make the decisions.

"You're the champi — " A word, cut off, while Orel takes a rough smack to the side from Nikita. The instant flare of violence simmers among them, white lines of electricity burning bright. Not a blow meant to inflict more than discomfort and interruption, Nikita nonetheless has the youngest of the pups practically leaping for his throat, three fast punches and one kick registering in a moment. Their brutality of style is efficient, fast, hard; familiar, certainly, using techniques and methods Bucky himself should know. Blocks transform into being flung against a wall, the plaster coming down, and leaping at one another again.

Lazar shoulders that rifle and does not move; a shake of his head denies James' statement, in part or totality. Believe what he will, it's a free country here. Volya turns a little, presenting no tempting flank, the dance of death calling him so much as it does the others. Deference is a lie, deference is not the law so much as force of conviction and arms are.

God help if they come near Bucky, though, for the Soul-Thief plays fair, in that fair means all of them are leveled by the same terrible force.

It's been a long time since actual Sergeant God Help Them Barnes was present. It's been a long time since the beaches of Morocco and the campaign all across the northern desert, when he was just another enlisted dogface schlepping his way to Tunisia. But certain instincts never leave, and he's barking at them in Russian, "Stand down, now. Both of you."

The wall shakes. Impacts do not come light; they throw hard, while the others watch with the testy wariness of creatures bred for belligerence, shaped by violence and hammered into perfect instruments. Orel rolls and rises from his rough landing, eyes arctic cold, circling Nikita. Unfair fight for size, given the scarred elder does not lack for strength or the brutal explosiveness that would suit any athlete in the field or soldier in action. Calling out for them isn't easy; they are running on blood and wrath. Callused fingers and arching spines, bruised ribs and rictus snarls are all the impassioned absence of reason. Until snarled shut.

A scudding punch rams through the mix, Volya snapping his arm out to shove Orel back. Rank isn't evident except where ordered. But order holds. Discipline. Barely.

Scarlett sits dead still on the cot. Best not to be something of a target, even if her role in life ought to be described as 'bait.' "Lovely."

Now he's on his feet again, for the first time in days. Weight's fallen off that he could ill spare, but he's trained under the same harsh discipline. Not an impressive figure - lank hair, sweatpants and shirts and sweaters, the one who was living rough on the rooftops before he was tamed again to some kind of hand. But he interposes himself without hesitation. "A'right. Cut that out. I saw the book at the site near Voronezh. Champion of the Motherland. Orel seems to think that's me. The rest of you can disagree, if you want. But if you want me to lead you somewhere…..I'm not doing this blindly. You have information I don't, experiences I'm not familiar with. Knowledge I'm going to need."

Eight. Eight is a squad, just around the number of men he was used to leading. Even if three are not present. "Rules are different now, and I'mma lay 'em down for ya. No more fighting amongst yourselves. Whatever you were trained to do to each other, now you're going to act like a unit. We're on the same side." He should be wobbling on his feet, but adrenaline and an NCO's righteous anger is enough of a spine stiffener to hold him, for now. "My objectives, as I see 'em, are these. First, to keep you all alive, by whatever means necessary. Second, to keep you all free - you're not anyone's weapons or puppets or attack dogs, no matter the chair or the programming. Third, to stop them doing this to more of us. This has to end. Not just the eight of us in New York, but all of them. The girl near Voronezh, the boys in Siberia, doesn't matter." Looking each of them in the eye. "But it has to be your choice. You get to choose. I'm not making you go anywhere with me, and if you disagree with what I'm doing, speak up. We're going to discuss missions like human men, not bite each other like wolves in a trap. Clear?"

Eight. Eight aren't present, true, but there may be six to call, two missing, two hidden deep into the wooded steppes outside Voronezh. One by proxy, a shadow awaiting on the bed with legs crossed and back straight, hands clasped together. Scarlett's frown is a thin, ephemeral creation blended out of a morass of emotions, and she rolls her shoulders under her thick leather coat. More than eight, and from the present six, a good start for James Barnes to rebuild himself a team of whatever he wants to call it.

"Girls." Volya's voice is a crackle of dullness. Disuse. Wars are not won by violence, but tactical deliberations and ruin.

"Adam, Kyr. My terms." The ghost in their presence, quiet spectre that he is, makes that simple. The gun hasn't shifted. His expression stays fixed.

Among the other three, the answer is fairly simple, such as it is, and they raise their heads. Glances made, they nod. Words aren't much with all of this lot, but a path laid down seems sensible enough to them, as far as it goes. Nikita is the one to mutter, "Big house? Good for me."

"Girls," Buck acknowledges, with that wry twist to his lips. Of course. Sisterdaughternieces. Surely they had to be. Buck runs metal fingers through his hair, grimaces. "Yeah. And at least one of you knows who Steve Rogers is. Good." He cocks an eye at Lazar. "Sure. No man left behind. Matvei…" He pauses. "None of you know him, do you? We caught him direct in Vietnam. He wasn't at Quebec. I'll ask him, but I bet he'll come along. If he doesn't want to, he doesn't have to. YOu'll meet him at Steve's, assuming I get Steve's okay. Steve….he speaks Russian. And what he tells you to do, when it comes to the house, you do it. Unless I tell you different."

Steve Rogers? Say it ain't so. The shift of blue-eyed mongrels implies yes, they know very much who that man with the plan and the star-spangled shield is, even if one had the intensely odd situation of being beaten half to death in front of said hero of the Americas before losing his temper. Yes, the pups know exactly who, if not all the details of what, and the silence relinquished to orders bring them around at least in a mesh.

«Kicks like a mule.» The bitter smirk out of Genya tells all Bucky needs to know about that. The others nod or otherwise cluster closer into the darkness, protected from the cold that leaks into the building given the absence of functioning heat there. «Figured they buried him. Guess not.»

Scarlett puts her hand over her mouth, and finally sighs. French, since the chance any of them know it is low indeed. "Before you trot off into the hills, you need fresh clothes and food. I do not doubt the necessity of action. Falling over in a snowbank from exhaustion doesn't help you, though."

AT that, he looks back at her, and grins, sheepishly. "Yeah," he agrees, in that language. And then adds, back in Russian, "Gentlemen, this is Scarlett. She's my girl." A pause, as he looks for more to add, comes up with, "She's amazing. She'll help us. Now, you guys should be safe to stay here for a few more hours - I'm going to go get in touch with Steve. If it turns out we can't stash you guys with him, we'll make room in that apartment."

Never mind falling over in a snowbank means she can wrap her arms around him and fly away. No need for the red witches and people's commandos to come in hot pursuit as Scarlett lives up to her name, and outguns a MiG for sheer speed. Maybe they can throw the Concodrde at her. Raindrops stippling her airy thoughts pull her back to the present after allowing that brief foray of concern, something sharper edged than she would care to confess. Under the circumstances, she raises her right hand and wiggles her fingers in an insouciant wave. "Hello. I feed him. I suppose we are all family, no?" Truth, she does. Not until Bucky is ready to sneak off in search of his best friend will she finally pull herself out of his nest of blankets to find her own footing.

Cue the particularly curious reactions for those who must eventually fall subject to sleep, hunger, and all the biological limitations that even afflict the heroes of the Soviet Union. Orel might be the first to fall back on the bread no one is eating, and the sausages will make for a nice follow up. Jaw-cracking yawns may follow, but they can be called upon to have a good nap before setting out, wherever they do. Except Lazar, because it's unclear whether that man actually exists in the flesh or for their own amusement.

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