|The Pen is Mightier! (penismightier) wrote in chaotic_library,|
@ 2016-07-18 19:59:00
|Entry tags:||bruce banner, bucky barnes, maria hill, marvel, novel, r-rated, sharon carter, steve rogers, tony stark, yuuo, yuuo: marvel|
[Bucky Barnes; R] Uncivil War: Chapter 10
Character/Series: Bucky Barnes; Marvel Cinematic Universe
Notes: Did not get as far as I wanted in this chapter- it was supposed to end with something of a cliffhanger, but they talked about the ghost too much. Ah well, what is, is.
Title: Uncivil War- Chapter 10: Like A Monster, Like A Saint
Word Count: 4705
Summary: Sharon laid her head down on the console of the computer, careful of buttons and keys and displays.
debating on which way to turn
haunted by voices
craving someone to run to
-Thousand Foot Krutch
Sharon laid her head down on the console of the computer, careful of buttons and keys and displays. "Okay," she said ."We've gotten from 1873 to 1931. This school is ancient and it's well past dinner time and we've found nothing. We should break for dinner."
"I agree," Maria said, sitting back in her seat and stretching.
Bucky didn't look away from the reports he was going through. "You guys go on ahead. I'll be down later."
"Oh no you don't," Steve said. "Bucky, leave this. The computer will be here after dinner if you're that dedicated, and tomorrow, since I'm pretty sure you need sleep."
"I'm fine," Bucky said, trying to ignore him. "Go eat, I'm fine."
"Bucky, Steve's right," Maria said, using gentler language but just as firm a tone. "You don't get to skip dinner, not with your metabolism."
Bucky kept his eyes on his screen to make a very strong point. "You act like I can't make myself something later when my stomach tells me to. I'm not hungry right now."
Finally turning to face them, Bucky whirled his seat around at an unreasonable speed, his feet slamming onto the floor the only thing keeping him from making a one eighty. "I'll eat later," he growled. "I'm in the middle of this, I'll eat when I'm actually hungry. You both damn well know how badly food sits on my stomach when I'm on a mission."
Everyone drew back slightly, Sharon and Bruce remaining wisely silent and well out of the way. Maria pursed her lips and Steve's fists clenched. Bucky had used the dreaded 'm' word, one that nobody liked hearing out of his mouth, not in that tone, not since they left for Palestine and the Soldier had taken over.
But they actually did all know how his diet was when he was that focused, and 'bad' was an understatement. He got so single-minded that unless they were at a rest period, in which food was required, he didn't stop what he was doing until it was done. That was the way of the Soldier.
Steve looked ready to actually throttle him, as if if he did, Hydra and their training might fall out and leave whoever it was Steve thought he still was behind. Bucky gave him a challenging glare, Maria getting only a sidelong look.
"Okay." Steve raised his hands in placating surrender. "Fine. We'll go on ahead." That placating surrender was laced with poison, but no matter how much of that poison Steve wanted to spit at him, he was giving in.
Maria stayed where she was as Bruce and Sharon inched around behind her to follow Steve out. Bucky braced himself to have to argue with Maria, too, something he didn't want to do, but he was on an actual mission, looking for potential intel to allow them to deal with the potential danger the electric anomalies represented, so he was ready to do it. He didn't have to like it, but he was ready.
After fifteen agonizing seconds that ticked silently in his head, she walked over to him and leaned down, pressing her lips against his cheek gently. "Just remember," she said quietly, "we wanted Bucky back when you were done."
He wasn't ready for that response, wasn't expecting it. He closed his eyes, reaching up to hold her in his arms, at least for a few seconds, just until he could make his eyes stop tearing up. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm just trying to make this place safe. I need intel for that."
Maria pulled back to crouch in front of him, hands on his knees. "I know you are," she said. "But it's Bucky we need right now, not the Soldier."
Bucky looked away, struggling to find words for all the twisted up thoughts in his brain, the pictures and the way his stomach felt tied up in a knot. "The Soldier has to make himself trustworthy again," he finally managed in a strained voice. "This is the first chance I've had to do that. I-"
He hesitated, again searching for words to what was bouncing around his head. Maria waited patiently. "If I can't convince the Soldier that he has other teammates that need protecting just as much as Steve does, I'm never going to get away from Hydra. This is me trying to fix that part of my brain back to how it was before."
Maria took his hands and rested her forehead on them. "I don't doubt that," she said. "And I know he'll come around. He's you." She looked up at him. "But we need you as our family member right now, not the Soldier as a protector. Later. If there's a threat, the Soldier can eliminate it. But all this is is just gathering intelligence and Bucky Barnes is perfectly capable of doing that without the Soldier's help or permission."
Bucky leaned back in his seat, turning his hands to grab hers. "I know," he said. "I just don't know how else to fix him, or how to show Steve that the Soldier isn't the bad guy."
Maria squeezed his hands, quiet for a moment as she studied him. "I know he's expressed not liking being alone at night, but I'll talk to him," she said. "You and I can get something to eat that won't stain the bed or leave a lot of crumbs, you can grab the project files to keep his nose out of them, and stay with me tonight."
"I can't," Bucky said, shaking his head. "He never abandoned me when I needed him. He put my bed in his room simply because I wasn't able to sleep except on the floor in his room. I can't leave him to sleep alone like that."
"I'm not saying to abandon him," Maria said, rubbing his hands with hers. "But we've all noticed the fighting, and we've all noticed that it's getting worse. You both need time away from each other. Stay with me tonight. I'll talk to him. He's more likely to see reason with me than with you right now."
How Bucky wanted to do exactly what she was suggesting. Step away and stay with her and let Steve handle himself for awhile because it was was becoming increasingly obvious that he didn't want to see the Soldier as Bucky yet. The others had noticed the fights about it, and Maria was right- a night away from each other would probably help that.
But there was work to be done. Something he could actively do to protect his family. It was hard to push that away. "But it's not a rest period," he said rather lamely, his training trying one more time to hold onto his brain.
"Yes, it is," Maria said. "Our mission is to help you and Steve. This is a side mission, and one that can be put away for the moment. You chance missing something in the records if you push yourself as hard as the Soldier wants to."
Well that he couldn't deny.
He glanced away, looking out over the clouds building outside, turning dark and covering the sunset. She was right, the primary mission couldn't be forgotten behind this secondary one.
But he just couldn't yet. He had to set a specific time limit and 'now' was too abrupt for his brain to handle. So he struggled to come up with a reason for just a bit more time.
He looked back at he when she said his name. "Slight amendment to the plans? We'll have something that doesn't take time to cook up here, search awhile longer, you and me, and after our food's gone, we'll retire for the night. Just to give me a bit more time to reset my brain."
Maria smiled. "Acceptable compromise. I'll go make us sandwiches." She stood, leaned over him to hug him one more time, then headed out.
Bucky returned to his work, looking over every student file for all thirteen years they were there, following students as they passed grades, younger generations filling in the spots they grew out of. This was going to take forever. Which only really told his brain that there needed to be a rest period.
Good brain, listen to that.
He was up to 1932 on his own when Maria returned with two sandwiches. He was tired of sandwiches, truth be told, but right then, they sounded as good as anything else as he pulled himself down from his mission mindset. Crawling the archives became less of a mission and more of a tedious task that could be given up on when the food was gone. It meant he was a little less focused, but this didn't need hyperfocus like a mission.
Mission fading to tedium didn't do much to improve his appetite, but it made it easier to pick at his sandwich, pulling out the meat and cheese and leaving the bread behind. If Maria noticed, she didn't say anything, just worked on her own records.
"Bucky, what year are you on?"
"Still on 1932," he said. "I'm almost done with this year, I think."
Maria sat back, glanced at the plates, hers empty and his with bread still sitting on it, but again, didn't say anything about it. She knew he'd promised to eat when he was actually hungry. "Why don't you keep up with that, and I'll start looking from the fire backwards? Maybe we can find records of the cats appearing that might tell us something more than what we've been getting so far."
Bucky looked at her proper, having only seen her out of the corner of his eye. "That's actually a good idea. You do that, I'll keep going from where I am."
He kicked his brain around for giving what felt like an order rather than a suggestion in reply to her own. Downtime soon, brain. Downtime.
They both went back to work, Bucky getting progressively more frustrated and less focused. He was ready to give up when Maria spoke up. "Found her."
Bucky whirled in his seat and slid it over to look around her. "That quickly?"
"She was in the most recent years," Maria said, pulling the school picture up into a 3D display. "Catherine Sloupe, known to most as 'Kitty'. Had the ability to walk through walls due to radiation damage in the womb." Maria looked at Bucky. "Just like the cats."
"You think they came in response to her?"
"Or, if she's our ghost, she created them for company while she haunted the place."
"Or that," Bucky agreed. "What else do we know about her? Was she murdered or commit suicide?"
"Neither, or at least, nobody knows," Maria said. "She was presumed missing in the fire, no body was ever found. But her radiation damage would suggest that she's our ghost. The only question at this point is how she died."
"What grade was she in? I'll start working on her earlier records," Bucky said.
Maria peered at the screen. "The last year before the fire, she was in second grade. But she'd been here since kindergarten."
Bucky pushed over to the next computer, pushing their plates aside. "I'll start on those earlier two years, you see what's in that last year."
They went back to work, Bucky scrolling through Catherine's records. "It looks like she was harassed a lot," he said, glancing over at Maria. "You seeing that over there?"
"I am," Maria said with a nod. "Complaints lodged by her mother and by Catherine both. It looks like administration tried to stop it, but thirteen grades of students who have an Enhanced in their midst, it's hard to catch it all the time."
"Have Junior start going through the security camera records," Bucky said, looking back at his own screen. "I want to see if there's any sign of her hanging herself. Anything to do with why she'd give us that apparition of herself strung up over that dumb mower."
Maria had no sooner acknowledged that before she said "found it."
"Already?" Bucky swiveled his chair around again. "What've we got?"
Maria pulled up the video. "Cruel children is what we have."
The video showed several students, one up on a banister that Tony must've had removed up from the stairs leading to the lounge. He had a length of cable in a noose. Two other students were dragging Kitty along. The video had no audio, but years as a sniper had taught him some rudimentary lip reading skills, and they were all calling her either a 'witch' or a 'bitch', and he had a feeling it didn't really matter either way.
Kitty herself was protesting voraciously, Bucky needing no lip reading to tell that, struggling to be let free. Bucky idly wondered why she didn't do what the cats could obviously do and slide through their grips.
"Why isn't she getting away?"
Maria didn't look away from watching. "She might not've been able to go through biological material, or didn't know if she could."
Kitty had the noose pulled over her head, and the boy- who looked a couple good grades older than Kitty -yanked on the cord, pulling her up off her feet. Kitty tried to free her neck from the cable, shrieking wordlessly and flailing, before finally sliding down through the cable. She took off towards the nearest door, which Bucky recognized as the basement door. Some children tried to follow, but the video had no sooner shown that when it went scrambled then went black. There weren't any other records past that to look at.
Bucky and Maria both exchanged a look. "I'll bet you a sawbuck that she ran into the wires downstairs and shorted the entire system," he said.
"I'm not taking that bet," Maria said. "I'd lose. That'd explain the burn mark on the wall. That's where she ran into the heart of the electrical system." She frowned. "My question at this point is why was her body never discovered? They treated it as an electrical fire, they should've investigated that area."
"Maybe they did," Bucky said. "If she got caught up in the wires, it might've completely vaporized her body if she tried to stop before getting through them."
Maria tilted her head back. Bucky waited, she had a thought forming, and he wanted to hear it. "Maybe," she agreed. "Or she somehow fixed the wiring before Tony's crew came, and managed to conceal her ashes and any sign of anything resembling a human body. Either way, that would explain the lack of evidence in the wall around the wires. We didn't exactly cut into the cables when we checked downstairs, just checked for tears in them or exposed wiring."
"And Steve and I didn't find any exposed wires when we dug into that wall."
"Suddenly it makes sense why Sharon calling for that cat caused an electric bolt. Our ghost was saying hi in response to her name."
"Not very good at people interactions, is she?" Bucky said.
Maria looked at him. "She's a child that was bullied her whole life for an ability she didn't ask for. She probably has no idea what good social interactions look like."
Bucky nodded his head at a slight angle once. "Then she's going to learn. I don't care if we live with a ghost, as long as it's friendly and not a danger to us or any of the other Avengers if they have to join us."
"Agreed," Maria said. "We should get this information to the others." She looked at him. "After that, you're staying the night with me. I've already got Steve agreeing to it."
He put a hand on her shoulder, giving her a wicked little smile. "I don't mind spending the night with my pretty lady."
She raised an eyebrow. "Is that an offer I hear?"
"Shouldn't it be?"
She leaned over, nuzzling his neck. "Consider that upfront payment for later." She slid across the room on her chair, grabbing the laptop that Bruce had brought in to record data if it was needed. "We need to get this video and her student profile to show to the others first."
Bucky slid back to his own station and stood, grabbing the plates. "They're probably still eating. Hope this doesn't ruin their appetites."
Maria looked up at him briefly before looking back at the computer. She unplugged the laptop from the main computer system and stood. "I think they'll be okay." She finally looked at the plates he was holding. "You left your bread."
He stared at the bread, feeling guilty but still unable to take a bite. "I'll eat tomorrow," he said. "I still wasn't that hungry."
She patted his shoulder. "I'm holding you to that," she said. "You can't afford to skip food like that."
"I ate the protein part," Bucky said, turning to the stairs to head down. "I promise I'll eat when I'm hungry."
The others were still eating, or at least were mingling at the table. Steve had obviously cooked a simple meal, it looked like he was the only one still eating, with everyone else lingering over empty plates. Anything complicated would've taken awhile to cook; they all should've been still eating otherwise.
Bruce looked up over his mug of tea. "You found something?"
Sharon looked over at them. "That was quick."
Steve spared them a glance before going back to his food. "How'd you manage it?"
Maria took her usual spot and opened the laptop. "I decided to go from the last records and go backwards while Bucky kept going the direction we'd been going before." She swiveled the screen, tapping at it until Kitty's student record popped up. "Catherine Sloupe, radiation damaged in the womb, ended up with the ability to walk through walls."
"Sloupe?" Bruce sat up in his seat a bit more and leaned forward, barely remembering to move his plate out of the way. "What was her mother's name?"
"Elizabeth," Maria said.
"I remember her," Bruce said, which got him a few raised eyebrows. "She was an assistant on my radiation project. She left as soon as she realized she was pregnant, but I guess she didn't realize soon enough." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "What happened to Catherine?"
"She was relentlessly bullied here," Maria replied. "She was different, children are taught not to like different. We have a theory about what happened to her. She was presumed missing, since there was never a body found after the fire. Some students tried to hang her, I assume as this hilarious practical joke, and she slipped the cord and ran. We think that burn spot was where she ran into the main wiring circuits and set the place on fire with the shock."
Bruce took in a deep breath. "So ultimately, that child is dead because of my experiments."
Sharon got up and walked behind Bruce, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "Absolutely not," she said. "Elizabeth Sloupe knew she was in a risky business and quit as soon as she realized she was pregnant. It's nobody's fault that no one knew she was pregnant before the radiation already affected Catherine. So don't you dare blame yourself."
Bruce patted her arm, though he didn't look like he was terribly convinced she was right and he was wrong. "Well, so they hung her, she ran through the walls to get away, found the biggest nerve bundle of wiring in the building and shorted everything out. Why was there no evidence of a body in that wall?"
"I think the shock scared her back into being corporeal right in the wiring itself. There'd be no body if it was stuck in the wires themselves. She was probably vaporized," Bucky said.
"Or she hid the evidence herself when she fixed the electrical system," Maria said. "She might've been scared of something."
"At any rate, those're the best guesses we have at the moment," Bucky said, picking up the thought. "But to note, her nickname was Kitty. I think that'd explain her 'greeting' when you called for that cat, Sharon. She might've been acknowledging you."
Sharon scowled. "She needs to learn some manners."
"Like I told Bucky upstairs," Maria said, "we have to remember she's a child who probably never had a healthy interaction with anyone but her mother in her life. I don't know how we can do it, I doubt a seance will help but she can obviously hear us just fine. We'll just have to explain to her that that's not a good way to communicate."
Steve finally decided to join the conversation. "How are we supposed talk to her without her getting to be part of the conversation? Her little electric tricks don't tell us much except that she's potentially dangerous if she can't pull that under control."
"I have that one," Bruce said. "Tony sent Junior some research on ghosts after finding out about our ghost cats. If you run a digital camera in a silent room, it'll pick up on EVPs- electronic voice phenomenon. Supposedly, the voices you can make out on the recorder upon playback are the voices of ghosts."
"I've heard of that," Bucky said. "I've watched a couple of those dumb ghost hunters shows, just to laugh at their bad science and yeah, you can hear weird shit in those recordings. It's not necessarily caused by ghosts and not malfunctions in the recorders, but now that we actually have a ghost, I'll play along with that stuff working. Better than sitting around a crystal ball and trying to summon the dead to talk to her that way."
"Do we have a digital recorder?" Steve asked.
Bruce shook his head. "No. If I'd realized we'd have an honest to god ghost, I would've asked Tony to include one in the stuff he sent for the lab and the work room. Sharon's gonna have to go get one somewhere."
"I'll check in town first," Sharon said. "I might have to find another town with a Radio Shack or something. The town nearby isn't very big, I'm not sure they'd have an electronics store."
"I can come with," Bruce said. "Give me a few days without shaving, it should be harder to recognize me. We'll need parts to make something that'll measure electromagnetic spikes. It might be useless with this particular ghost, but supposedly, ghosts can cause unexplained spikes in the electromagnetic spectrum in the area. We can get a digital camera too, set up to sense temperature drops and maybe catch something on screen that would indicate her being present in a room proper, or if she stays in the wires exclusively. She might be harder to track or communicate with if that's the case, but it doesn't hurt to try."
Bucky cocked a half-smile of amusement. "And Tony would be cross with us if we didn't at least try to gather something resembling scientific evidence on Kitty."
Bruce echoed that smile. "He would." Then he took a breath. "Okay, so we're pretty sure our ghost is this girl named Kitty. What's our next step?"
"At the moment, nothing," Bucky said. "I'd rather wait on trying to address her until she has a way of communicating back. Just everyone be careful about lights and what you say. And this may not be necessary, but be extra nice to those cats. I have a feeling she either created them or called them to her to be company. Cali's been pretty frien-" He stopped and looked under the table to see said calico rubbing against his legs. "Where have you been?"
Steve glanced down. "In the kitchen. She wasn't getting in the way of cooking or preparing food and I scrubbed the area she'd been sitting on. I guess she stayed in there after we came to sit down."
Cali made another turn around Bucky's legs, then sat back, watching him intently.
"No, Princess," Bucky said. "You don't get any food this time. I ate all the good parts."
"Princess?" Steve raised his eyebrows, giving Bucky a teasing grin and oh thank god for that smile. It was nice to see. "What other nicknames did you give her?"
Bucky gave him a sour look. "There is nothing wrong with pet names. And for your information, 'princess' and 'sweetheart' is as far as I go. I'm not that weird."
Maria propped her elbow on the table and looked at him. "You give cats more verbal love than me," she said, and it felt so nice to be part of a conversation with his family that didn't involve sniping or fighting and awkward tension.
"That's because you're not a princess," he said. "Unless you mean the Xena type of princess."
Maria looked off to the side a bit, considering his statement. "I could live with that. There are worse people to be compared to."
"I know you said right now we do nothing," Bruce said, getting up. "But I'd like to go work on how to make something to detect EMFs. Care to join me?"
Bucky shook his head. "I promised Maria she gets my attention tonight. Unless you guys want help with the dishes first." Then he gave Bruce an offended look. "Besides, I'm an engineer, I can make an EMF detector in my sleep."
"Then you're volunteered," Bruce said.
"We've got the kitchen," Sharon said. "It's not like the food produced a lot of dishes this time. And before Bruce and I go to town, you can give us a list of what you need to build this thing."
While Sharon and Bruce got up and collected plates, Bucky glanced briefly at Maria, then turned his attention to Steve. "You gonna be okay tonight?" he asked, voice lowered to keep others from hearing.
Steve took in a deep breath, considering. "Yeah," he said. "I'll be okay."
"All right." Bucky looked at Maria, raising one eyebrow and then flicking his eyes back in Steve's direction, hoping she'd get what he was saying.
She did. "If you change your mind, you are free to come knock on my door," she said. "We'll hear you."
"I'm not taking my Ativan tonight," Bucky said. "So I won't sleep as hard. I'll wake easier. Just knock on the door."
Steve frowned. "I'm not sure I like the idea of interrupting anything you two do."
Maria smiled. "Don't worry, we won't be up all night. And we can always get dressed. It may be awkward, but both Bucky and I would prioritize your mental health over sex. We always have the day times to sneak off, if we lose one night, it's not going to damage our relationship."
That actually got Steve to smile, not a teasing smile, but a genuine one that Bucky recognized as the one his best friend, his brother, his partner would give when something Bucky did made him happy. "I was a bit worried about that. I don't remember everything, but I'm pretty sure Bucky used to have us on a schedule of when he spent time with who. I know Bucky likes his habits, I don't want to completely turn them upside down." Then he gave Bucky the stink eye. "And I won't get kicked in the shins tonight."
"Name one time since we were kids that I did that."
"Have you since coming home from Hydra?" The tone of the conversation, while still attempting to be light-hearted, turned a bit serious. Not dangerously so, but serious anyway. Steve was genuinely asking for a hole in his memory to be filled in.
"No," Bucky answered. "Not that you've complained of, and we only shared a bed three times since then, too. We had twin beds at the apartment."
"Then I guess you're right, I can't." He shrugged, then waved them off. "Go, have fun. I can hold down the fort this evening. I'll keep Bruce from bugging you about this project."
Someone else in charge, hallelujah.
"Then we'll see you tomorrow," he said, getting up and grabbing Maria's hand.