1965-01-17 - Court of Nevers: Story III - Bucky 4
Summary: Finally finding his target, Captain America has to confront Steve Rogers. He does so by avoiding every route to Steve until the demons of his past drive him there. The answer he gets for his question is not one he is happy to receive.
Related: Court of Nevers
Theme Song: Jorja Smith - Let Me Down
black-widow rogue bucky 

hours. Zhelezdny. Closed city 81. USSR.

He hasn't got what he wanted. Not in the least. But he clamps down on his anger for now. Buck's turned back to the next door he hasn't opened. Apparently he'll go door to door here like some sort of furious Avon salesman.

Natasha remains mostly lying on the couch, holding on to the towel Fanya handed her, using it to soak up some of her blood. Her eyes are set on the door like a hawk, she fully expects Bucky will return sooner or later. Many things run through her mind, she tries to will a gun into existence, but alas, she has none of those awesome cosmic powers of creation.

To Fanya's questions, she answers, "no, he is not happy at all, and he did hurt me. I was careless to allow that. Maybe the doctors will help yet…but he needs to be willing to accept help."

Bucky really wants whatever Avon's equivalent of a pink Cadillac is. Something to putter around New York in style in, double parking and embarrassing the masculine sensibilities of every man in sight. Diluting the red sympathies to mere pink, perhaps the milquetoast virtue that clings to the title, if not the man under the suit.

Fanya has all the patience of a saint on a broken icon stashed away in a cellar for another day. "Sometimes we have to do things by ourselves," she agrees in that solemn way, crossing her feet politely at the ankles. "Sometimes for ourselves." Her tea service waits upon the coffee table. Natasha may bleed and learn the consequences of pain, as she has so many times over, but the lessons here aren't for a Widow to learn betrayal or a child to show restraint.

All a front. The lessons are for the man, constructed wholecloth out of possibilities and belief.

Door the left opens with some reluctance. That studio is smaller than its neighbours, and feminine. Frighteningly feminine, full of sweeping curtains spindled around metal and figurines collected from a dozen places. Mirrors on walls at unexpected angles, the whole of it scented in the curious blend of oleander, tuberose, and rhododendron. A floral display might be responsible for that, blooms in a trumpeting tumble over a vase.

He pokes around it, desultory, clearing the rooms out of reflex more than real expectation of a trap. Doesn't bother to ransack or destroy. It's not that kind of quest. Leaves it to go for yet the third. Antsy with it - this is all too strange for Bucky's comfort.

As Bucky seems to be taking his time, Natasha takes a moment to reach for her cup of tea, she may well enjoy some tea before it all comes to a bitter end. Who knows, maybe there'll be a happy ending after all. It's all a matter of perspective anyway. She takes a moment to savor the tea after her first sip, "you brew it to perfection, thank you, Fanya. I'm sure you'll always know what's right, when you absolutely have to act."

Left behind is the bower of a young woman with a distinct taste running to eclectic. That leaves one more, the room of another being entirely. That door is sticky. It wants to open only slowly.

Fanya can see much of this through the doorway from her stool, and she frowns a little. "He shouldn't do that. You never invited him," she whispers in an aside. Her shoulders tighten up a little bit and her blue eyes flick down the hallway again.

If only that were the consideration that weighed, courtesy and invitation. Buck's working on that last door, impatiently. It's like ants walking up his spine, that drive.

That third room is rather Spartan, barely any furniture or decorations. The main area, rather than being made out to host company, is strictly set for training. Exercise accessories, martial arts practice accessories, and some hand to hand weapons neatly collected on a rack. There is one display cabinet in a far corner of the room with some bits of memorabilia, some from the Soviet Space Program, some from the Bolshoi, and then an array of various medals of the USSR for bravery in the field, service against enemies and so on. Nothing seems to be hidden here, though there is a phone, should Bucky feel like trying to reach the aforementioned doctors.

Fanya does not enjoin anything. She is content to sit still, and mostly keep her comments to herself. Mostly. So difficult not to shake her head and pace the room.

Bucky ducks into the bedroom, just to make sure. Distracted, for a moment, by the memorabiliia. The phone, though….of course he picks it up, listens, to see if there's anyone just waiting to hear from whomever lives here.

A switchboard flares to life after a second, the metallic clicking turning over and following together. "Central. Direction?"

Good. Bait. "Fanya's flat," he says, simply, doing his best to sound like Evgeniy. Not that this is hard, considering.

"Evgeniy…? Why are you calling from this line?" The voice on the other end sounds suspicious, "should we send a team with the doctor? Anything amiss to report?"

The blonde slides off her stool finally. With a rueful look at Natasha, she says, "I need to check. It's time." She walks off to the washroom with its collection of minor things, bottles and cup, and then disappears into the shadows of a sealed room.

"Nothing amiss here. But we've heard gunfire down the hall," he says. "Bring a team." And with that, sets the phone back down. Apparently it's a great day for poking wolves with sticks.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 58

Seems like Bucky will get his wish, as the line simply disconnects. From the report, they have gathered to get medical for Fanya's flat, but not with hostiles present. So a tactical cleanup crew is called to cleanse the area. Whoever has been firing shots, needs to be dealt with.

Fanya's flat has the door standing wide open and an injured redhead known to them on the couch. Naturally that crew will orient entirely upon Natasha to handle her, and no doubt have any number of confused questions about the whereabout of the one minor in the vicinity. Whether she emerges before they arrive is a matter down to the wire…

He's gone and found somewhere to hide himself. The better to observe who comes in response to that call. Not daring to go far…..at least he's got a better outfit than Steve did, when it comes to hiding.

Natasha remains on the couch, nodding at the men who arrive, all geared for a fight, "we have a visitor…he must have made the call, wasn't me, wasn't the teacher, certainly not Fanya." She notes, "can one of you spare a pistol?" She holds up her one uncrushed hand. "He's pretty good."

Pistols for the med team won't happen, but one of the others is willing to offer up a sidearm for Natasha. They have their reasons to be edgy about the action, though, keeping them otherwise in their holsters at easy grip. Those who are dressed to dance are fanned out, the others within for a healing spell startled when a completely bewildered blonde girl steps out from the bedroom with an empty cup. "Why are you here? All's well enough. Did you come for Aunty Lia or the angry one?"

They'll be coming for him, soon enough. But he's close enough to listen, senses keen enough to help him. He should've been smarter, not called these guys in. Regret's there at the forefront of his mind…..and behind it, that urge to start a fight. Steve passed on the instinct for leaping into trouble, as well as the shield.

"Oh…if we make it, I will need looking after," Natasha notes, glancing at her bloodied, smashed hands, and there are still the bullet wounds from before. She's not in such a great shape, and likely would have collapsed entirely if she didn't have the couch to support her partially. "You can go on the hunt," Natasha notes, "but mind you, he wants to come here…so best get in position and welcome him when he does show up."

"No shooting," Fanya insists. "I do not like the guns. We do not. It's good for no one." Her objections may be overruled. On the other hand, she is the gatekeeper and perhaps the sway she carries helps turn tides in certain directions. Almost sadly, she plants herself in front of the bedroom door with her cup and sighs.

Shooting there will be, no doubt. He doesn't dare move until he must. Even he's loath to take on a trained team. Better to let them come out looking for him, to draw them out and away from his goal.

Whether the team will go on the hunt or not, Natasha, for clear reasons, stays right on the couch, this time with a pistol aimed at the door. Waiting. "We will try, Fanya, but that man is really, really angry."

Interlude. Transition Four. Limbo.

The doors are shut, all but welded in place. Shadows congeal under the faintly red-shifted light in the hallway. Waiting is the burden of a patient man. But an impulsive one? Pure torture, and nothing much else to speak of.

Let him stew in his anger. The med team simply isn't there in sight when he looks into the apartment. Natasha remains on the couch. The girl is gone. The guns are black, pitiless things of writhing shadow rooted into the very foundation stones of the hidden city.

Stained the same ghostly blighted taint that runs through Captain America's own innards, spindled around his flesh in hidden sweeps of an ink brush. These are concentrated nightfall, their faces almost indistinguishably dark.

He can wait. He has to, even if the minutes creep by. And then, as patience frays like thread, he's moving away. Trying to go unnoticed - there's so much more of this facility to search.

Minutes. Hours. How long? The game of warring patience is going to crack sooner or later. The men who are shadows lurk on the brink, and they give no contest to the passage of time. Their inhuman shapes build and seethe, ichorous nightfall wrapped in suits. Even Natasha blends away into the dark. The only spot of light looks at her water cup and hums an old tune, so very old indeed. A merry-go-round in a city she's never seen.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 10

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 1

Away he goes, backtracking as best he can. Looking for other paths. This place is a maze - surely Steve has to be secreted here somewhere.

A maze: a city hidden under the earth, a place concealed from all sight. Assuredly there are parallels Bucky might recognize to other locations, other hints of the familiar. Angular paths that wind among the walls, unknown directions and destinations branching off in every spiral walk. The labyrinth was a place for monks to find meditation but in a godless country, what then? Composed paths to find answers, find truths, keep bringing him back to crossroads alarmingly like the ones he's left behind.

Standardization is to be expected, right? He's still seeking, questing. Not so foolish as to stand out there and ponder, but there are pauses to consider, before he goes on.

Space bends and time twists around itself. No escape for the path that Bucky seeks. He knows what he wants and whether he can find it in the rat race of a closed city remains unknown. Things go awry when he halts. The route he walked behind folds at geometric angles that cannot be. Rising hallways randomly bend off in a mobius strip. He is taking angles to travel, seeing concrete walls and another intersection with four doors.

They all have four doors, no matter if he's upside down or not.

The only thing to try is the door right before him. Subtlety and stealth have their places, but….the tide of story takes him one way. Go forward, let it take him.

Mirror dimension effects: sharp bands weave open, blossoming to reveal a widening fan of angles before Captain America in his second incarnation of the modern era. Every entry can be made boldly, and he rotates as though on ice, sliding on a soundless pivot that faces him towards another door. The same open one as has been waiting him all along.

He stands in front of it and the tunnel slides away, pushing back until resistance snaps him forward through it at near lightspeed. Shadows drown past, the guns pointed for the doorway.

Fanya still sits on the floor.

The shield's in his hand and up before his conscious brain can even comment on it, sinking into the kind of defensive crouch that'll let him deflect most of the initial rounds….or so past technique promises. The down the rabbit hole quality of all of it isn't lost on him, but adrenaline's in the driver's seat, for now.

How many rounds shot? Would it matter? The manhole cover on his dark-clad arm proves sufficient to the task, deflecting the bullets midair. Some simply hang in midair out of his way. Others can be deflected, bashed aside, striking and falling blank and crumpled to the floor.

She is the stillest of beings, staring at him. The plastic cup rests in her hand. No signs she has moved at all in the intervening time.

The soldiers are who he goes for, at first. She's offered no threat, but he's got presence of mind enough to yell at her to get down, get away. Fighting in the presence of children, though he was hardly more than a child when he went to war, was he?

Soldiers fire again. Copper flowers bloom on black muzzles. What kind of devices they wield, tools of death, don't matter especially so much. They train in on him, tracking him at short range. The one nearest to Bucky shows no expression, face a mask of black. Features melt in and out of sight, ichorous, as easily a woman shooting at him as a man last spotted in an Italian field, on a street in Budapest, in Moscow where the apartment went red in blood on death. Memories splintered, sundered, lashing out at him.

Every time he turns, the walls split in the oddest ways. As he advances, he's spent spinning around away from his latest quarry. Only Fanya is stable in all this mess, kaleidoscope twist and turn around them both.

"Stop shooting," she whispers, hopeless. "You're not supposed to shoot." Another bullet zings by, tilting in four different redirections to strike the ceiling.

For a wonder, he listens. Ceases shooting, though he still holds the shield up. It's dizzying - memory and its lack is always his weakness,and it's that that subdues him, finally. Ending up crouched before her, sickened by it, head down.

Shadows splinter in their places, looming and in their sense, helpless. All those conclusions and unhappy endings wait for him to act and they'll scythe Bucky down, as if memories can hurt. Anchored in this place, perhaps they can.

"No guns. No one listens." Fanya bites her tongue and frowns, the stern disapproval from a face as young as hers disturbing. "I had tea and no one wanted any. So I have to take the tray to the kitchen." Which she does, easily enough, unless stopped.

He won't stop her. If anything, he simply sits down, crosslegged, dizzied by all of it. "I'm listening," he says, though by hisvoice, he's nauseated. Let them come, take him.

Off to the kitchen goes the blonde, leaving the cups upside down in the sink. The pot is poured out. Clink goes a lid, replaced on the tray. Water runs to allow her to wash out the good black tea. What else can she possibly do to foul up his approach any worse? Fanya comes back with a packet of crisps from who knows where, offering the treasured junk food to Bucky. "You have a job to do. It is your time."

"What job?" he says, t aking the packet of crisps out of reflex, and then eyeing them with bemusement. "This is where I'm supposed to be, but you aren't Steve," he says, quietly. Then "….did you want to share these?"

The crisps are fresh in their sealed container. No beans or evil snakes ready to spring out there. "No." Fanya shakes her head. "You know my name." She is reasonable about that, knee-to-knee almost with Bucky. Those grave, great blue eyes do not waver from his face. "You can have them. They make me feel better. But he doesn't want to see you. Won't help you do what you have to do or what he has to do."

Bucky sets them aside, gently. "Thanks, but no thanks. Let him tell me that to my face, is all I ask. One last time," he insists. "Even if he's dead, I have to see. He came for me, more than once. I have to do the same for him."

"You're doing it for you," she murmurs, not breaking away to look at her feet. Certainly that would be more comfortable by a long shot. Fanya huffs out a breath that she was holding back. "You need this for you. That's okay. He chose to let you go, that's why you got the shield and the job." A nod at the vibranium disc, innocent as a plate on a table, a turtling shell. "No one asks about his needs 'cause he never puts himself first. All he has left is for himself, to have a little bit of a life. To enjoy the one thing he couldn't have before." Her fingers twine around her skirt, the wool churning grey into falls and rises of a plain, unremarkable sea. "Peace. Me."

"I don't believe that he isn't a prisoner," Bucky's voice is firm, slow, though Fanya shows no signs at all of being simple or stupid, rather than inexperienced. "I didn't fight all this way to have some experiment tell me it's A OK that the Russians have him and he's just here to have a rest. This isn't life, Fanya. This is nothing like it, and you only think it is because you've never known anything else. And that's my failure. I couldn't give anyone or anything life."

"The old life is all nightmares and pain. The war. Hitting the ice. I hear him whispering in the dark when he thinks no one else is around. He remembers everyone who died, the fights, the man with the red face." Fanya shudders at that, and her jaw sets. "You can't save him from that. You are that past too, you have the shield. He poured out everything and it almost killed him. The doctors said it was bad for him to have the bad dreams and hurt. He feels better when he is away. No one makes him do anything or run out." Truth told, they could argue in circles around all night. "Quiet. Maybe it's boring to you. But we like it here. I can read to him and when he feels strong we can draw. You want your friend. You never been without him, have you? He couldn't be without you when you were gone. Now you can't be without him. You got to. For him to heal from the hurts. For me to have my papa. He's all I have. I am all he gets. You have the world, let him have a little field."

"Let me see him," His voice breaks on that. Why is he waiting? He's a warrior in his prime, she's a child, even if she's Steve's. Impatient, he gets up, leaves the shield where it is, heads for the door in the back of the room. "This isn't healing. This is a prison."

"Why do you have to hurt him when he doesn't want to see you? He can't forget when you keep pushing." Fanya clenches her fists and scrambles up, that door all that stands between them. Wood, no more.

"Fanya is right," a voice joins the conversation, turns out Natasha has forced herself up, and dragged herself along the wall to be nearer to the two. The sidearm she was given holstered at the thigh, by her healthy hand. "You are part of a life of violence and death…he doesn't want that anymore. I don't want that anymore. We have a family here…we live in peace," and as if to assure Bucky she turns to Fanya, "my dear, can you tell the angry man, have you ever seen me with a weapon before he arrived? Have you seen me hurt another? Or do we live in peace here, together? Do we not enjoy life?"

"You will take the girl's father away from her? You will take -my- dear friend away from me…?" Now there's a twist, Steve, a friend of a known enemy of the USA? Is that possible? "We are both beyond your world, Captain America. We want none of the death…" funny, she didn't seem to hold that sentiment when dispatching Clint and Fitz earlier in the day. "Besides…I think you'd like to keep your memories of him from the past, he's an enlightened man now."

Forget. They're making Steve forget. And who will remember him if Steve does not? No one else was there, no one else remains.

The metal fist is cocked to simply punch through….but he remembers in time, and instead reaches for the lever. Let's do this like civilized people, if we can, for this one moment. There's only the sound of metal on metal as alloy fingertips touch, grasp….but then Natasha's chiming in. Buck rounds on her, expression alive and vicious in a way that even Winter's neve was. "She's not his daughter. He's not your friend, Black Widow. The Russians spin webs of lies that you're all caught in. That I was caught in, until I was freed. If you've brainwashed him, that can be undone. But I'm getting him out of here. Stay out of my way and stay alive, Widow. One last chance."

"Yes." A terrible glimpse of sorrow and that fiery blueness of her eyes, defiant, impulse knocking into action as she gets to her feet. "I am. You got what you wanted, Captain. He paid a price to give you a victory. Because he can't run from the blood and the smoke and the bones. The country he loves doesn't stop asking. The people he loves don't stop asking. They can't see my papa hurts and only wants to rest or draw or sometimes fix little things. You won't see it either until you break him too. He feels he's got to go over the top because he always has." There's no shield cocked at a threatening angle, only a child with an alarming intensity to her purpose, a girl on the cusp of adulthood some years in the making but the seeds are there.

Doors. Push, opened, there. A dim chamber carries an aura of a sickroom, the blankets wrapped around a man facing a window of sorts. Paintings here, and there, sketches, livid mountainsides and dark forests and fields, fallen-down towers and blasted churches in some. In others, glimpses of fatality in spring greenery, French villages and German towns eradicated by time. A man with pale yellow hair, facing away, hands clutching the coverlet around him. Not far off, another stack of schoolbooks. Not his. A photograph in black and white of Steve, toll taken by injury, but smiling, the blonde with her hair in braids and a basket in her lap. Another, faded, of a woman instantly familiar — his mother, obviously, dressed in another time. There's a terrifying resemblance through the three, really. His sketchpad is abandoned there too, the wheelchair overshadowed some by the bed. "Not now." Oh, that voice. Quiet, weary, but not a husk. "

"He is not my father, just my friend…Captain America," Natasha speaks to Bucky with a bit of a leer, before softening her expression and turning her attention to Fanya, "it's her right to allow or deny you…I will not stand in the way of her decision, so Fanya…deal with the angry man as you like, you have my full support."

And then the doors are opened, and Bucky can finally get what he wanted, it turns out Fanya's presence has dissuaded Natasha from fighting to the death.

He all but skids in haste to get to Steve's side, to crouch by the wheelchair like a faithful dog. "Steve, it's me, Buck. I'm gonna get you out of here, it'll be all right." Not *quite* babbling, but it's close, the words running together in haste. "What'd they do to you?" He's looking up into that familiar face, blue eyes bright with unshed tears.

He doesn't make eye contact, staring at the window. If beyond that, the hint of trees, the wisps of cloud in the dark. Steve Rogers is still a strong man, if diminished, whittled back by hardship and harrowing experiences. Death has been an old friend more than once. Serum only goes so far. Betimes the spirit falters and finds its footing. Take of that how one will. "I know." Two words, arrows to the chest. Bullets in the brainpan, squish. "They promised quiet and shelter. And time to clear my mind. There's befores and afters. After everything went down — the plane and the building…"

Fanya, his damn namesake, bolts in like a shot and skitters around the edge of the room. In every line of her body is a protectiveness usually equated with mother bears, save this bear is gaunt, lean, and petite all at once. And fully in every sense prepared to protect him, her hand wrapped around the armrest of the wheelchair. Her body bristles practically with defensive intent, sheltering someone harmed, maimed by time or just size. "Papa…" Their reactions are damn near the same, separated by a man. The fight wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't stop her. That is plain as day.

Natasha lags behind, injured as she is, but she keeps quiet, looking warmly for a moment at Fanya, even Steve, but then her gaze turns cold as it sets on Bucky. She waits a few more moments in silence, and then eventually states to Bucky, "how do you show your friendship now? What is the right thing to do…and what is the action of a country's puppet?" Tossing back at him the term he used to describe her earlier.

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