1965-01-15 - Court of Nevers: Story III - Bucky 3
Summary: Forced to go it alone, Captain America takes on the Black Widow. He succeeds at a cost in defeating her, and continues his search for Steve Rogers. Just when he thinks he has answers, it keeps getting worse in the depths of Zhelezdny.
Related: Court of Nevers
Theme Song: None
black-widow rogue bucky 

Zhelezdny. Closed city 81. USSR.

A hand grenade detonated beneath that trusty old vibranium shield prevents explosives from raining gore across the smooth poured concrete and steel scaffolding. Black Widow and Captain America in their murderous dance take place a far cry from the hangar bays where at least three hulking ships, their technology so unlike anything in the US arsenal, are rooted. No men are lining up and the emergency warnings finally reach the welders and engineers in the furthest bay working on 86, as the numbers on the tail segment read.

Their departure under cover of tunnels and tubes through the enormous depressed hangar lead them presumably elsewhere to safety. Shutdown mode above might be in play. A nuclear war could happen. How would they know? Down here, the struggle is personal and witnessed by pitiless glass lenses trained on the corner where broad concrete terraces lead into the assembly bays proper.

Russia is old. Russia is patient. None yet intervene. Blood for the black steppe soil.

Can he bring himself to kill her, wounded and suffering? How much has Winter's cold heart thawed by his time free as Bucky again. He knows better than to get any closer to her, shield still up, pistol still in hand. But that betraying pause is there.

«You choose not to die with me…I think our romance is dead…» Widow remarks to the Captain, a sinister grin on her lips, made all the more menacing thanks to those glowing red goggles. From the expression, one would almost think she wasn't just shot twice, and is actually the one with the advantage, she completely ignores her two bleeding wounds and starts advancing towards Bucky, as if testing his resolve. Would he finish her off? Would he allow her to close the gap enough for a more or less fair but far more dangerous fight?

«You know I could have killed you, just like I took out your friends, Agent Barton, and Agent I Don't Know His Name But Bastard Might Be Dead…I didn't want to snipe you, even though it was the right thing to do. I thought you deserved a personal touch. I'm so sad you didn't share my sentiments…»

Still, she advances, not reaching for the pistols holstered at her thigh on one leg, and ankle on the other.

No one else here to speak of. Hidden cities never lack for security. Time has to be counting down, they both know this. Whatever the Widow fails with, other stop-gap measures and protocols will apply. Gas pumped through the facility might be useless in this cavernous space. Shooting at him, possibly risky with the ships there. Their own armaments, whatever those could be, certainly might turn on the renegade formerly called the Winter Soldier. Maybe they're killing two birds with one stone.

Barton isn't getting up. Neither is Fitz. Hard to know what became of Team Bravo; would Cap be willing to risk cover or hope his comm link can penetrate that much concrete and bedrock?

"Natasha," he says, in urgent Russian, "Don't do this. You have a last chance to be free. Help me. They've enslaved you as they held me for so many years. Don't be their puppet." Buck's hesitating. He needs to fire, if she's not going to come within that critical twenty foot range.

Natasha isn't slowing her advance, apparently still firmly set in mind to fight him to the end, if he guesses that somewhere inside she must be aware of the existence she has, he is likely on the right path. What other reason would she have to seek death if not to break free? But what sort of freedom is she willing to have? Or maybe, she feels putting an end to him will elevate her enough that none of the past matters?

"You think I will be a traitor like you…? You've had a great legacy, and you tarnished it. I am Chyornaya Vdova, I am well respected, I am feared, and all traitors to the motherland know to expect me…why should I help you here and now? The only help I can provide is death." She seems rather adamant, and as she reaches for her tactical belt, she draws out a combat knife, looks like she intends to get right in his face, and apparently she's confident he won't be shooting her again.

"We had a beautiful rapport, shame you choose to severe it, I will weep over your grave."

Almost as an after thought, she adds, «You can shoot me to avoid confrontation, of course…we both know you can take me out, and we both know one on one, I can take you out…» she then laughs. A rather sinister laugh, oh, she's oozing hatred, no doubt taking Winter Soldier become Captain America as a personal betrayal, «but if you subdue me one on one…maybe you can force me to take you to Steve. You did come here for him, not our tech, right? I know you, you'll do the wrong thing and try to save Steve…you love him more than you ever loved me.»

Shooting it is then. He's got his finger on the trigger. But that….that. Of course she knows exactly where to sink the blade and pry, the precise chinks in his armor, both literal and figurative. She can see him back down from that shot. «I never knew you. Winter loved you…and loves you yet.» He's casual about it, matter of fact. That's what it was. «I bet you have no idea where Steve is,» He sounds weary.

Time ticks further, the second hand marching on, the sands of grain through the hourglass's narrow neck. Brightness dims in the facility as the industrial fluorescent track lighting by the kilometer cycles down to a lower power level, some grids going perfectly dark. Block by block, the shadows come to reign, leaving only the dismal spotlights in dim red left to stretch out ominous shadows.

Black Widow knew her words would serve to deter him at the last moment, and then the lights start to dim, going pitch dark in segments, and so Captain America learns it wasn't just for looks that the Widow was wearing these glowing goggles. One would assume her vision remains just as clear as it darkens, «perhaps, but you should know to distinct between lie and truth. Would I lie to someone who is about to die?»

At that she takes charge, she expects the shield to thwart her advance, upheld as it was, but she tries to swing her arm in an arc over it, seeking to stab Bucky in his shoulder, as one leg comes up to prop against the shield. No doubt meaning to give herself a boost with any movement he intends to make.

Then again, he does have the edge of knowing where her shot wounds are, it's all a matter of memory and estimation of where she might be as she takes charge in the darkening area.

She's welcome to stab him in the left shoulder, and that's where she gets him. There's a scrape of metal and a little arc of sparks. He yields to the move with the shield….rolls with it, rather than trying to knock her down. Let him boost her over him too far, throw the roll she'll surely attempt to make. He's still got that pistol in hand, and he fires as she comes, trying to kneecap her.

Natasha boosts herself off his shield, just as Bucky anticipated, only she doesn't flip to get behind him. Her ballet training becomes very effective in contortion and tumbling, as she twists her body midlift, just managing to avoid a shot that grazes a tear in her suit, but doesn't injure her substantially enough. From the apex, she slips down, one leg on each side of Bucky's head. She dropped the knife, but she reaches to grab his head firmly, attempting to break his neck and bring an end to their history of love-hate.

A good opening for him is her injured right side from an earlier shot or left shoulder, if he can't find leverage, she's in a pretty advantageous position at the moment.

«Good night, Comrade Traitor,» she apparently feels confident enough with her plan, and how she managed to avoid the debilitating shot that would have ended this battle for her.

About that….however soft his heart might be, that left hand still hits like a hammer. And James has no scruples at all about using the close quarters to try and land a blow right where he's hit her before….even as he rolls with the grip on his head, attempting a headbutt. He'll break that beautiful nose, if he can.

For a moment Widow has her grip just as she wants, but before she can become aware of Bucky's intention to headbutt her face with all her can muster to save his life, her lights go out momentarily with a sharp pain that has her simply falling right off his shoulders and to the floor. Other than the cracking sound of his metal arm shattering her injured side with a powerful fist, it's all so very quiet, as she's left stunned. Then comes a choking gasp, a struggle to breathe, her body starting to writhe in pain while she does her best not to scream.

It takes her a few more moments to muster some language, as she hisses amidst gritted teeth, «you win, kill me already…» no, she's not going to remind him that she knows where Steve is, that's for him to recall.

Good luck doing it without her input.

Those fingers are around her throat, his eyes gleaming at her in the dimness like an animal's. «Do you want to die fast, or slow?» The voice… the voice is Winter's, that lack of effect so cold it sounds so very like utter indifference. «My last gift, this choice. Fast or slow?»

The last of the lights go out, tick, tick, tick. Only truths are shadows and cold concrete, bitter steel, and vibranium that never hums to the music of life. How appropriate for the dead core of a stellar rock.

«So at the very last moment, when it really counts, you'll take me over Steve…?» Natasha asks, whether a plot to stay alive, or something spurred by a recognition of who was once her mentor, she seems content, «I will take whatever death you give me, you've already gave me a gift.» Or was it Bucky who was playing with her, either way, she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, prepared for the oncoming death. Bracing herself to take it with grace and dignity.

«I'll keep you alive long enough to help me find Steve,» he says, softly. «And kill you quick when it's done. Otherwise, if you can't help me, I'll take my time here.» ….where did that come from? Winter could be brutal as needed, and torture was in his repertoire, but he was never vindictive. It was never personal. Not before.

«You beat me, you deserve what you seek,» Natasha concedes, «you'll have to brace me…or carry me, I'll guide you…» and she proceeds to do just that.

Abyssal zone. Transition three.

Darkness is agonizing to navigate even with red-ops goggles to penetrate through the gloom. Eyes start seeing things. Hallucinations sparkle against the brain where the optical nerve fails a person. A moment lasts a glacial epoch. Captain America — the first, Steve — spent twenty years in the ice. It feels the same, walking in the empty black, spanning steel catwalks over the hangar bays and spat out into another storage area. Hydraulic valves whir. Ozone whispers past. The pressure in the skull for Bucky Barnes might be altogether too familiar, like a bolted chair in an operating theatre imagined by the most demented of minds inspired by Nikola Tesla.

Then light, pickaxe to the eye socket, ice pick to the ear canal. Pressure pops and shifts. Another of those doors clank shut onto a ward in industrial green-grey, paint cracked, linoleum worn. Motion sensors — such a thing exists in 1966, truly — capture the broad passage of bodies and lights flicker on, pop pop POP.

A row of four doors, each wired-glass and steel. Two left, one right, one at the end. No gurneys, no fire extinguishers. It feels institutional because it is, the echoes of a place where a man made a decision to play God. Tiles, stark, spartan; pick a door, any door, and meet the future. The flavour of it is hard in Bucky's throat, coating the palate, every breath permeated with pregnant anticipation.

«Where is he?» He's had his fingers locked at the back of her neck, ready to crush her throat in a moment, as they've walked. No holding a weapon against her that she can disarm him of - she can't take his metal arm off, so that will have to do.

Then there's the blinding light, and the pause. «Which way to Steve?» he asks her, in a hissing whisper.

Natasha is suffering enough from the gunshot wounds and forcing a fight through the pain, but the way Bucky took her out, a metallic punch to the bleeding wound, just truly shaken her systems. Making this entire trek a far more excruciating experience. The progress is slow, but it's there, and she does eventually point, «far end, a trap, avoid that one…it's the second from the left…» her voice flickers in volume, as she grits her words through the pain.

Second from the left looks exactly the same as the first from the left and the one on the right. Doors that imply rooms barred and bolted, supposedly locked from the inside rather than out. Name a facility offering health care in the USSR, they look identical. American ones aren't dissimilar in many troubling ways. The portals wait to be breached. They aren't opening on their own.

He shoves her down onto the walk, steps on one of her hands with a kind of absent-minded contempt. Grinds the boot down on the delicate bones of the fingers. One hand is left intact, at least. Then he's making a point to strip her of all the weapons he can find. He does not, however, finish her off, leaving her there.

Sentiment? Pragmatism? Hard to tell. He heads for the one she mentioned, face set, shield and gun at the ready.

«You know me so well, don't you…? At least he does…» Natasha laughs through the pain as she finds herself disarmed, and she has quite an arsenal hidden about her. Most dangerous are those golden bracelets around her wrists, then there's the capsules along her tactical belt. The holsters and knife sheathes along her legs, he manages to get it all. Leaving her stripped of her weapons, as he turns to go after Steve.

The fact her didn't set her down gently, but rather threw her to the ground before smashing her right hand for good measure, leaves her agonizing for a while, this time unable to keep stifling the pain, her scream echoing in the dark area.

She has no means to take him down long ranged, stripped of her weaponry and gadgets, but that doesn't mean she gives up. She starts with crawling after him, but doing so with only one arm makes her considerable slow, even for crawling. Bucky will easily leave her far behind at the pace she's going, that devastating fist to her wound having taken a lot out of her, and the smashed hand doesn't help.

The scream radiates a good long way and a good far distance. These walls and this floor excel at capturing sound waves. Blood dragging on the pristine cleaning job calls for someone with a mop and a bucket of flesh-eating acids smelling of unpleasant things, caustic and eye-watering.

Captain America, face to face with the greatest of all enemies to a superhero, a door. It takes forever to get past those damned things. Blame the storyteller and not the hero, really. Truth put to the test, Natasha's life hinging on those sticky truths or mastery of deception. He goes through?

Of course. He's poised on that knife edge between Winter and James, a cold and alpine height, despite the furnace of anger roaring away beneath. He tries the door, first, of course. It might just be unlocked.

The door gives way to a nudge, with no handle on that side. More of a shove will do, and it swings obligingly open into a rather plain apartment as far as American descriptions go. By Russian standards, especially those attuned to Muscovite limitations of insufficient housing, the flat is nearly palatial. A proper little foyer splits immediately into three rooms: the kitchen and its appliances squats to the right, filtering heat through the furnace along a rather oblong living room decorated by absolutely glorious woven carpets atop a wood floor. Low couches face built-in cabinets filled by the collections of a life. There are books and few unnecessary art pieces, a radio — a luxury! — and a proper tea set. The other large room is clearly a bedroom with a closed door, and everything sports a certain air of propriety. There may not be a television but the fridge and cupboards are probably stocked. In lieu of windows are potted plants, many of them, the varietals that thrive in artificial light. An easel, disused at the moment, in a corner.

A startled person in the living room hunched over a book sits on a stool rather than the couch. Those bare feet don't come close to touching the carpet. A look up throws aside a shock of flaxen hair. The fingertip resting on the page skids off to the side.

"You're not the doctor," she says, mouth bowed down. Fanya throws a troubled look at the door. "Are you lost?"

He's reeling at that. Not literally, beyond a hesitant step back. "No," Bucky says, with a calm he's miles from feeling, staring at her. "I'm looking for my friend Steven. He looks a bit like you. You could be related." The sheer hominess of all of it is a shock like cold water thrown on him.

Of course, he's not the doctor, wearing darkened armour and wielding a shield without a red star. The waif is better dressed in a grey sweater and wool skirt hanging past her knees, charcoal tights the stuff of happy children in schoolbooks everywhere. Said volume threatens to slide straight off her down-sloped bony knees. Those wide-set blue eyes stare back at him, her uneven fringe of bangs doing nothing to blunt the directness. Stare for stare, hers not really rattled. "Oh. No one told me." Her tongue touches the corner of her mouth, and she dares to poke a ribbon into place to mark her page. Not a corner is dog-eared. (She would never.)

Fanya turns a little upon the stool to face the door. "You have your boots on." This, together with the bloody mess spotting the dark suit, is a grievous thing that her childish expression cannot fail but to register with mild regret and disappointment. "We must be quiet. The doctors say so."

James blinks at her, bemused by that matter of factness. He looks down at his boots, as if he'd genuinely forgotten he had them on at all. "I've been busy," he defends himself, unthinkingly offering himself up for account. "Fanya….do you know where anyone else is? I need your help."

Fanya keeps the book from falling. The conversation requires her attention. She shuts the covers and holds that primer to her chest, arms protective of her precious little burden. Yes, he has boots on. "How do you know my name?" This becomes a point of concern, her eyebrows slipping up. A loss of colour to her face distinctly pales her peachy complexion. "Help? Um, what kind? I can't leave."

"Why not?" he asks, trying for reasonableness. "Where else are you allowed to go?" He's looking around the apartment, treading softly. Nevermind the blood, right? "See, I…." Which is when that idea comes to him, and he goes pale, himself, gazing at her. Surely Widow doesn't mean that this is all that's left of Steve…

All twelve years of her, hollow-cheeked and thin, grave blue eyes and whip-earnest impressions laid out on her face. Fanya has the deceit given to a dachshund. Mind the blood. Her back is very straight. "They said I'm to stay and I will." Big requirements for such a little girl, ones she shoulders never questioning their weight or expectation. Bucky might sit on one of those floral-patterned couches or the rug, the table likely to be unable to support him or anything but the shield, really. "Maybe lost? I know a little way. You can call from a neighbour's, too, they have a line."

The horror in his face is all too clear, and it takes him a moment to compose himself, looking down again. "Could you show me, please?" It's a request, rather than an order.

"Show you the phone? Ours is only for the doctors." She slides off the stool, jumping down, such a petite little thing in the clothes that swim on her otherwise. Fanya pads across the carpet, following the scroll of the leaves and branches. "You still have not said how you know my name. Why have you come here? All this way?"

"We've met before. You just don't remember," Buck informs her, looking up again. "No, show me your neighbor, if you would. And I'm here because I think a friend is here. HE'sbeen missing for a while, and I need to find out what happened to him."

"My neighbour's a lady. Aunty Lia," Fanya announces to Bucky, quite guileless as they come. "She is nice. She is sad, sometimes." With delicate footsteps she points at the door, a little gesture of her hand. "The door across the hallway. You knock and she might answer. Sometimes she doesn't. But she has the best line about here. See? There she is. Oh dear. She must need the doctors too."

Natasha Romanov, bloodily crawling her way up the hallway, earns a gesture.

Her mouth purses, the girlish concern wrought plain. "No one has moved in for a while. Just us here, and Aunty Lia, and Aunty Gen, and the music teacher."

Great. He should've shot Natasha. Or knocked her out. It's the latter he chooses, heading straight for her to hit her hard enough in the temple to put her down for a while. If Fanya sees, well…

The young blonde girl doesn't leave the apartment. Go into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea, maybe, the hot water supplied by a kettle on the stove. Dinged metal, banged up, but far from down for the count. Her tea tin has a star stamped onto the side. Her mug is plain and large, white-rimmed in red, which she carries back to her stool-like perch. Either he'll returned or he will not.

Return he does, trying for a softness of step and manner he hasn't had to practice for a very long time indeed. "Lia's indisposed," he says, master of understatement.

Fanya sips her tea. The flavour rolls around on her tongue, a bit too hot to manage more than a little at a time. She looks up when the door opens again. "Did you get the line you needed?" she asks, and the question hitches upon her parted lips. A glance skims from those bright blue eyes to the closed door in the hallway and back to Bucky, clad in such black.

"No," he says, softly. "I didn't. Fanya, I need you to come with me, please. It'll be okay, I promise." That feels lower, somehow, than many of his assassinations. You see, Cindy Lou Who, this tree won't light on one side.

"Oh." Her lips compress around a bead of tea found there. Mild consternation chases Fanya as she blots her mouth, hiding her face in the sleeve of her sweater as she tries not to look quite so provincial. "I can't," she repeats herself, that old chestnut on the record player. "The doctors said I have to stay. Leaving would be wrong." Her eyes glance aside again. "Even if I'm only a little help, I am still help."

"And now I need you to help me," he says, quietly. "My friend….I don't know where he is here, but they've….I'm sure he's not in good shape. Can you call one of the doctors?"

Fanya tilts her head up and hugs the mug to her. It's a bit hot still and hurts her palms, but she has to think on important, adult matters so much for her current position. "There's only us here. And Aunty Gen, Lia, and the violin teacher. I think if you had someone hurt they would go to the doctors, and they'd be here." He gets a puzzled look of the child's mind piecing together the facts. Bony knees dip together, her heels caught on the rung of the stool. "But everyone is getting better. So I don't know. What's he like?"

There's no better way to say it. "Honestly, he looks like you, Only if you were a guy,and bigger than me. He's got blond hair and blue eyes and he's the kindest person I've ever met. He's my best friend. This," He taps the shield with a nail, making it ring faintly, "Is really his. I'm just using it while he's gone, and bringing it along so I can give it to him as soon as possible."

"He looks like every good man here." She smiles, not up to laughing. It wouldn't be laughing at Bucky but being classy and mannered, as any baba would insist, means not laughing at a man. Tea sloshes around in the mug, tilted a little bit, and she starts to raise it to her lips. Pauses. Then takes a drink again, little, blowing on the hot liquid. The shield is big and imposing in a way, marked by something that makes her sit up. "Oh. Oh no, you're mistaken. That's yours."

That's enough to prompt a record scratch. "…..are there lots of men who match that description here?" he asks, after a silent moment. "And how do you know?"

Fanya nods, guileless eyes wide as the summer skies empty of clouds. The shade's so very pure and pretty. Her bangs fall over her brow in a golden fringe, and she has no free hand to push them back with. Oh well, both hands on the wheel as it were. "Lots of good, hard-working comrades. They all want to do the best they can. The violin teacher sometimes tells me about the scientists and the engineers, how they go out to work together and then their lunches. It's all so very orderly and everyone pitches in together to do their best." Her thumb skims along the side of the mug, the bright optimism of youth clanging off the minted grin given up to Bucky. It fades a little later. "Oh, how do I? The shield has to be yours. Who else does it belong to? It's where it should be. You're carryin' it."

If she only knew. Far be it from him to spoil that innocence. "Who's the violin teacher?" he asks, softly. A glance back at the door. He's wasting time.

Fanya smiles at all the questions. No way around that childish acceptance, though her inherent distrust of things is fairly low to start with. Thinking the best of people comes naturally — as well it should. Neither does she fidget on the stool. "He is very proper and sometimes he gets really quiet. Aunty Lia likes him but she never tells anyone." She drags on her sleeve, balancing the mug on her thin legs. "I'm to call him Teacher or Maestro. It's not polite to call anyone by their given name. Aunty Lia said so." Her solemn nod gives this terrible gravity. "But he is always very patient with me, and he plays the most beautiful music. It's so pretty you could just cry or smile or think about the sunshine. I am not very good with music but he never ever makes fun."

"Do you know his name?" he asks, softly. "Even if you don't use it to him?" Why is that the detail he's gotten hung up on, like a thunderbolt on a protruding nail.

She shakes her head, shrinking a little into the soft weave of her sweater. "He has a sad look when he's not playing his music." Like that explains absolutely everything, from the tender-hearted measure of a very young soul. Antidote to all those doubts, she sips the tea again now that the cooling liquid hasn't got the threat of scalding her mouth. "He came from away, though. I should ask if you want some tea. I don't think anyone would mind."

"I can't stay, Fanya," he says, softly. "I have to find my friend. Be well. I'll see you again." James lays a hand gently on her shoulder, for a moment, before he turns to go.

"Then he can tell me that, if he wants, when I find him. But….I don't think he wants tobe here. I don't know what you've seen, but outside this place, it's an ugly city where bad things happen. And I'm afraid bad people are hurting my friend," Buck's in that little apartment, having left Widow unconscious outside, for the moment. He just can't bring himself to put an end to her.

Fanya dwells upon the three-legged stool, tall and high, her legs crossed politely at the ankles and a cup of tea in her hands. Not much remains there. Anyone having seen a certain gentleman might immediately bring to mind an uncanny familiarity there, in all the lines and details, albeit much reduced and feminine.

"Not everyone uses their words when they don't want to talk," she says with all the wits of a well-mannered girl. Her gaze slants away to the hallway again, knee tipped in the same direction. "I have seen a bit. We're happy here. We have enough and not everything, but enough. People help. The doctors are nice. They do not tell me everything but they take care of me and I take care of things and that's good."

Buck just shakes his head. Not his job to disillusion her. He's going to have to go back to Natasha, shake her awake, get another clue out of her. At least this one didn't blow up in his face.

Natasha has taken quite a beating, crushed hand, shot twice, grazed once, and the coup de grace of cybernatic fist in her wounded side. She's tough, Red Room trained, Super Serum enhanced, but Captain America was quite the opponent. It takes more than one good shake to bring her back to awareness, but eventually she does open her eyes, coughing, and taking in her surrounding. Seeing Bucky over her, she grins, "haven't killed me yet…? I'm surprised."

Fanya frowns a little bit when Bucky heads out the door of the apartment. It remains standing open where eventually bloody Aunty Lia will come into sight. He might have some explaining to do for the little creature peering around the corner of the door, gripping the door frame, with those wide, disappointed blue eyes.

Bucky reaches down to scruff her like a misbehaving cat. "That wasn't Steve, even if she's his daughter," he tells her, calmly. "If that's your oblique way of telling me Steve is dead that and she's all that remains of him, well…coulda done that better. So try again, Natasha. I haven't broken your toes yet. Or brought out the wires. 'm impatient, time is wasting."

"Ah…so you've met Fanya," Natasha says with a smile, looking quite amused, "and you didn't think to ask her about her father? I told you which was the right door…unless you think I lied on purpose?" She muses with the concept, "because if I did, by all means, do try the door I labelled as a trap. For all you know, Steve might be waiting there…" she quiets a little at the mention of the wires, "what if he doesn't want that shield? What if he knows better? Perhaps you should speak to him." She introduces an idea and plays around with it, weaving a web, leaving it to Bucky to decide if she was lying or telling the truth about the trap.

Oh, truths and lies. What are they to someone barely five feet tall, clutching onto the doorway all wide-eyed. It's like someone came by to say Ded Moroz is a lie, Lenin was imagined, and the secret city might be known to all and sundry. She is aware of history in the making, painful as that new era might be, a chrysalis broken open. Fanya in her wool stocking feet watches, biting her lower lip.

"He doesn't have to have the shield, if he doesn't want it," Buck's voice is flat. It's Winter's affect, the eyes pale as ice gazing down into her face. "But he can tell me to his face. And I know he doesn't want to stay here. Take me to him, Natasha."

"Fanya dear, go back inside, this man is dangerous…" Natasha warns as she spots Fanya peering at her exchange with Bucky through the doorframe. She then levels her blue gaze on Bucky, "I told you…but if you don't believe me, why not ask the violin teacher…? He's in the door I warned you not to go to…"

Go inside, she says. "Yes, Aunty," says the little blonde, but her retreat is obviously fairly reluctant. Footsteps go light and she stands in the open way. "You need the doctors." Her mournful observation saturates the air with a certain air of sadness, blended by that distinct impression she is doing exactly what she's told and probably won't stay put.

"It's simple, Natasha. I want Steve," He rests a bootheel, gently, on that ruined hand…and then grinds down abruptly, once. "That's for bullshitting me. Don't do it again."

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 19

Natasha doesn't look in the direction of Fanya again, she doesn't expect the girl to need to be told twice. Then comes the crushing stomp on the already shattered hand, and she screeches in pain, pointing again at the door, "go, just go…"

"That's not right." Far from imperious, the statement sounds tired more than anything else. Tired and disappointed, tinged by a very familiar note that more than likely is going to end with bloody fists, broken boxes, and stumbling to one's feet badly. "Stop hurting her." She looks around and the only thing at hand is the one she brought with her. Not the book in sight, the librarian might cry. Impossible. But the mug with the red stripe is all Fanya has, so it's all she can use to wind up and hurl at Captain America's shoulder. The non-metal one. "You can be mad at me, but not her. Leave her alone."

The look he turns on her is cold. The teacup hits him, spattering over the black shoulder of that modified flagsuit. "Fanya," he says, quietly. "You heard her. Go back inside. This isn't your concern." Then he's going for the door to the left of hers, leaving Natasha where she lies

Natasha is in too much pain to really tell Fanya what to do, or add any sort of stinging remark to Bucky, she just bites herlip, and reaches for her tactical belt. Bucky stripped her of all weaponry, but perhaps she's got something to at least bandage her crushed hand for the time being. Now seems like an awful good time for a violin lesson.

Cold and blue, blue, blue: the eyes, the determined look. She takes a short step over the threshold. One foot outside the apartment, so there. Might as well just stick her tongue out. Fanya says, "You are not listening very well." Another footstep. Ooh, fully outside, bad her. She hustles in bare feet over to the Widow, reaching around to the uninjured hand and hauling her. There is no conceivable way someone that little can get Natasha moving without Natasha's actual aid, but damn if she isn't trying.

Doors. The forbidden door where the violin teacher lives. It opens easily as the first. Why lock them down here? No music comes from within when he braves that entrance, but Captain America will have not long to wait. The hum of a chiming note ends, and the squeak of the hinges betrays any effort to enter. When that lesson of oiling metal passes, the ugly patterned carpet bears a shadow. With it, a silhouette resolved out of the darkness of the main room. Like the previous apartment, it's well-appointed for its masculine occupant.

James Barnes stares back, head tilted.

Of course. There had to be another one. This place is a horrible hall of mirrors, bringing up a twinge of reminicence for the ghost of Coney Island. Bucky doesn't immediately move to threaten this one - he's got pistol and shield, knives in his boots and at his hip. "Are you the violin teacher?" he asks, calmly.

Natasha smiles at Fanya as she comes to her aid, and using the girl's support, struggles to get up if only enough to allow Fanya to help her inside the apartment before Bucky comes back. Should Bucky come back. "You're very good to offer a hand, Fanya," Natasha praises, "he might return. We need to be ready."

She doesn't complain when asked to bear that burden of Natasha. Heck, the Widow can practically climb up the blonde girl and use her as a crutch without more than a stifled grunt. Terrible times call for quiet resolution, aiding the redhead to fall within that nicely decorated foyer or upon a couch in the living room. Fanya does not stay there, though, dashing down the short hall into the bedroom to knock at the door.

A short distance away, the brown-haired, well-groomed man with the sorrowful eyes of a winter's day nods to the question. "Is this it, then? You try to clear the slate?"

Bucky's lips have thinned out. "I don't give a damn about you, one way or another," he tells that mirror image, bluntly. "I'm trying to find Steve Rogers. If you can't help me, at least be wise enough to stay out of my way."

Natasha asks Fanya to help her to the couch, where she more or less reclines witha line of sight to the door. She has one hand she could still use, "if you find a pistol…it might serve us well," she advises as the girl goes rushing down the hall. If she knows Bucky, she expects him to return. She'd rather have something to shoot him with, particularly as he doesn't expect her to have anything.

Captain America versus the funhouse horror of Bucky Barnes, but all mirrors have the imperfections. Whether the mind's eye or actual flaws, the reflection here departs from the obvious overlaid exactment that makes each man individual. One in black, one in darker greys; one wearing a shield, one unarmed save black gloves. The violin teacher is not at all out of shape, impossible to be. His distant gaze slides off the doorway where blood marks the Widow's progress and a blonde girl so often plays. "Really? After everything, you haul your way here for … what?" His words are slow, measured. Buying time? Not likely. "You gave us our choices. For that I am grateful. We took them, didn't we? After what SHIELD did, I wanted a quiet life. As close to quiet as we get. Stop trying to open old wounds, and dig up old graves. Isn't all this enough? Why do you need to see him so badly, Barnes? Did you never consider he doesn't want to see you?"

In the other apartment, Fanya pokes her head around the corner, her hair loose off her shoulders. Asking for a pistol gets a scandalized look. "You know we do not use guns here." Her head shaken, she returns back with a nice towel instead. This is laid out in easy arm's reach of Aunty Lia. "He can't either. I will make tea."

"This isn't a matter of me tracking him down at some retirement home," Buck's voice is low, bitter. "You know what this place is, no matter what kind of Potemkin village set up you've got for Fanya. There's no way in hell Steve Rogers is here in any state other than under duress. I don't care how he feels about me. I'm going to see him face to face." His features pinch in restrained anger, but he bites back further comment, turning again to go.

"I know, dear, I know, it's just survival instincts that do the talking…" Natasha sighs, no doubt she is in need of a doctor, "I'm afraid if that man comes back…that may be the end of us, if I had a pistol, I could try to stop him." Natasha says matter of factly, no point to lie when the end is practically there. She reaches to take hold of the towel placed so close to her functional hand, "tea will be perfect. Hot tea. Comforting, will make it so much more peaceful."

Well, that neverending supply of water from the kettle ends up in a pot and the good tea tossed from the tin with the star on it. Fanya efficiently bustles up a decent spread in the time of conversation. A blink, the whole layout awaits on the low table. Another blink, she sits back upon her stool. "I am not afraid of the end. I am doing what I am supposed to." To Natasha, a solemn nod. "What is the right thing. I want to be good."

Anger falls on Evgeniy, who in his way only gives that somber measure of regard back at Bucky. "Do you have nightmares? Are those living fragments more alive than your waking days?"

Quiet questions to think about. Rhetoric doesn't discriminate. The parting words are quiet. "Might ask yourself what matters more to him than you." On that note, he shuts the door.

"Of course I do," Buck retorts. Impatient with the question, the blue eyes glaring from within the circle of the helmet's black goggles. "And there's only one thing. America." No lying about it - the bond is too old, too deep, to warrant anything other than blunt truth.

"You are good, Fanya, it's why I love you so," Aunty Lia offers her praise, looking closely at the girl, before her eyes turn to the door. She expects him any moment now, and all she'll have is the towel, not much of a weapon. But at the very least, it would be amusing to see how Bucky handles meeting Steve, if he lets her live long enough to witness the affair.

Fanya sits there, waiting. Her hands are clasped, the line of her back straight. "He seems unhappy here. He hurt you and he is angry. Why don't the doctors help?" Questions that linger in the air with the fatal impression of a Russian, overlaid on the vital youth of childhood not quite tarnished. "Noise is bad. The yelling and the sounds. He got what he wanted. Why does he not go home?"

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