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Story [MCU] Sometime This Century [Post-CACW]

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by DaenaBenjen42, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: I felt like I was being overly-mean to Tony here... and then I re-read the meta and was reminded that he shot someone in the back with a repulsor and kicked them in the face when they were already down and defenseless and barely able to move. So... oh yes, he so has a lot to process and consider. Totally. Thank you, Mira. :)


    A/N: And now for something I was sort of on the fence for, but Brightfeather and Mom loved, so... yep. Going for it. (We'll be getting back to Wakanda next post.)

    ~*~*~*~*~*~
    It was a little past ten o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday when a well-dressed woman with blonde hair and far too much makeup stormed into Michael Proctor's Brooklyn law office in a huff and demanded to be seen. Jane, the practice's Paralegal secretary, simply smiled. "Do you have an appointment, Miss Everhart?"

    "No! I got this thing, and I want to talk to him and know what right he has to handcuff the Forth Estate!"

    Jane eyed the paper in her hand for a moment, then stood up and moved to knock on the doorframe of Michael's open office door. "Another upset reporter to see you, Mike."

    Michael glanced up and laughed. "Clearly. Call my grandmother and get her here, would you? With Mason, if it's possible."

    Jane smiled again, nodded, then turned back to look at Christine Everhart. "You are so in for it, woman. You have no idea. Would you like some coffee?"

    Christine blinked, stunned at her congeniality. "Water. It was a long flight from L.A."

    Jane nodded again, motioned to the office door. "He's in there. Feel free to yell at him if you want, if it makes you feel better."

    "Are you always this informal, Miss...?"

    Jane held out a hand. "Jane Talbot, and he's my cousin. I can be as informal as I want, and you're the one who barged in here, making demands and waving around things. If you don't want to be professional, why should I be?"

    Christine blinked again. "Oh. I..."

    "Apologize later, Miss Everhart." She motioned again to the open office door, where Michael was now standing with an amused expression on his face. "Your meeting awaits."

    Christine watched her go, then looked at Michael. "So... is she always so...?"

    Michael laughed. "No, she simply hates it when people are grossly unprofessional. And I wouldn't call that letter handcuffing anyone, Miss Everheart. Come in and sit down?"

    Christine entered his office and sat down on the couch while Michael re-took his seat behind his desk and simply looked back at her, waiting. "I..."

    "That letter was to inform you of your gross misconduct concerning a Prisoner of War," Michael told her blandly. "And every major news agency got one... I had a heck of a time explaining it to Megyn Kelly yesterday, I don't expect you to be any different."

    She glanced down at the letter still in her hands, then looked at him for a long moment. "So this isn't an attack of some kind?"

    "No. My uncle's identity as the Winter Soldier got spilled to the general public, my family has been harrassed, and in general put in the spotlight when we already were and didn't want to be." Michael frowned at her. "Do you know what it's like to be under State Department scrutiny, Miss Everhart?"

    "Can't say as I do, no." Jane came back in momentarily and handed Christine a glass of ice water, then left again. "Thank you!"

    Michael frowned at her. "Well we do. We've been under State Department surveillance for a year and a half, because of the mess in D.C... Jane, did you get her?"

    "Ten minutes!" Jane called back to him. "Probably with Penguins or something!"

    Michael laughed, and Christine looked at him funny. "You'll understand when my grandmother gets here... she can be a bit eccentric. But then, she's ninety-two. If anyone deserves to be a little eccentric, it's a ninety-two year old."

    "I don't understand. First you send me this letter, now I'm meeting your grandmother?"

    "Who is my Uncle, Miss Everhart?"

    Christine paused, glanced at the diplomas on the walls... and that's when she saw a picture of the Howling Commandoes, black and white, from the Second World War, Steve Rogers included. "Oh."

    "And going by that, who would my grandmother be to him? To both of them, actually, come to think of it."

    "You're trying to make me think, aren't you?"

    "Is it working?"

    She stood up and went to really look at the photograph, to get a better look at James Barnes... to find a young man with troubled eyes looking back at her, wearing the familiar jacket that she remembered seeing at the Smithsonian years ago. "He was young here. Very."

    "Yes."

    Christine slowly turned back to him. "Have you met him?"

    Michael shook his head. "No, and that's a stupid question, Ma'am. For us, until what happened with HYDRA and SHIELD two years ago, he was dead. For Captain Rogers, he was dead. Had been since 1945. And then he was missing, only to be falsely accused of blowing up the UN summit meeting in Vienna, and nearly killed as a result. As I wasn't in Berlin in May, I did not have the opportunity."

    Christine slowly returned to the couch and sat down again. "I'm sorry."

    "For what?"

    "Barging into your office with my assumptions, for forgetting the circumstances of... this." She took a deep breath. "Wait. You said the State Department has your family under surveillance? Why?"

    Michael chuckled. "Now that... I do not stoop to understand government paranoia and the possibility of an amnesiac turning up on our doorsteps when he didn't even remember his own name, let alone a nickname."

    "Oh. How do you know that he didn't?"

    "Captain Rogers doesn't keep secrets from my grandmother. She'd probably hit him in the shins with her cane if he did. And she explained it to me afterwards." Michael tilted his head to listen for a moment as he heard voices in the outer office, then smiled. "And you... well, I won't call it lucky. She threw Tony Stark for a loop once recently."

    "Stark?"

    An older woman with a surprisingly erect posture for her age entered the small office and looked at them, then turned and looked at Mason, who was following along behind her, with a sigh. "I hate reporters."

    "Oh, I think you'll like this one, Grandma," Michael told her with a grin. "She shares your flare for the dramatic."

    "I'm not dramatic, Michael." She turned back around and looked at Christine, evaluating her carefully. "East coast or west coast?"

    Christine took in the elderly woman in the pink and green monkey scrub top for a long moment, then held out a hand. "Christine Everhart, Los Angeles. WHIH News."

    "Rebecca Barnes Proctor," she said as she shook her hand, then settled down in the chair in the corner. "You're that annoying one, with the angles on the Avengers of late."

    Christine frowned. "What? I'm not annoying!"

    "Just like I'm not dramatic? Please, Miss Everhart." She leaned forward, held out a hand. "Cell phone and any recording devices? Now."

    "I-"

    "Mason?"

    Mason sighed. "Do as she asks, Miss Everhart. We don't trust reporters in this family, and I can take away your choices and search you if need be."

    Christine glanced at Michael in question, and Michael shrugged. "He's CIA. He could have done it on sight."

    Christine rolled her eyes, then pulled out her cell phone and a tape recorder, and handed them both to Rebecca, who looked back at her coldly. "What? I always record everything. One too many encounters with scarily powerful people. Teaches you to always think six steps ahead of everything."

    "You must have an interesting storage room, then," Rebecca mused. "Why did you come here?"

    "To get the story on why I'd be getting a letter like this one," Christine explained, holding it up. "I was intrigued and infuriated."

    "That was the point," Michael told her.

    "And we are not a story," Rebecca said with a frown. "Yours or anyone else."

    "Don't you want to tell-"

    "Miss Everhart," Rebecca interrupted. "If we wanted to expose anything to the public, don't you think we'd have done it long before now? Frankly, I don't want to tell anyone anything. I assume Michael told you a little bit before I got here? Well... we don't grant interviews. That letter was not an invitation. It was a notice that the news media can do better than to drag people, good people, through the mud just for the sake of having stories to tell. You know what happened when my brother's face and identity got very publicly plastered all over creation in May, based on the evidence of a video? Reporters showed up at my door, because I am the most visible member of my family, and I've met a fair few of them as patients over the years. They knew exactly where to go. I'm his sister. Mind you, I haven't seen him since he left for England in 1943, but does that matter to anyone? No. The circumstances of all of this? They matter, Miss Everhart. It's not as simple as an interview and letting the public know everything when it's none of anyone else's business to begin with and needed to be kept out of the public eye."

    Christine stared at her, at once reminded of her own grandmother. "No, I guess it's not."

    "And that's another thing... do you know what happened in Lagos?"

    Christine frowned. "Is that a trick question? Everybody knows. Wanda Maximoff was involved in blowing up a building during an Avengers op."

    Rebecca sighed and shook her head. "No, she was trying to contain the bomb. What would have happened if that bomb had gone off at ground level?"

    Christine paused. "I... I don't know. Why?"

    "Same reason that reporters from five news agencies showed up at my door in May. Circumstances matter. You would do well to look into the circumstances surrounding the operation in question, because they matter."

    "Did you really throw Tony Stark for a loop?"

    Rebecca winced and glanced at her grandson, who simply smiled in return. "That was an unfortunate accident of circumstances, but yes. It was a mutual throw."

    "Good."

    Now Rebecca paused and really looked at her. "I'm sorry?"

    "I had an... encounter. Once or twice. With him. He's very... magnetic."

    "Yes, he is!" Jane called from her desk. "Just watching him on TV, he's magnetic!"

    Christine frowned. "Does she have really good hearing or something?"

    "Or something," Michael said. "Intercom is open. Jane, how is the rest of that brief coming?"

    "Ask me sometime tomorrow!"

    "Brief?" Christine wondered.

    "Long story that doesn't concern you," Michael told her. "I can say that the President will definitely be intrigued."

    Christine turned her attention back to Rebecca. "If you ever decide you want to take anything to the public? I want interview rights."

    Rebecca smiled. "It'll be you or Miss Kelley, if that time ever comes. I make no guarantees on that front."

    "But... Fox News?"

    "Mason owes them something for bugging them, one would think..."

    "I do not!"

    Christine frowned at the young man in non-descript clothing. "Bugging them?"

    Mason sighed. "First she tells me stories about her brother and his friend, then I find bugging equipment at the State Department meant for her house, and then..."

    "He got creative," Rebecca explained. "You don't want to know how creative, but it was amusing."

    Christine laughed. It was so refreshing to talk to these people. Eventually, Rebecca gave both her cell phone and her tape recorder back to her, minus the tape that had been recording.

    The next day, Christine Everhart decided to take a deeper look at State Department activities over the last few years.
     
  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Eugh, I don't like Christine Everhart at all, but if she ends up helping in a round about way then I am all for it. :) Every verbal point scored was a means for cheering for me! :p

    "If we wanted to expose anything to the public, don't you think we'd have done it long before now? Frankly, I don't want to tell anyone anything. I assume Michael told you a little bit before I got here? Well... we don't grant interviews. That letter was not an invitation. It was a notice that the news media can do better than to drag people, good people, through the mud just for the sake of having stories to tell. You know what happened when my brother's face and identity got very publicly plastered all over creation in May, based on the evidence of a video? Reporters showed up at my door, because I am the most visible member of my family, and I've met a fair few of them as patients over the years. They knew exactly where to go. I'm his sister. Mind you, I haven't seen him since he left for England in 1943, but does that matter to anyone? No. The circumstances of all of this? They matter, Miss Everhart. It's not as simple as an interview and letting the public know everything when it's none of anyone else's business to begin with and needed to be kept out of the public eye."

    I know that was a long section to quote, but I loved Rebecca's forthrightness, as always. We should all aspire to be her when we grow up! [face_love]
     
  3. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: Plus, if anyone needed to be taken down a peg or two, it was Christine Everhart for muckraking instead of actually serving the public trust...Thank you, Mira. :)


    A/N: The wait for this was one part a long-awaited life thing finally happening (which... yay!!!!!), another part things at work (which couldn't be avoided, and I made it to the last section of the alphabet in the shed, only to discover I'd missed an entire shelf the first time around...), still another part losing one part of this update temporarily (bad me, and it was right under my nose the whole time), and a final part of the fall semester starting... totally took the scenic route to this update. Onward.

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers -
    That perches in the soul -
    And sings the tune without the words -
    And never stops - at all -

    And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
    And sore must be the storm -
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm -

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
    And on the strangest Sea -
    Yet - never - in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb - of me.
    -Emily Dickinson

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    While they waited two days for her ride, Tony received an email via the secure SI network from Elley, and it led him to wondering briefly why the man hadn't just seen fit to call him. And how did he even know how to work the email server on the StarkPad? Shaking his head in amusement while sitting at his desk in the workshop in Avengers Tower, he opened the email to discover two things: a message from Elley, and an attachment.

    Stark,

    Found this in old records from when Uncle was doctor. Got to wondering why arm so familiar to Michil and I, had look in paper records. We seen arm before, attached to owner, though Michil said looked different from time before. Not sure what meant by that. Attachment translated from Yakut for you, though considered making practice reading our language. Used official translator in Yakutsk, own written English suspect.

    -Elley

    PS: Will be wanting details for how ended up with it and where owner is, since he didn't come to Oymyakon with you.

    Tony frowned at that explanation, then opened the attachment, at once wondering what could be worth traveling 20 hours to find a translator for. Then he blinked at the content. They'd seen Barnes in 1984?


    Date: 30 June 1984

    Location: Oymyakon Regional Medical Clinic

    Patient Name: James
    (family name unknown, not even really sure James is really his name, didn't respond well to being called Soldat in Russian, though looks like a soldier)

    Date of Birth: unknown

    Appearance: Appears between 23 and 30 years of age. Brown and unkempt, uneven shoulder length hair, stubble/unshaven, blue eyes, unconscious military bearing, left arm prosthetic (metal, with a red star on the shoulder), what appeared to be functional scoliosis when he walked and pivoted to the left

    Attire: tactical vest, holster for a weapon on his back (empty), holsters for other weapons (knives and guns, also empty), black undershirt/turtleneck, black pants and boots. No winter or summer gear on person suitable for the Siberian wilderness.

    Notes: This patient, a Caucasian male of what appears to be Eastern European descent, was found by two village teenagers, leaning against the wall of one of our buildings, in a profound state of disarray and what can only be described as shock, wearing only the garments described above. As patient did not speak Yakut, and neither teen spoke any of the three languages (English, Russian, and Romanian), communication was initiated with pantomiming and hand signals instead and the teens brought him to the clinic.

    Upon verbal examination, patient was discovered to be alert but suffering memory loss, and didn't know where he was, or the date. Alert, but not oriented, even to his sense of self.

    Patient spoke three languages while here, two of which I also speak, because I was educated in Eastern Europe before ending up here in Oymyakon, but did not admit to the teens as knowing patient was speaking Romanian as well as Russian and English.
    The patient's mental state, which lead me to believe this man was suffering from severe emotional trauma, as well as being severely amnesic and fighting to not remember anything (violently, in fact), led me to suspect conditioning the more he talked, and was further cemented as a diagnosis when the team of operatives arrived to claim him and used a word combination ("zelenyye armeyskiye noski") to subdue him into compliance. Why they'd be using a phrase that translates as "green army socks," I don't really understand.

    In the five hours this patient was in my care, we gave him soup, a blanket for warmth, and a dog was brought in for emotional support. Patient reacted favorably to the dog, and the dog stayed with him for the remainder of his stay with us, even growling when the operatives, led by one Colonel Karpov, showed up to claim him. Bliss, the dog, was at that point removed from the clinic by one of the teens, and the Colonel told me to forget the incident. As this is the Sakha Republic... I write this report of the incident in protest of Soviet oppression, and my new family would expect nothing less of me.

    Also, as my patient said "they'll find me, they always do," I suspect there was a tracking device on his person. It would make sense if there was one, considering it was five hours from when he was escorted through my door, to them showing up. No explanations from the good Colonel were given, re: state of the patient upon arrival or signs of abusive treatment and conditioning. Of note, was unable to persuade patient to remove the tactical vest or the shoulder holster, even to check him over for any potential injuries.

    Diagnosis, based on observation: Severe emotional distress and trauma with amnesic element, abuse symptoms, evidence of some kind of conditioning, unknown type. Hypothermia from exposure for unknown amount of time. Functional scoliosis. Unknown extent of prosthetic limb, possible adhesions and healed injuries from ill treatment.

    It should also be noted that my wife's nephew has since taken an active interest in learning about medicine, since seeing how the patient was cared for while here. The other one, his friend, has taken an interest in mechanics and engineering... I suspect due to the patient's prosthetic left arm.

    Mykola Oceanus Mazur, M.D.


    Tony read the clinic note three times before he really understood what he was reading, and then he had to sit back and stare at the computer screen in befuddlement. He was so wrapped up in thought that he didn't realize how the time had gotten away from him until Pepper was standing at his shoulder, and he jumped. "Pep!"

    "You're late for dinner," she told him kindly, then she paused and read the part of the report displayed. "What is that?"

    He blinked up at her for a long moment, then stood and motioned for her to sit in the chair. "Elley found something in his clinic records. Read."

    Pepper frowned at him, then turned her attention to the monitor and read the report from the beginning with wide eyes. Then she pulled back and looked at him. "Colonel Karpov?"

    Tony sighed. "He's dead. May, in Cleveland of all places."

    "Cleveland?"

    He nodded. "Local law enforcement responded to a call about a kid exploring a house and finding a dead man in the basement, and FRIDAY pinged on the fact that there were HYDRA files found near the body on a table. I'll spare you the details of what happened to Karpov himself."

    Pepper motioned to the computer screen. "You know what this means, don't you? He never stopped fighting them, no matter what they did to him. Amnesic, traumatized, and he ends up in the temporary care of a doctor who gives him food, a blanket, space, and a dog."

    Tony frowned. "Elley didn't give me a dog. I wonder why?"

    "Tony!"

    "What? I'm choosing to find the humor in this, because I've taken that trek from the base to Oymyakon in a snowmobile. On foot?" He shuddered. "It was five hours away driving."

    "It is?"

    "It is."

    She studied him, then nodded to the computer monitor. "Get him on the phone. We have questions for Elley."

    "We do?" He considered her exression, then nodded. "Oh. We do."

    Five minutes later, a very sleepy Elley was looking back at them from the computer screen. "What so urgent can't wait a few more hours?"

    Pepper smiled and held up one of the stills from Rhodey's A/V log of Bucky and Steve in Romania, which she still had because she'd not finished her picture project for Rebecca. "Was the long haired one your mystery man with the metal arm?"

    Elley blinked, then studied the image for a long, long moment. "That him. Look better in that picture. Yes. Why?"

    "Because you, your uncle, and Michil helped him. His sister will be grateful, when we tell her."

    "Wasn't with us very long."

    "Doesn't matter."

    Elley frowned at her as she set the image down on the desk. "Couldn't ask before, when your Stark was here, but... alive?"

    Pepper nodded slowly, knowing that if she turned her attention to Tony right then, they'd get sidetracked. "Alive and recovering his memory, last I heard. Also frozen for protection... everyone elses. His name really is James, by the way. James Barnes. And... because I noticed the date of birth field was empty: March 10th, 1917."

    Elley paused, frowned as he did the math in his head. "Did not look sixty-seven."

    Tony chuckled. "No, and he doesn't look ninety-nine now either! This still Pepper showed you is from May of this year."

    Elley simply looked at him for a moment. "Then how did you end up with arm?"

    Tony sighed. "That is a long story, Elley..."

    They talked for a good long while.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Michael Proctor came into work that morning to find an envelope from Stark Industries Legal Department, and he wondered for a moment if they'd found another angle for the on-paper mock trial they'd been having for his uncle. Then he opened it to find a note from Miss Potts herself, explaining where the attached report had come from... and also what looked like an email printout from someone named "Elley" to Mr. Stark. In somewhat halted English. What had Mr. Stark been doing in Siberia to make this Elley person wonder anything? It did explain, however, what Miss Potts meant about keeping Mr. Stark's part in how they GOT the report out of anything and everything...

    Then he read the report and his jaw about hit the floor from shock. "Jane! We've got one more!"

    Jane appeared in the doorway to stare at him. "What?" He handed it to her and she read it with a frown. Then her eyes widened. "Oh!" She glanced at him. "Do we show this to Becca?"

    "Why are you even asking? She's seen everything else!"

    Jane nodded and read the report again. "What kind of a trigger phrase is 'green army socks'? And can I join them for the next HYDRA base they take out?"

    "Jane, you're a Paralegal, not a Commando."

    "So? Becca's a nurse, and she wanted to go after them."

    "And she's ninety-two and eccentric, and interrogated a man on morphine."

    Jane rolled her eyes at him. "You're just not going to let me even consider-"

    Michael pointed to the paper in her hand. "Add that to what we've got, and then we'll stick it to HYDRA. With paperwork and legal action. Not as exciting as blowing up a base or something, but it carries just as much weight. And besides... blowing things up is partly how we ended up in the middle of an international incident."

    Jane winced at the reminder of Lagos and Leipzig. "Good point."

    Michael took the report back and frowned. "And try to find any record on a Dr. Mykola Mazur. He mentions knowing Romanian and Russian, and recognizing English... so start in Eastern Europe?"

    Jane nodded, accepted the report back. "In the middle of the Cold War, behind the Iron Curtain, on paper records? Sure, I'll attempt the impossible."

    "Jane?"

    "Yes?"

    Michael paused and really looked at her, then shook his head. "Never mind. Be as sarcastic as you want." She smiled and went back to her desk. He sat back down at his own desk and moved to throw the envelope away, when a thumb drive slid out of it. He blinked and silently chastised himself for missing that, and looked into the envelope again to see if there was anything else... there was: a piece of paper with an SI logo and a note from Mr. Stark himself.

    Mr. Proctor: Found these when I retrieved the Quinjet that Steve flew to Siberia in May. On the thumb drive are conversations recorded by the plane's voice recorder. To add to your Burden of Proof Brief. If you choose.
    -Tony Stark

    Michael stared at the note for a long moment before turning to his computer and listening to the files for himself.

    Ultimately, he opted not to use them for the Burden of Proof, but the audio files from the Quinjet further cemented his belief that they were doing the right thing in all of this. It did, however, make him wonder what had happened at the Tower, that Mr. Stark would get minutely involved in their defense in this manner.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Miriam showed Michael into the kitchen where Rebecca was seated at the table, cutting vegetables on a cutting board for a salad in preparation for dinner. "Mike has something for you."

    Rebecca glanced up at them, returned her attention to the knife in her hand as she finished slicing up a tomato. "Oh?"

    Michael smiled and moved to set up his laptop on the table across from her. "Got something from SI Legal on a thumb drive, Grandma."

    "Bad?"

    "No. You remember anything about a freezer truck and Rockaway Beach?"

    Rebecca blinked and really looked at him. "Huh?"

    "That was random. Sorry."

    Rebecca set the knife down and let Miriam take the cutting board and the knife as she picked up a napkin to wipe her hands off. "Let me think... something about those two having to hitch a ride? It's been a long time, Michael."

    Michael nodded. "Then you'll love this, because someone remembers it better than you do." He pressed a button on the laptop's keyboard, and then Steve's voice suddenly filled the air. And, clear as a bell, her brother's voice answered back.

    They listened to the all-to-brief conversation, and then Rebecca sat back and closed her eyes, lost in the moment. "Thank you."

    Michael glanced at Miriam over top of his laptop with a knowing smile.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Natasha arrived in a Quinjet under cover of darkness and deftly parked on the rooftop landing pad. Lowering the rear hatch, she smiled as Pepper approached to greet her, Tony not far behind. "You needed a ride?"

    Pepper returned the smile. "I did. Where have you been?"

    Natasha glanced over her shoulder at Tony, who was staring at her with wide, confused, and suspicious eyes. "Oh, here and there. Did some back-packing through a few places. Lucinda says hello and not to worry about Ross, as long as we're out of here quickly, by the way."

    Pepper paused, frowning at her. "What?"

    "She arranged a limited window, and is also arranging for him to be incredibly busy this week so he'll forget to annoy you with pointless phone calls, or even try to call Tony."

    Pepper smiled again. "If she pulls that off, I might just end up owing her a cake or something."

    Glancing at Tony again, she sighed. "Are you going to come over here, or are you just going to stare at me?"

    Startled, Tony jumped. "I thought this was a private meeting."

    "No, you didn't. Now come over here."

    Tony approached them slowly. "I... you..."

    "We both said and did things," Natasha said sincerely, cutting him off before he could begin to really stammer. "And you're forgiven for being an egotistical and hypocritical jerk. This time. Now, do you mind if I give her a ride?"

    Tony shook his head. "Not at all. You... didn't tell me."

    Natasha regarded him calmly. "About?"

    "Barnes. My parents. HYDRA."

    "Would it have made a difference?, if you'd known the possible truth? That HYDRA had maybe changed your life irrevocably?"

    Tony blinked at that. "But you knew something!"

    "Part of something, and that knowledge wouldn't have changed the fact that they are still gone." She pointed upwards. "And we don't have time for this discussion right now. Insight's window is twenty minutes. We didn't tell you because we didn't tell you, because there wasn't anything to tell until there was suddenly something to tell. And you have a bad reaction to talking about your father in any form with Steve... that's not a defense, and it's something you have to sort out for yourselves. I will not be in the middle, Tony."

    Tony nodded slowly. "Right. I'll get the boxes."

    Natasha watched him go, then noticed that Pepper had pulled her cell phone out and was working on a text. "Um..."

    "I'm sending Dr. Knutz a warning that you just told him he has a bad reaction to Steve mentioning Howard, so he can't get out of talking about it." Pepper glanced at her, smiled. "Thank you. For the ride, too."

    Natasha frowned. "Dr. Knutz?"

    "Therapist. You'd like him. Tony had to read both Seabiscuit and Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken."

    "Oh." That detail of Tony getting much-needed therapy made her feel better. Momentarily, Tony rejoined them with a hand-truck that was carting three large boxes as Pepper retrieved her own two blue suitcases with wheels. She took the hand-truck from him, smiled. "Now go to bed."

    Tony met her gaze. "Keep her safe."

    "Will do. Go."

    Pepper stepped in and kissed him on the cheek. "I expect you to go to your appointment tomorrow, and Happy will not let you talk your way out of going. Go to bed."

    Tony sighed and left them to it, grumbling the whole way.

    Natasha smiled. "Other than the obvious..."

    "He met Rebecca. Badly."

    Natasha winced as she pushed the boxes into the Quinjet, Pepper behind her.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    On the Quinjet and safely over international waters, Natasha finally allowed herself to relax minutely and set the autopilot for Wakanda. Then she leaned back and looked at Pepper to find her leaning back hard into the copilot's chair with her eyes closed. "First chance to relax?"

    "Since May, it feels like," Pepper admitted. "Before that, even. This mess..."

    Natasha nodded in understanding. "Sorry."

    "Not your fault."

    "Feels like it is."

    Pepper chuckled. "I've had to play referee between the State Department, the U.N., Tony, the German and Romanian governments... and Rebecca."

    That last one caused Natasha to frown. "Why Rebecca?"

    "Because Steve is an idiot and can't lie to her to save his life."

    "Oh. That letter he sent to her. Right?"

    Pepper nodded. "Right. I can understand why he sent her one, because she needed to know, but I ended up having to explain her to Tony. A lot. They... that first meeting didn't happen in a place where she had to hold back, and... well, it's Tony. He didn't know to let her be, or even recognize her on sight. And..."

    Natasha studied her for long moments, not missing the fact that she was glowing ever so slightly. Had it been that stressful, that the latent Extremis was showing itself in this manner? "You are allowed to take a break, Pepper."

    "I know, it's just... hard. And I told Dr. Knutz to call Tony once a day, outside of his appointments, to check on him because I was going to be out of contact. So between Happy, Rhodey, and a therapist, and a doctor and a mechanic from Siberia... he should be fine."

    Natasha frowned. "Siberia?"

    "Judging from the logs on the SI secure satellite network, Tony's been calling Oymyakon near-daily."

    "What?"

    Now Pepper turned and looked at her, frowning. "Wait a minute. This thing has a HUD function, doesn't it?"

    "Yes..."

    "FRIDAY, show us Oymyakon, Sakha Republic, on the HUD." A map of the Sakha Republic appeared in front of them, a dot indicating the location of the settlement. "Overlay the data from Tony's location beacon for that location and the surrounding area, five hours in any direction by snowmobile." Other dots appeared, indicating where he'd been... "Oh. He's right. That is a long way to walk."

    Natasha frowned at the map. "That's the lab, isn't it?"

    "It is. Did you know there was a-"

    "Red Room," Natasha said succinctly, cutting her off.

    "So..."

    "You'd be amazed what I know about secret bases in Russia."

    Pepper blinked at Natasha's suddenly very strong accent poking through. "I can believe that."

    Natasha shook her head slowly and glanced back at their cargo. "So what's in the boxes?"

    "The top one is Rebecca and Miriam's family effort, the middle one is art supplies and minor things from Steve's apartment, and the bottom one is from Hope Van Dyne." Natasha turned to stare at her, and Pepper shrugged. "I don't know how she did it, but Rebecca somehow got in touch with Hank Pym and got them to do a version of the Family Get Well Machine out in San Francisco. That box arrived last week."

    At that, Natasha smiled. "That explains it."

    "So what's been going on while I've been playing referee?"

    "A lot."

    "We have hours alone together. Spill."

    She did.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    About mid-day, the day after Pepper left with Natasha, Tony received a package via courier from SI's legal department, from a Michael Proctor...

    Mr. Stark,
    Thank you for the audio files from the Quinjet. The potholders in the package are from Miriam, as she is grateful. You provided hope right when we needed it, and every little bit helps. Thank you.
    -Michael Proctor

    Tony frowned and opened the package to find fifteen well-made and colorful potholders with crazy and colorful patterns. He stared at them for long moments before cracking a smile.
     
  4. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    A very nice update, as always! Pepper and Natasha kicking butt together was a highlight for me, and I was fascinated by the medical notes. I love reading entries like that. All throughout, though, your Tony has been spot on, and I am loving watching his character twist and grow through this.

    And:

    "Jane, you're a Paralegal, not a Commando."

    "So? Becca's a nurse, and she wanted to go after them."

    "And she's ninety-two and eccentric, and interrogated a man on morphine."

    The great banter certainly doesn't hurt! [face_laugh]:p

    =D=
     
  5. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade : I loved writing the medical notes... had to remember not to go over the top with that, actually. And thank you, Mira. I had concerns that I was putting too much emphasis on certain things with Tony. Thank you. Seriously. (And I love to write banter! Speaking of that... here's some more!)



    A/N: Rosetta really did do the April Fools Day prank described herein...
    http://www.rosettastone.com/blog/rosetta-stone-klingon-2/ and http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/1ba2/


    Eleven weeks post the Battle of Leipzig/Halle Airport...


    It had taken her two days and more phone calls than she really cared to count to medical schools in three different countries to track down even the slightest hint of a doctor in eastern Europe with a name that could have been John Smith in Ukrainian, but finally she found him at a State University in Odessa, close to the Romanian border. Jotting down details, she gave the clerk on the other end their fax number and hung up. "Mike, if you ever have the bright idea of tracking anyone else down with such a common name, I'll slap you silly!"

    Michael appeared in his office doorway, amused. "That bad?"

    "Did you know that Mykola Mazur is the Ukrainian equivalent of 'John Smith'? Because it is, and the first three clerks I talked to all laughed at me for asking, before the fourth one explained why and proceeded to make fun of my lack of knowledge. So, so glad he put his middle name on that report, or I never would have found him." She stood up and moved to wait for the fax machine, which had just started printing the beginning of a long stream. "And that last clerk in Odessa? Nice guy."

    Michael smiled. "Well, there's that. So...?"

    "Well, the clerk said that according to his records, this guy worked as a hospitalist in Odessa for a couple years, met a girl whose family was from the Sakha Republic going to nursing school, and they got married, and he ended up the regional doctor in Oymyakon when theirs retired." She frowned. "And I think... no, I knew I'd heard of the place before this. Missionaries. In fact, how much of a story do you want to fabricate for how we'd have ended up with a report like this one, since we can't say how we actually got it? Because I can do it, going the Missionary route."

    Michael blinked for a very long moment, staring at her in wonder as she smirked at him. "You can?"

    "Sure. Just give me some time to round up testimonies of Missionaries who would have ended up going to Nowheresville, Siberia in the Sakha Republic when the borders opened up again... surely, there must have been somebody who wanted to take the very scenic seven-day cross-country trip to save some souls."

    He chuckled. "Right. Put like that, I'd want to go, too..."

    "I'll put it on the list of possible vacations we never take."

    "Wait... how do you know there's a very scenic seven day trip?"

    Jane nodded to her computer. "I have an internet connection and a thirst for knowledge. Look it up. It's fascinating. There's even a dilapidated Gulag somewhere on the route that one can sight-see at. It's not called Stalin's Road of Bones for nothing."

    "Jane?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "Your next Rosetta Language Immersion is on me."

    She smiled. "I'm planning on Klingnon."

    "Huh?"

    "Something frivolous, for the Trekkie in all of us? After this mess?"

    Michael groaned and retreated to his office again to concentrate on his own work load, of cases that weren't his uncle or the Avengers.

    Five minutes later, Michael appeared in his office doorway again, a puzzled expression on his face. "Wait. Did they really do one for Klingnon, or are you pulling my leg?"

    Jane chuckled. "That took you five minutes to question? And no. It was an April Fools gag that Rosetta did."

    "That's too bad. After this mess, I'd join you."
     
  6. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: Finally figured out what I had to adjust. Onward...

    ~*~*~*~*~

    While Pepper dozed fitfully in the co-pilot's chair, Natasha had time to think and reflect as she flew the last few miles in Wakandan airspace. How complicated had things gotten, when she was 'reading the terrain' surrounding the Accords, that she'd managed to forget the bigger picture? A glance at her companion's clearly exhausted form served to further illustrate just how complicated this situation had become since Sokovia... since Lagos... since Berlin and Liepzig. She wondered momentarily about the detail of an unhappy Romanian government. Other than the outright messy arrest of Barnes, why would they still be upset?

    Making a mental note to have Pepper explain about Romania when she was up to it, Natasha radioed her approach to Palace security, and thought back to what Steve had said during the Raft prison break, about Thor and the bigger picture that had yet to be filled in.

    She had to agree... and it concerned her that it was taking so long for Thor to report back with anything. What was happening on Asgard? It didn't do much good to dwell on it, the not knowing, but it provided perspective that they'd been missing before.

    Momentarily, they reached the landing pad that Wakandan Control had directed her to, and set the ship cleanly down before turning off the stealth mode retro-reflectors. Natasha stared at the controls for a moment before turning and watching as Pepper stirred, yawned once, and seemed to relax deeper into the chair. Chuckling silently, she moved to open the rear hatch. "You might want to sleep longer, but we're here."

    "Already?" Pepper asked, eyes closed and intent on not moving.

    "Yes. Already." She heard footsteps on the ramp after it lowered and went to investigate. She found Sam at the top of the boarding ramp, and frowned. "Where's Laura?"

    Sam shook his head. "Change in plans. She went with the kids, Clint, and Wanda to the waterfalls. How are you?"

    What kind of a question was that, in the middle of all this? "Fine. You?"

    "I've had better starts to my mornings."

    And that, she knew, was all she was going to get out of him, especially if he was protecting patient confidentiality. "Feel like doing some manual labor?"

    Sam smiled. "Sure. Lead on."

    She led him into the quinjet's cockpit, where his audible chuckle startled Pepper enough to catch her attention. "I say again: the Quinjet has landed, Pepper."

    Pepper frowned at Sam, then nodded to the front window. "It's too light out. Sun's too high."

    Sam nodded. "It's a little after Eleven Hundred. That's to be expected."

    She yawned, then stood up. "I should not be this tired."

    "Sure, you should. Jet lag." Sam turned and looked at Natasha who was openly frowning. "So... you wanted me to lift something?"

    "More like push," Natasha said as she motioned to the boxes still attached to the hand-truck. "Seems that we're loved. At least by the denizens of Brooklyn and San Francisco."

    "That's it," Pepper muttered suddenly. "Natasha, you're helping me plan the next vacation I try to talk Tony into." They both turned to look at her in surprise, and she blinked. "What? Every time I try to plan a vacation, I have to check police reports and terror alerts. Doesn't everybody?"

    Sam paused, his hand resting on the hand-truck. "Not usually, no. And now I know it's a good thing we borrowed a psychiatrist Steve knows from Doctors Without Borders..."

    "Borrowed a what from where? How do you borrow a psychiatrist from Doctors Without Borders? And how does Steve know a psychiatrist?"

    Sam smiled. "We offered her a case too intriguing to refuse. As for how Steve knows her... she's someone Rebecca used to work with."

    "You're kidding."

    "Nope."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    It had been a mostly quiet morning since Bucky had dropped off to sleep on the couch beside him, save several mumbled things about bone saws, and if Steve ever saw another HYDRA agent again, it would be too soon. He glanced up in frustration from his sketch pad to see Sam enter the room and make a beeline for Jill, their borrowed psychiatrist, who had settled down in an armchair and was reading what looked like a psychology journal magazine. Did it help her to read the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology? He hoped so. "Sam?"

    "Pepper's here," Sam told him without preamble, and then waved him off when he started to get up off the couch. "No, now's a bad time, Steve. She's exhausted. Natasha's getting her to eat something."

    Jill barely glanced up at him from the article she was reading with interest. "Good or bad? And would this be Virginia Potts?"

    Sam nodded. "Yes, and as for the good or the bad... she mentioned checking the crime and terror reports in Fiji while planning a weekend. Make of that what you will."

    Now Jill looked up at him with narrowed eyes, glanced at Steve, then at the lump of a person laying on the couch next to him under a blanket. Then she sighed and handed Sam the psych journal. "The article on religious fundamentalism seems a bit off color. And is anybody you know not stressed out beyond the telling of it?"

    Sam took the journal from her, shrugged. "We work with what we've got?"

    "True." She stood up, nodded to Steve. "Finish your sketch. I'll be back to discuss it in a while, depending on how good or bad this is."

    "What if I don't want to?"

    Jill paused at the door, looked back at him with a wry expression. "Considering that our morning started with flashbacks to 1936 brought on by pancakes? No, you don't get to play that card, Captain."

    Sam watched her go, then glanced at the title of the article she'd been reading, and had to laugh at the corrections listed in the abstract. Then he looked at Steve. "I take it that means you're not getting out of therapy today, either?"

    "Too loud," Bucky mumbled from beside Steve.

    Steve glanced down at him, smiled. "Sorry."

    "No, you're not, you punk."

    "Jerk."

    Bucky cracked an eye open, frowned up at him. "I seem to recall a conversation where I told you not to do something stupid until I got back."

    Sam chuckled. "Did you actually expect him not to?"

    "No."

    "Buck!"

    Bucky smiled up at him. "Draw, Steve. Makes you quiet. Want to sleep some more."

    Sam settled into the chair that Jill had vacated as Steve rolled his eyes good naturedly and returned to his sketch. It was good to see Barnes ribbing at him, even if it was in the spirit of "be quiet, you're annoying, I wanna sleep!"

    A minute later, Steve was staring down at him as Barnes mumbled about a cyclone and getting yelled at, and Sam frowned. "What?"

    "Memory. Do I wake him?"

    "Not if he's not in distress, you don't. Cyclone?"

    "Coney Island." Steve stared down at him for another minute, waiting for more, but Bucky fell silent and his breathing evened out. "He remembers more of Ma. That's good."

    Sam leaned forward. "She yelled?"

    "Buck convinced me to go on the Cyclone, I threw up, and he practically had to carry me home. How do you think she reacted?"

    "Oh." Sam studied him as he dragged his attention back to the sketch pad and stared at it, added something else to it, and then flipped the page. "Steve?"

    "Jill said to sketch, right?"

    "Yes..."

    "She did not say what." Steve flashed Sam a grin and set right to work on a new drawing.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Having strategically placed herself so she was facing the door in the kitchen, Natasha smiled behind her coffee cup as Jill first related to her in sign language that Sam had told her about Pepper mentioning terror alerts and Fiji, and then pointed at the woman in question's back and asked her to elaborate. Natasha nodded, set the coffee cup down, and leaned closer to Pepper as she picked at the omelet. "So how long ago were you trying to plan that trip to Fiji?"

    "February," Pepper admitted after a moment of reluctant chewing. "Why?"

    "Curiosity." Her gaze slid to Jill, who was wearing a thoughtful expression on her face, and then asked for further elaboration and if Natasha needed a hand or not. "And I saw you texting Doctor Knutz about not letting Tony out of talking about his reactions to Steve bringing up Howard in any form. You still haven't explained why the Romanian government would be upset, other than the obvious." Jill's brown eyes went wide at that, and Natasha smirked.

    Pepper cut off another piece of omelet, glanced at her. "Romanian officials were upset about a lack of a European Union Arrest Warrant, and GSG9 entering the country on a kill order and causing general mayhem instead of letting local authorities into the loop. And then Michael Proctor pushed James's dual citizenship paperwork through and they were even less thrilled about the situation, especially considering that for the entirety of his stay in Romania, James kept to himself and caused no trouble for anyone. They have CCTV footage proving that."

    Natasha frowned. "What dual citizenship?"

    "His mother was Romanian, remember? Under current birthright law, any child born to a Romanian citizen, no matter where, is a Romanian citizen. That's how Legal explained it to me, anyway." She shrugged. "You asked."

    Natasha glanced at Jill again, and Jill signed 'thank you, and that was not what I was looking for, but it'll do. Get her to take a nap before we tell her he's awake.' "It's an interesting topic. Don't you normally need to be present to sign the forms?"

    "Normally, yes. In this case... not if you're using the right forms and are a lawyer."

    "Hmm... remind me to stop by Brooklyn on the way home and ask him if he needs help." Natasha made a small shooing motion when Pepper concentrated on her plate again, and Jill took the hint and quietly left the kitchen as quietly as she'd entered. "And... CCTV footage? Really?"

    "Really. Once I knew what he'd been wearing, I had FRIDAY search through two months of footage in and around that apartment complex in Bucharest." Pepper smiled. "Tony doesn't know I did that. Should we tell him?"

    Natasha shook her head and had to choke back an outright laugh. "No. Just... no."

    "That footage, plus some other things, are in with the things in the boxes. Including a report that Steve will want to read... and I really hope 'had to remove the dog' actually means 'dog tried to bite mean Colonel' and they gave it a treat afterwards."

    "Huh?"

    Pepper looked at her thoughtfully. "Just out of curiosity, how do you say 'green army socks' in Russian?" Natasha obliged her, and Pepper nodded. "Thank you."

    "Why?" Was it her imagination, or was Pepper not making any sense all of a sudden? What dog?

    "Later. Want to finish this."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Again in the kitchen after making Pepper change into sweats and a t-shirt and convincing her to at least try to sleep, and Pepper had pulled this paper out of one of the boxes to show her... Natasha couldn't help but stare at the report. She couldn't begin to fathom how Barnes had gotten away, in full tactical gear no less, but weaponless. Did he even know he had?

    "Natasha?" Sam asked from the doorway.

    She blinked and looked up at him, then at the sheet of paper again. "I... come here."

    Intrigued, Sam joined her at the table, and she handed the paper to him. He read it, blinked in disbelief, and read it again. He frowned at her. "Where-"

    "Someone Tony met in Oymyakon found that in their clinic records."

    "Oh." Sam considered it for a very long moment, then stood up. "Come on."

    "Where to?"

    "Time to see if Barnes remembers any of this." She put a hand on his arm and gestured for it. "What?"

    "Is that your call, Sam?"

    "I didn't actually say I was going to hand the report to him..." He considered her for a long, long moment before handing the paper back to her. Then she motioned to the picnic basket on the counter as she slipped the paper back into it's envelope. "They forgot that?"

    "Take it to them?"

    He did.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Jill was starting to wonder just how long Sam really needed to check on Natasha and Pepper when Natasha appeared in the doorway and told her to send Steve on a run with ASL. She frowned at the envelope Natasha was holding, then shifted her gaze to Steve. "Go get some exercise, Steve."

    Steve frowned, but didn't look up. "Want to finish this."

    "Steve." Her tone captured his attention and he looked at her. "Go. Come back when you've eaten."

    "But-"

    "Go. That's a mental health order, not a request." She glared at him until he grudgingly put the sketchpad down on the end table next to the couch, glanced at Bucky (still sleeping), got off the couch, and left the room, brushing past Natasha with a mumbled hello as he did so. Natasha watched him go for a long minute before looking at her with raised and contoured eyebrows. "Now... what's in the envelope that you don't want him seeing?"

    Natasha brought it over to her, nodded to Bucky. "He really asleep?"

    "He goes between completely out, nightmares, and sort of cute but sleepy and confused for a day or so between every session," Jill said after a long moment of thought as Natasha handed the envelope to her. She shook her head at Natasha's knowing wince. "And so far today, he's fine. Mostly."

    Natasha went over and picked up Steve's sketch book, paging through it in thought while Jill read the report with a puzzled frown, then set the sketch book back where she'd found it. "Pepper seemed really random until she showed that to me. Talking about-"

    "Stop," Jill said suddenly, and Natasha turned to look at her. Jill nodded to Bucky. "We covered this one, during the first session I was here for, when I wasable to get back here after six weeks in the Congo."

    "Oh?"

    "Yes, and it's good to have confirmation for what it was. Is." She stared at her patient with a frown, then slid the report back into the envelope. "Thank you. I'll make sure Dr. Khamisi sees it."

    "Khamisi?"

    Jill shrugged. "He explained it was Swahili for having been born on a Thursday."

    "That wasn't what I meant, Jill..."

    Jill smiled and returned to reading her psychology journal. "Sit, or I'll start asking you all sorts of questions you won't like. It never ends around here, you know?"

    Natasha carefully sat down next to Bucky on the couch and wasn't all that surprised when he sleepily frowned up at her. "Hi, there."

    "Noise," Bucky complained.

    "Ah, you love it," Jill said with a touch of humor.

    "Where'd Steve go?"

    "Running. Why? You want to go running with him?"

    He immediately shook his head in the negative. "Don't want to run over cars today."

    "That's good. Also a story we'll be exploring later on. Again." He lifted his head and glared at her, and she shrugged. "Hey, you free-associated going for a jog with running over cars. Don't blame me for your subconscious, Mr. Barnes."

    "Natalia?"

    "Yes?"

    "Throw a cushion at her."

    Jill smiled again and returned her attention to the journal. "Do it, and I'll throw one back, just like I would at my kids, one arm or no."

    Steve later returned to find a sleeping Bucky with a relaxed smile on his face, and Jill still smirking behind her psych journal.
     
  7. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    Very good first chapter, though Stark having the Barnes flash drive in his pocket, ready to pass to this woman, was a Sherlock level of prescience.

    I liked how the 'June 1943. World Exposition of Tomorrow. Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY' got flipped off into "'43 Expo". Sounds so natural.

    I'm now curious as to whether "Flushing Meadows" was ever prone to flooding; not a natural sounding mix of names.
     
  8. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Sith-I-5: Re: Flushing Meadows... I couldn't confirm that, looking it up on Google, but from an aerial photo, it looks like the bay is RIGHT THERE, so... maybe? (Tony's obsessive-compulsive on the level of Sherlock, and he'd watched a video of the Winter Soldier on a mission. The drive was in his pocket because he was going over and over the info, looking for something, anything... did he find it? No, but that's a whole other topic and also covered in someone else's fic. I highly recommend DebWalsh's Threads, for a fic that explored that.) Thank you. :)


    A/N: It was pointed out to me that the sudden psychiatrist was sudden. (Which it was, because the focus was on Tony and Pepper and Rebecca.) With that in mind, onward... (Or would it be backwards?)


    The Fan of Cool Gadgets...



    A month after the Fall of SHIELD...


    Above the droning, accented voice that was punctuated by the speaker eating lunch, Miriam heard the front door open and close several times from her work station in the hallway. Frowning, she finished the paragraph she was in, then stopped the recording and went to see who had arrived home at noon. Rebecca was still... she paused in the doorway of the living room to find Rebecca and Steve, and... "All right. One of you was in the hospital a month ago and should not look like that right now. Why didn't you call for a ride like you said you would, Aunt Becca? And what... Jill, you live in Bangor!"

    Dr. Jillian Pentel glanced at her from her seat beside Steve, who looked utterly miserable. "Rebecca got a message to me in Mauritania through Andi, said it was urgent. Took me a month to get out, and I've got two days, then I'm going back. And... hi."

    Miriam blinked at that. "Mauritania?"

    "Doctors Without Borders mission?"

    "Oh. Seriously, what's going on-" Then she blinked again when Rebecca told her, rapid-fire, in Romanian. Then she paused and moved closer to her aunt, who was visibly upset, and really looked at her. "Come again? Because it sounds like the plot of a-"

    "Bucky," Steve said quietly, his voice barely above a whisper.

    "Miriam?" Jill asked, gaining her attention again. "You might want to sit down for this. I heard part of it in the car on the way from JFK, and I'm still reeling." She motioned to the boxes by the door. "Has to do with what's in those, I think. Right, Captain?"

    Steve nodded, his eyes downcast. "HYDRA infested SHIELD, there was something called Operation Paperclip where they recruited German Scientists. Among those was Arnim Zola. Zola was the one who..." Here Rebecca spat something out that caused Jill to look at her funny and Miriam to frown as she sat down in an unoccupied armchair. "Right. That. Whatever he did, caused Buck to somehow survive the fall. If we'd known-"

    "Stopping you right there," Jill told him. "If you were one of my kids, I'd be hitting you on the back of the head for idiocy. You were in a war zone, correct?"

    "Yes."

    "In the middle of winter?"

    "Yes."

    "With the conditions the way they were, could you have stayed, with a prisoner, and searched?"

    Steve blinked and looked at her. "I... no. Blizzard and whiteout conditions."

    "Then stop kicking yourself and tell us the rest so Miriam can understand."

    Steve glanced at Rebecca. "Is she always this forward with everyone? I've only just met her!"

    Rebecca's smile was tight. "It's her job, and she's been living in the bush in an African nation. Of course she is."

    "And I wouldn't call it 'living in the bush,' necessarily. Refugee camp in Mbera," Jill put in with a roll of her eyes, then looked at him seriously. "And I know defensive mechanisms when I see them, Captain. They don't work on me. So just tell the story."

    "Doesn't change it."

    "No, but it gets it out in the open. Into the light of day."

    Steve took a deep breath, then nodded and looked again at Miriam. "A couple days before the helicarrier incident and SHIELD was exposed, an operative tried and nearly succeeded in killing Director Fury. That operative was fast, strong, and had a metal arm, which he used to catch my shield when I threw it at him. I found out later that the operative was called the Winter Soldier, and Natasha had run into him before. Five years ago, in Odessa." He shook his head. "The details of that aren't really important. A day after that, after Fury died in front of us, and after we were nearly killed when the building we were in at the time was bombed by SHIELD, we were attacked in broad daylight, at rush hour, by that same operative again."

    "And you got arrested on live television," Miriam added.

    "Right. And you're going to think I'm crazy, that the whole story is crazy-"

    "Too late for that," Miriam chided. "Go on."

    Steve took another deep breath. "The operative was Bucky." At her frown, he shrugged. "See? It's crazy."

    Miriam started to protest, and then Rebecca handed her a file with strange lettering on the cover. She opened it, only to blink at the familiar face, though more still than in any picture she'd ever seen of him, and blue, and a smaller picture paper clipped to that one... "I have questions."

    "He didn't know his own name," Steve offered. "And when I recognized him, he... looked right at me with no recognition. We know he did, later on, because we've since talked to at least one HYDRA operative who was there, but... let's just say it was a good thing Sam flew in and kicked him in the head."

    "Flew...?"

    Rebecca chuckled suddenly, though her tone stayed humorless. "We live in New York, that got invaded by aliens and is home to Iron Man, and the thing you're questioning about this story is a flying person? He has, had a set of fancy military wings."

    "Had?

    Steve shrugged. "They kind of got torn apart by the Winter Soldier. Sam's fine, by the way. And I'll bring him by when next he visits, so you can meet him."

    Miriam glanced at Jill, noticed she was frowning. "That doesn't explain what else happened." Steve suddenly handed her the sketchbook he'd been holding. "And this is?"

    "The rest, that I remember, from the tail-end of our fight on the helicarrier, before I woke up in that hospital bed." Steve shook his head. "I don't... can't..."

    "And that's where I'm stopping you again," Jill told him, handing him a card, which he frowned at. "That is my contact information, if you ever want to discuss this and do therapy. Until then, don't stop sketching things. It's a good therapy tool."

    Miriam flipped through the sketch book to find various drawings of her uncle, hair longer than in any picture she'd ever seen of him. The last one gave her pause. "Steve?"

    "Don't know where he is now."

    "That's not my question." She held up the sketch. "What happened after this?"

    "I blacked out. No idea."

    "Which is why you don't know where he is, or even if he's himself."

    "Right."

    "Also because Steve's unconscious self didn't grab onto him and keep him there," Rebecca put in. At Steve's glare, she shrugged. "Don't tell me that's not possible."

    "You done bringing that up?"

    "No."

    Miriam watched as Jill tried to keep her laughter silent. "Oh, this isn't the half of it. They get going, they're like the most un-grown-up siblings you've ever heard. That, or she tries to be his grandmother."

    "I do not," Rebecca protested.

    "Which is funny, because I didn't have one, growing up," Steve mused. "Only yours, and Mrs. Edelman. Do we count Mrs. Edelman?"

    Jill frowned. "How...?"

    "My father's parents died in his teens, and my mother's were in Ireland, if they were still alive. We were poor, I've never been to Ireland, and then the Depression..."

    "Oh."

    Steve turned and looked at Rebecca with a stern expression. "It's not that I don't understand why you wanted me to talk to a therapist, but... who is she again? All you said on the way to the airport from DC was that we were picking up a friend. The truth, Becca. Preferably in English."

    Miriam rolled her eyes. "Seriously? You got Andi to get a message through to Mauritania that got Jill on a plane and didn't explain anything to anyone?"

    Rebecca smiled. "In between making sure Steve didn't compromise his recovery, seeing not-dead sneaky people in graveyards, and figuring out just what happened to James, it's been a busy month. So no, I didn't explain. Oh, and Natasha will be calling from the wind, probably, so don't be surprised if she does. And... Jill is family, Steve. There is no one else that I'd trust with you. Not with this."

    Steve paused. "Family? Then how-"

    "Stop," Jill interrupted. "I explain this better than anyone else. My brother is married to one of her granddaughters. Andi is my daughter, but Rob couldn't have kids due to having the Mumps in college, so he and Kristy adopted her and her twin brothers when they were born. I lived with them here in Brooklyn during and after grad school."

    "And she matched to Maimonides," Rebecca told him. "Did her residency there."

    "Fun times," Jill said with a smile. She glanced at the boxes and the smile dropped right off her face. "And..."

    "Jill," Rebecca said slowly. "As a member of this family, you can't treat James. You know that."

    "Have to find him first."

    "True enough."

    Steve frowned. "Why can't she?"

    "Medical ethics," Jill replied. "Or, more specifically, the American Medical Association's code of ethics. I'll have to see if that actually applies to me. In the mean time... Miriam, can I see that folder? I want to make some notes."

    "For what?" Steve wondered as Miriam handed it over and Jill accepted a notepad from Rebecca along with a pen.

    "You ever tried to go on a ten mile march without a compass, Captain?"

    "No."

    "Same thing." She glanced at him as she moved to sit on the floor and use the coffee table. "You still have that compass? The one from the newsreels?"

    Steve pulled it out of his pocket, showed it to her. "Took a while for SHIELD to give to back to me."

    "Hmm... was that day a good day or a bad day?"

    "Huh?"

    "Was the day that the camera people were there a good day or a bad day?"

    Steve stared at her as she opened the folder and started to read. "The... I... good. Mostly. Why?"

    "Because..." and here she handed him the small picture that had been paper clipped to the bigger one. "It's something to hold on to, just like that compass. One memory, in the middle of things, that might not seem important, but is. The big picture is important, it tells a story, but so is one moment, one day, one hour."

    He stared down at the picture of Bucky, half smiling in his uniform, and then looked at Rebecca, who nodded, and Miriam. "I... thanks."

    "That's what I'm here for. And... his PTSD will probably trump yours."

    Steve blinked. "What? PTSD?"

    "It's not called battle fatigue anymore," Rebecca explained. "Now it's called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Watch it with the acronyms, Jill."

    "Why? We can hold entire conversations in alphabet soup!" She glanced up at Steve again. "Golf-Oscar. Echo-Alpha-Tango."

    "What if I'd rather stay in here?" Here, Steve pulled a wrapped bar out of his pocket and started to unwrap it, only for Rebecca to clear her throat and hold out a hand. "What?"

    "You know what. We have real food here. Give it to me, and any others you managed to sneak into your pockets when we were packing up your apartment with the help of that nice Mr. Wilson."

    Miriam watched as Steve sighed and handed her the bar in his hand and three from his pockets. "What are those?"

    Rebecca glared at the bars in her hands. "Stark's idea of emergency nutrition. And this is not an emergency situation, is it Steve?"

    "No." He sighed and went into the kitchen.

    Jill frowned up at her. "I don't understand. I did read some of his file in grad school because it was public information for the medical community, but... huh?"

    Rebecca shook her head. "He's got a metabolism that runs fast. These things are are fancy MRE's for missions."

    "Ah."

    "And... you read his what?"

    "He was dead, Rebecca. They don't have to put a confidential hold on the information of a deceased person, and he was one of our case studies." Jill paused, glanced toward the kitchen at the sudden string of words in... was that Gaelic? "Which, from the sound of it, I should have been more tactful." She moved to get up, but Rebecca waved her off. "What?"

    "I'd been waiting for that kind of an explosion," Rebecca explained, and went herself. Jill watched her go, shook her head, and settled back down to examine the contents of the file for a while, while Miriam watched her mutter to herself under her breath.


    Three or four days before Vienna...


    To: PsychologyMom
    From: EngineerStudent
    CC: WantsToKeepHerMinions
    Subject: very odd therapy tool thing

    Mom, I'm sending you this because I discussed the demonstration with Grandma Becca and she told me to ask you.
    Mr. Stark called the tech he demonstrated "Binarily Augmented Retro Framing", if I remember right, said he'd spend a ginormus amount of money developing a therapy tool for himself that wouldn't have had a prayer of succeeding otherwise. What I saw when he demonstrated it... was a painful-looking recreation of the last time he saw his parents. Or rather, an enactment of really odd (and off) wish fulfillment of the last time he saw his parents. It was somewhat creepy.
    My question about this is: how does that help, to access the bad memory and replay it differently? Doesn't that cause just as much upset, knowing you could have had that instead of what you did? I'm confused.
    For that matter, how does the hippocampus react to that, accessing it like that?
    Many questions here. Sorry in advance.


    To: EngineerStudent
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: SheHasMinions?
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    Right. Martin, my sweet boy, are you sure you don't want to become a psychologist instead? Still sure you want an engineering degree?
    As to your question: get Kristy to send you my Neuro and Behavioral Science text books, along with ones that delve into memory and how it functions. Read that, then text me and we'll chat.
    Also: public information on the SuperSoldier Serum. Rebecca can help you with that one.


    To: PsychologyMom
    From: MyMinionsComeToCoffeonWednesdays
    CC: EngineerStudent
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    SuperSoldier Serum? Oh, right. I can!
    I'll get him the books, Jill. Plus several others that I've been reading that also delve into memory.
    And I thought that, too, about his interest in Psychology. How is the C.A.R.?


    To: MeddlingGrandmother
    From: Engineer!Student!
    CC: PsychologyMom
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    Books?!? All I had was a simple question! And I don't want to take psychology! Engineering and proud of it!


    To: FuturePsychGradStudent
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: FabulousNurse, HeadMinion
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    It's something to consider, that little bit of extra insight into the human condition.
    The answer is not simple, and I always direct you to books for the knowledge, Martin. You know that.
    Also... you say that Tony Stark demonstrated this thing to an audience? If it was recorded, can I have a copy of that presentation? In the interest of psychology, that is...
    And the C.A.R... is wonderful. Basic, and I want a Jason's Pizza, and I miss you all, but I've got Damian here with me, so it's not all bad. (Have Andi look into sending me a Pizza? Please?)


    From: TheHeadMinion
    To: PsychologyMom
    CC: EngineerStudent, NurseGrandma, AwesomeSecretary
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing
    Attachment(2): PresentationOfTheTool, PreviousConversationuptoNow

    Courtesy of Lucinda, who was being left out of this hilarity, we send you this video that Miriam from the State Department managed to get from MIT. And you didn't have to CC me, I read these things over Aunt Becca's shoulder. Just saying.
    Jason's Pizza? Jill, your Brewer, ME is showing. And we'll take you for actual pizza when you get back here. (Daniel chuckled at the thought of International Pizza Delivery and suggested Adam's Rib instead. What is Adam's Rib?)


    From: PsychologyMom
    To: HeadMinion
    CC: EngineerStudent, AwesomeSecretary, HasMinions
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    Dare I ask what's going on at the State Department? Or am I safer not knowing? And... wow, that was a big file to traverse the internet here. Thank you! (Also: Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot?!? Who does that with their Hippocampus?!?) Martin, you better do some serious reading, because I have a theory and unless you read up, you won't be able to follow it.
    Don't knock Jason's Pizza, Mason. And we look forward to it. (Damian misses some pizza joint in Stonybrook. I kid you not.) Do I get to meet the interesting Lucinda?
    Adam's Rib! Hah! Someone with a better internet connection than mine give Mason a link to Alan Alda obsessed with ribs!


    To: PsychologyMom
    From: TheHeadMinion
    CC: EngineerStudent, BillSaidSomethingDumbAndGotHomework
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    If you fly into Reagan International, yes you do, Jill. And you're better off not knowing what's going on here. Glad I could help.
    I wish Martin happy, extensive reading. Want to hear what the conclusion of that talk is, and so does Aunt Becca.
    And tell Damian we have better Pizza than Stonybrook!
    Alan Alda? What does Alan Alda have to do with a rib joint named after a bible story? **Daniel hands Mason a M*A*S*H DVD...** Oh...


    Two and a half weeks post The Battle of Liepzig/Halle Airport


    It had been a pretty normal day in Ituri, Central African Republic for Jill when the two of them showed up at the MSF clinic in disguise. They had seemed like villagers... until she got a closer look and realized that the woman was bald and the man was too tall, too pale, and too well built to be a native. "Steve, is there some reason you're visiting the C.A.R.?"

    "We need you," he said without preamble.

    "You... need me. Specifically me, or will any psychiatrist that doesn't rate a Dan ranking do? Because I'm here to tell you, I wouldn't be able to kick anyone's butt on one of your missions. Unless you think kickboxing would work." The woman chuckled and Jill glanced at her curiously. "And you would be?"

    "This is Shuri," Steve told her. "And I need you, because... we found him, finally."

    Jill shifted her gaze to stare at him. "Oh?"

    "You didn't hear?"

    She shook her head. "I only check my email for family contact. And the internet here is lacking. Where was he?"

    "When Sam and I finally caught up to him? Romania."

    "And...?"

    "And, like I said. We need you."

    She glanced away from them and took stock of whom was in the area, spotted her MSF team leader watching them. "I'll be right back."

    ~*~*~*~

    Steve watched as Jill first talked to a woman in scrubs, and then a man, also in green scrubs, and was startled when the man nodded and then kissed her. Jill then disappeared into the clinic and reappeared minutes later in jeans, a t-shirt that had "DOWNSTATE" and a graphic of the Brooklyn Bridge on it, with a backpack. "Who was that man?"

    She smiled. "That was Damian, my husband. He's got a case right now, or I'd introduce you. Lead on, Mon Capitan."

    "You... go on these missions with your husband?"

    "Remind me to tell you sometime about wanting to help Africans find water, Steve. Seriously."

    "Huh? Can't they find water themselves?"

    She paused. "So you've not listened to ANY Cosby? Really?" The dubious expression on his face answered the question for him. "Uh-huh... Rebecca and Miriam are going to get a coded cipher from me, that they've been doing a very bad job getting you caught up. Who leaves out the funny monologues?"

    Shuri finally broke her silence. "Agreed, though I've not listened to that, either."

    Jill grinned as she followed them. "So where are we going?" The answer surprised her.

    ~*~*~*~

    She studied the man beneath the frosted-over glass of the cryopod for long minutes with arms folded across her chest before turning and looking at Steve with a sour expression. "Exactly what good does it do for him to be frozen?"

    "I've been asking myself that same question."

    "Steve..."

    "Yes?" She stared at him until he shrugged. "I wasn't going to take his choices away from him."

    Turning back, she regarded the conundrum of the cryopod again, and sighed. "All right. Out with you."

    "Huh?"

    Jill pointed to the door where Sam was waiting. She'd only just met the VA Counselor turned Avenger, but she liked him. "I'm kicking you out, Steve. You don't want to take choices away from him? Fine. You don't have his consent to stay because patient confidentiality is now a priority and I have things to discuss with the medical team. He didn't have an advocate, or any rights and liberties, in enemy hands. Now he does, and the information is privileged. Out. Now." She glared at him until he nodded and left the lab. "I expect to see you in the kitchen in an hour and hear that you've both eaten!"

    The Wakandan doctor standing nearby chuckled. "Nicely done."

    "We'll find out if it was, when I make him do therapy," Jill told him. "So, Dr. Khamisi... I know a whole lot about this patient from studying the Kiev File, but not everything. You've evaluated him. Want to consult?"

    Khamisi smiled. "Yes... though you'll find our grasp of this problem somewhat different."

    "Oh?"

    "It's not just the mind that needs healing, but the spirit as well."

    "That's what we're here for: to make sure he gets that chance."

    ~*~*~*~*~

    They were waiting in the resident wing's kitchen when Jill finally emerged from the cryolab. "Well?" Sam asked. "How was it?"

    She ignored them both while she made herself a cup of coffee with milk and sugar, savored the smell, and began to drink it as if it were ambrosia while leaning against the counter. "Mmmmm.... oh. Sorry. Did you say something, Mr. Wilson?"

    "Good coffee?"

    "I've been in Ituri for seven months."

    "Ah."

    She shifted her gaze to Steve, who was studying his hands. "Where is your sketch book?"

    "Upstate New York," Steve answered without looking up. "And I don't want to draw. I want-"

    "Steve," Jill interrupted, and he blinked. "We all want things. We're human. And I'm not going to be discussing the elephant in the cryochamber with you right now. This is you time. So... sketch book. Paper. Something."

    Sam's lips quirked and he got up, left the room momentarily, and came back with a pad of paper and a pen. "Will these do?"

    Jill nodded and hid her smile as Sam plunked the pad of paper and the pen down in front of Steve and sat down again. "They'll do. For now."

    "Why...?"

    "Because my son reminded me of something important when he asked an intriguing question about strange tech," Jill explained. "And Steve has an eidetic memory. A lot has been going on that I haven't been privy to, due to being somewhat out of contact for the most part, and I want to see some art."

    "Won't help," Steve said as he stared at the pad of paper and the pen. "And I'd rather talk about helping Bucky."

    "And I'd like a pizza. Do you see me asking the royal chef to make one?"

    He frowned and looked at her. "Pizza?"

    "Pizza. Jason's, to be exact. Which they don't have in Ituri. I almost begged Andi to try sending me one in the mail."

    "What does pizza have to do..."

    Jill sat down and placed a hand on the pad of paper for emphasis. "I need you to tell me a story. In art. Your story. Can you do that?"

    "You... want a story."

    "Yes. And I don't care where you start. Just tell a story. Draw." She waited until Steve picked up the pen and began to draw, and then she motioned Sam into the hallway. "We'll be right back." In the hallway, she regarded Sam with a critical eye. "So, tell me. How, other than the man in cryo, did he get into a worse state than when I saw him a month after D.C.?"

    Sam frowned. "Worse?"

    "Yes. Worse." He explained, and was treated to Jill swearing in French and running for where she'd left her backpack in the kitchen.

    Steve looked up in mild amusement as she pulled a laptop out of her backpack. "Jill?"

    "Draw, Steve. I have something to talk over with Khamisi and Sam. We'll be back."

    ~*~*~*~*~

    The video of Stark showing off the BARF system was short, creepy, and caused Sam to turn and look at the cryopod with raised eyebrows. "So it wasn't just-"

    "No. It wasn't just a bad revelation," Jill muttered. "And Martin's right for being concerned. Of all the stupid, idiotic things to do with technology. Have a question for you, since you've seen Stark recently. Was he showing signs of mental stress, like headaches?"

    Sam paused. "When we were discussing the Sokovia Accords three days before the UN bombing, he mentioned having an electromagnetic headache, actually. Why?"

    "Smoking gun." At his frown, she motioned to Bucky. "He has amnesia, yes? From repeated ECT? Well... how do you get amnesia? Do you know?"

    Sam shook his head, while Khamisi nodded silently. "Not the finer mechanics of it, no."

    "Among other things, damage to the Hippocampus. Which Stark was playing with, just to relive moments with his parents to 'clear' traumatic memories. And James, here, had some form of the Serum and has been recovering since DC, and still isn't, according to you, Doctor, back to normal, even if at times he might seem like he is. Two people with overstimulation to the brain, from different directions."

    "And then the video in Sibera," Khamisi mused. "He probably didn't just see it. With how over-stimulated his Hippocampus is or has been..."

    Jill nodded. "Right. He probably lived it the same way Steve sees his flashbacks." She looked at Sam, who was openly staring at her. "There's a reason I've got him drawing, Sam. And we're not telling him this right now. Later, maybe. He's got enough to worry about without this."

    "Why?"

    "Does telling him solve anything?"

    "Oh. No. No, it doesn't." He studied the frozen image of Stark standing on stage at the end of the presentation. "And someone else needs their medical confidentiality, too, don't they?"

    "Yes, even if they were playing to an audience and basically showing the world their problems with a giant neon sign, to the point where an engineering student that doesn't want to take psychology had a question or three."

    "Huh?"



    To: ShouldTakePsychology
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: NurseandHeadMinion
    Subject: Re: very odd therapy tool thing

    Good observation, Martin. Can't tell you much until our discussion, but... never stop being observant.
    Rebecca? We are adding things to read up on: the differing forms of Amnesia, too, as well as Autism and overstimulation. Why? Something came up in discussion of a thing. Thing was stupid... but if I say any more, I have to use 5-cipher.
     
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    I loved the emails in this; as always, your world and character building is spot on, and I am loving all of the voices you are developing. This is a really unique story in the Marvel fandom, and I've enjoyed every word of it thus far.

    Some little things here I really liked: the line about the compass; the acronyms; Steve's drawing; the final little medical glimmers that shed a lot of light on this whole twisted mess . . . really well done, as always. =D=
     
  10. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: Thank you. :) Sincerely. [:D]



    The March Turkey


    A month after the fall of SHIELD...


    In the kitchen, Rebecca paused in the doorway and simply took stock of the situation. Steve was sitting at the kitchen table with a banana and two other pieces of fruit, staring at the banana in his hand with an expression of dislike. "So... was the explosion about the crop changeover, or what you heard Jill say about grad students and your medical records?"

    Steve blinked, shook his head. "Ma liked bananas... and I signed my medical rights away for Project Rebirth. But... to hear it put that way. I'd forgotten. Maybe Jill-"

    "Steve," Rebecca interrupted as she pulled a chair out and sat down with a sigh. "Stop."

    "What?"

    "Deflection doesn't work on me, either, and it's okay to mourn. To let yourself have a moment or ten of whatever."

    He put the banana down and stared at her. "It was seventy years ago for you."

    "But not for you. And really, it's more like seventy-five or eighty." Rebecca made a face. "And to say it like that, makes me feel old."

    "You're not."

    Rebecca smiled. "Are you trying to flatter me, Steven Grant Rogers?"

    "Would you like me to?"

    "No, and it doesn't get you out of this conversation, either. And I miss her, too, Steve." She looked away, blinked several times, and then looked at him again. "And if someone were here like they're supposed to be, he would tell you the same thing."

    Miriam leaned into the kitchen from the living room. "All clear?"

    Rebecca motioned to the fruit. "He forgot about the changeover. Again."

    "Ah. Stop forgetting, Steve. Eventually, there could be impressionable children around, to learn bad words in Irish from you."

    Steve threw the banana at her.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    At a diner in Catonsville, Maryland, a waitress is pouring coffee for one of her infrequent regulars, a doctor on his way home from Austin, when he asks her a question. "Sally? Does he look overly thin to you?"

    She paused and followed his line of sight to look at the guy sitting at the next table over. He was staring at his bowl of fruit with an expression of mild confusion. "Oh, him? Veteran if I ever saw one, with that posture. Why, Doc?"

    They both watched as he picked up a piece of banana out of the bowl with his fork, stared at it, and then put it in his mouth, only for his eyes to widen in surprise and shock and had to spit it out into his napkin amid foreign-language obscenities. He repeated the action several more times with the same result, each time with the same result. Then he pushed the bowl away in disgust and massaged his temples. Then Doctor Mackenzie sighed. "Sally, get him a bowl of soup. Something bland. And... maybe scrambled eggs?"

    "Huh?"

    "Looks like he's been in the ICU recently. Which means fruit is probably a bad idea right now."

    She pursed her lips in thought. "We've got cream of mushroom today."

    "That'll work."

    Doctor Mackenzie watched while rushed off to fill the order of soup and eggs. "Hey... you all right?" A soft moan was his only immediate answer as the young man continued to massage his temples with both gloved hands.

    A couple minutes went by like that in silence until Sally returned with the bowl of soup, a plate of toast, scrambled eggs and hash browns, and a chocolate shake. "Rodney said that if he's that thin, a shake with protein powder in it couldn't hurt. Did the VA center let you go too soon, hon?" She set the tray down on the table to unload, and blinked when a knife came out, pointed at her with a fear-laced glare. "Okay... definitely veteran. Afghanistan?"

    "Huh?" the man asked, blinking up at her with startled blue eyes, then he realized she'd set a food-laden tray down on the table. "Where'd that come from? I only ordered fruit! And it doesn't taste right!"

    Not taking her eyes off him, she nodded to the doctor. "He ordered for you. Probably thinks you're recovering from a Whipple or something. Are you?"

    He shook his head. "Liquids."

    "Ah. Can I have the knife, sir?"

    "Sergeant."

    "Can I have the knife, Sergeant?" He blinked again, stared at his hand with the knife in it, then handed it to her wordlessly. "Thank you. Eat what you can, don't try the fruit again if it doesn't taste right."

    "What's a Whipple?" the Sergeant asked as he looked over at the doctor in confusion.

    Doctor Mackenzie smiled. "It's a surgical procedure where, among other things, part of the pancreas is removed. And I was just thinking ICU, Sally. Go on, Sergeant. Eat. It'll make me feel better if you do."

    "And no coffee for you," Sally told him with a stern glare while she handed the knife to Doctor Mackenzie. "Not if you're fresh out of a VA center or returned from combat and pulling knives on people when surprised."

    "Sorry."

    "Don't be. My brother Bill did the same thing three times before Dad took his knives away and had him talk to a therapist."

    "Have two more."

    "Going to pull those?"

    "No."

    "All right, then. You can keep them." She waited while he started to hesitantly eat the soup first, then turned to Doctor Mackenzie. "Watch him. I'll be back."

    "Go on. We'll be here." And as Sally walked off again, Doctor Mackenzie had time to study him. His clothes weren't much to look at, between the red t-shirt and the jacket, and the jeans, but they were clean, if slightly drab. And the baseball cap held his long hair out of his face... that, for some reason, seemed familiar, but he couldn't place why. He was on the young side, maybe twenty-five or thirty. Presently, he finished the soup and moved on to the eggs and the hash browns hungrily.

    Sally returned again, and showed him a book with the title 'Clinical Nutrition for Dummies.' "What do you think? Give it to him? I can get another copy if I need to. And the Dietetic Manual is too technical."

    Doctor Mackenzie gestured for it, paged through the book to look at the contents, and handed it back to her. "Good idea."

    She smiled, then turned and handed the book to the Sergeant. "Here."

    He frowned at the title. "I'm not a dummy."

    "No, but it's simple and easy to read. And very good."

    "I can't pay you back."

    "And I am not asking you to. It's a gift, Sergeant." A tap on her arm, and she glanced back to find that Doctor Mackenzie was holding out a business card. "Oh, and the doctor, here, wants you to have this." She gave him the card, and he stared at it.

    "How... huh?"

    "Good question. Doc?"

    Doctor Mackenzie smiled. "I want you to call, update me on how you are, Sergeant. If you want. Or come by if you're ever in the New York area. Either is fine."

    The Sergeant nodded and accepted both the book and the card. Then he tried the chocolate shake and frowned at it. "What is this? Reminds me of D-Rations... only better-tasting."

    The meal continued without incident, save for Doctor Mackenzie wondering what D-Rations were and the Sergeant suddenly wondering if Croissants were good.


    4 July, 2016


    Seated in a chair next to the card table and watching the party with a satisfied smile on her face, Rebecca couldn't help but notice that Pepper hadn't yet stopped introducing Tony to the relatives. Right then, she was introducing them to Jill's brother, Rob, and Kristy, who looked less than enthused, even from this distance.

    "Grandma?"

    Rebecca blinked and turned toward the voice to find Andrea standing there with a puzzled expression on her face. "Yes, Andi?"

    Andrea pulled up a chair, sat down, and pulled a folded up piece of paper out of her pocket. "You wouldn't happen to know why Mom would send me a telegram for you, all the way from the C.A.R. and put it in code, to tell you that you're doing a horrible job getting Steve caught up with pop culture, would you?"

    Rebecca paused, sorting through that question, then shook her head. "No. You have it?" Andrea handed it over, and Rebecca unfolded the paper to find an official telegram with a message of scrambled letters, and the translation... "What kind of coding is that?"

    "5-cipher. You know... basic cryptography."

    The message:
    Rebecca and Miriam,
    You left out the funny monologues and didn't tell SGR about Cosby!
    Bad! Very bad!
    Everything fine here.
    Waiting for the Turkey born in March to Defrost.
    Don't want to wait until November. This annoying.
    -Jill

    Rebecca frowned again. "Andi, how long have you had this?"

    "A couple weeks. I knew I was going to see you here, so I didn't drive in from Stony Brook." Andrea sighed. "It seemed really trivial, and she'd been complaining about the lack of Pizza, before, not turkey. Was that wrong?"

    Miriam passed by right then, on her way to check the card table, and Rebecca snagged her hand. "What?"

    "Read," Rebecca told her, and handed her the translation. "And no, Andi. You were right to wait to give it to me."

    Miriam chuckled suddenly. "Well, he is a Turkey!"

    Andrea blinked. "Huh? Steve's a March Turkey?"

    "No, Andi. Who in this family was born in March? Famous? Got killed, then not killed, then went missing? Framed recently?" She watched the comprehension dawn in Andrea's eyes. "And Jill... We have to add one, if she's with them!"

    Rebecca stood up, looked over to where Rob and Kristy were still talking to Pepper and Tony. She smirked, then marched straight to them after swiping the telegram back from Miriam.

    Andrea watched her go, then looked at Miriam. "So... how are things at home?"

    Miriam rolled her eyes. "Let's just say, that if she's going over there toward that man willingly, that it's a good thing her cane is in the car."

    "That bad?"

    "Could be worse. Is it possible to send a return telegram?"

    Andrea shook her head. "No, I checked. You can send a telegram from the Central African Republic, but you can't receive one."

    ~*~*~*~​

    Kristy saw her grandmother coming, purpose in her stride, and stepped aside gratefully to intercept her. "Thank you!"

    Rebecca smiled. "Boring?

    "Not entirely, but Rob talks endlessly about robotic surgical procedures given half a chance," Kristy told her with a shrug. "And I hear about it at dinner, sometimes. What's up?"

    Rebecca handed her the telegram. "Still have those Cosby albums?"

    Kristy frowned at the message. "So... we're calling him a March Turkey, now?"

    "Miriam loved it. Well?"

    Kristy nodded. "Still have the Cosby albums, yes. Why?"

    "Think you could make copies, to send to her?"

    "Is this for the Get Well Project?"

    "It is."

    "Then yes. I can do that. Think she'll want Foxworthy and Engvall?"

    Rebecca paused. "Which were they, again?"

    "Right. I'll bring them to your house and we'll have fun deciding." Rob glanced over at them, questions in his eyes. "Jill wants comedy routines in Ituri!"

    Tony frowned. "Who wants what where?"

    "My sister," Rob explained with a smile. "On a medical mission in central Africa. So, Mr. Stark: you were saying, about improvements for MRI machines...?"

    And as Tony launched into a technical explanation, with lots of technical jargon, Rebecca smiled at Rob's efforts of distraction. Even if it was about an MRI machine.


    Three days ago...


    Stepping out onto the busy sidewalk outside the grocery store, carrying one small bag to the two bigger ones her grandmother was holding, she started to walk away when she noticed that her grandmother was standing still, a puzzled expression on her face as she looked across the street. Frowning, the young girl followed her gaze to find a man in shabby, torn clothing with long hair and stubble looking back at them. Were it not for the stubble and the hair... no. Even she knew that was impossible. "Grandma?"

    Her grandmother jumped, startled, and looked down at her. "Miriam?"

    She nodded to the man, who hadn't moved and was watching them with a blank expression. "See him, too."

    Her grandmother frowned, then shook her head. "Let's go home, child."

    Miriam followed her, glancing back one more time at the man...

    ...and woke in the dark with a yell on her lips that woke Daniel next to her and brought Rebecca to their bedside with wide eyes. She panted for long moments as Rebecca turned the light on and Daniel rolled over to look at her funny. "What?"

    Daniel shook his head. "Should be asking you that. What's going on?"

    "It's nothing. Just a dream about shopping with Grandma, and seeing a homeless man..." She paused. "Wait a minute! That actually happened!"

    Rebecca sat down on the side of the bed. "What did?"

    "We both saw a guy with long, uneven hair, at least a day's worth of beard growth, torn and shabby clothing, that sort of looked like old pictures I'd seen of Uncle James." Miriam frowned. "When was that? I couldn't have been more than ten or eleven. And that makes no sense! If that actually was Uncle James, what was he doing in Brooklyn, staring at us from across the street!"

    Rebecca studied her with a frown, looked behind her at Daniel who had by now sat up and was watching his wife with wide eyes, then nodded to herself and left the room.

    Miriam frowned. "Where is she going? What-"

    "Miri. We have a near-complete record on what happened to him. If you were ten or eleven, then it was the seventies," Daniel explained calmly. "And we know he got away from them at least once, only to be captured again. So maybe..."

    "Maybe seeing him the way we did via Pepper's tablet sparked some memory?"

    "Could be."

    Rebecca returned just then with the thick binder, pulled the chair over from the corner of the room, sat down, and laid open the binder on the bed. She turned pages until she got to a particular page and read the entry. Then she looked at Miriam. "You... the spring of '73, he somehow got away from them on a mission and went off the radar. They tracked him to New York, where they caught him again. Probably not long after you two saw him."

    "So we... we just walked away-"

    "Stop," Rebecca told her sternly. "Twenty-eight years removed from '45, and he basically hadn't aged. Long hair. Scruffy. Ratty clothes. If I know my sister, her priority was you and not the scruffy guy on the street corner who reminded her of someone close that died in action. Think about it, Miriam. What's your first priority if you see a threat and have a child along?"

    "The child," Miriam said immediately, then frowned. "Oh."

    Rebecca nodded, pain clearly in her face. "Exactly. Hazel had no way of knowing that the scruffy guy, the potential threat, was actually who he looked like, with traumatic amnesia and in need of someone, anyone to help him. So she did the smart thing, the parental thing, and walked away. No one is at fault, here. She couldn't have known and you were eleven, and had only ever seen photos of him in black and white."

    "But still-"

    "But nothing, Miriam. It's over and done."

    Miriam stared at her, at the way she was holding herself together in the face of this revelation. "You said the same thing to Steve."

    "Still true." Rebecca stared down at the open binder, tears welling in her eyes behind her heading glasses. Then she took a deep breath and looked at her again. "And you know what this means, don't you?"

    "Huh?"

    "He remembered. Not enough, but he did. He ended up here, in Brooklyn. Hazel never went into Manhattan to shop for groceries."

    "She didn't, did she?"

    "No." Rebecca sat back and looked at them, Daniel watching her over Miriam's shoulder, and Miriam still in that state of 'is this real?' that would probably last a while. "And it's times like this that I miss her more, you know? Usually, I don't allow myself to think about it. It's just..." She blinked when Miriam scooped the binder up, handed it to Daniel, and wordlessly hugged her. Over Miriam's shoulder, she watched as Daniel looked down at the binder in his hands, then shrugged and set it aside. He joined them in the hug. "So, so glad you two wear pajamas..."

    Miriam laughed, but did not let go. "I miss her, too. I miss Grandma Winifred, and I barely remember her!"

    "Dan?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "You going to let go anytime soon?"

    "No."

    "Okay..."


    ~*~*~*~*~


    A/N: I was trying to get back to Wakanda sooner, but then Bucky wanted to try having fruit for the first time in 70 years... (And it's true. There is no telegram service in the Central African Republic, but if you've got internet service you can send one from there to somewhere else that does have it.)
     
  11. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Daena: OK - finished a read of this, and it's fascinating. :)

    I'm impressed that anyone even remembers Rebecca, and you've done wonders with her. Yes, she's cranky, but she's got more than her right to be (and the parts where she slips into Romanian add a touch of authenticity to the character).

    You've got an ability to not let characters off the hook for bad behavior, while still making them able to be empathized with. I'm definitely having more sympathy for Tony, now, and I'm pretty sure the MCU won't have nearly as good a way to wrap this up before Infinity War.
     
  12. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Onderon: Thank you. :) (That's exactly why I'm using Rebecca Barnes Proctor... because no one else was.)



    Patient Rights and Pancakes


    Fifteen or sixteen days ago...


    Jill was working on a case summary for a patient she'd seen in clinic that morning when someone entered the room she shared with her husband in Ituri. Not looking up, she sighed. "Just a minute, sweetie. This was a hard one."

    A decidedly feminine chuckle sounded. "Dr. Pentel..."

    "No, that's my husband when we're on site together. I'm Dr. Mackenzie, or Dr. Mac. Hang on." She finished writing, closed the file, and looked up to find Shuri standing there looking at her funny. "Oh. Hi. These case files don't write themselves. What's up?"

    "Sergeant Barnes was defrosted yesterday," Shuri told her. "Mr. Wilson and Dr. Khamisi thought you'd want to know."

    Case file forgotten in her hands, Jill stared at her. "What?!? Of course I wanted to know! I wanted to be there!"

    "Hey, Jill. Caroline wanted to know when you'd be done with that case summary," Damian said from the doorway behind Shuri. "And... huh? What's going on?"

    "James is awake," Jill told him as she stood up, moved around Shuri, and handed him the file. "And she can have it. Done."

    "That's good news," Damian said slowly. "And hello, Shuri." Shuri nodded in return and they both watched while Jill slipped her laptop computer into a carrying case and started pulling clothes out of drawers. "Jill?"

    "I have to go," she told him. "You know I have to. I can't not. Be out in a minute. Love you."

    Damian looked down at the file in his hands, nodded. "Yes, you do. And I love you, too. Be safe. I'll get this to Caroline."

    He left and Jill turned to look at Jill. "What was the bright idea, not telling me until the day after?"

    "Captain Rogers was impatient."

    "Of course he was."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Caroline looked up from her own paperwork as Jill entered the clinic's office with her laptop carrying case, backpack, and suitcase. "Going somewhere?"

    Jill nodded to Shuri. "I'll be back, but my patient woke up yesterday. Trauma victim."

    "Same one?"

    "Same one."

    Caroline nodded. "Then fine. I want regular email updates from you, and we'll consider this an MSF case. That way, I don't have to tell the office that you're not here."

    "It kind of is, Caroline. Besides, under the Good Samaritan standard, if I can act, I have to act. I can't not. And there is no one else who can, aside from those already on site, and I've studied his records."

    "There is that." Caroline looked at Shuri directly with a stern frown. "You take good care of her, Ma'am."

    "Of course," Shuri answered with a nod.

    Outside, Damian met up with her and they shared a moment under Shuri's watchful gaze.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    They arrived back in Wakanda from the Central African Republic a little after dinner time and Jill was greeted by Khamisi who then had to explain about their visitors and what was going on, and that they'd done the first session already. "All right. Fine. How is he?"

    Khamisi frowned. "Other than the disorientation from coming out of cryosleep?"

    "Yes, Khamisi. Other than that."

    "Mostly fine, considering what the man has been through."

    Jill nodded. "Show me the session recording, then I'll go see him myself. Why didn't you call or email?"

    "Things happened quickly. I'm sure Shuri told you about the impatient Captain."

    "She did. And he better have been sketching like he said he was this whole time, too."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    After viewing the session tape and a long discussion on the psychological ramifications of such a treatment, Jill allowed Shuri to lead her to the kitchen where her patient was playing Chinese Checkers with Cooper and Lila while Steve, Sam, Clint, Laura, Wanda, and several members of the Dora Milaje watched in concerned silence. She set her bags and laptop case against the wall, then put her hands on her hips. "Ordinarily, I'd find this situation concerning, what with all the concentration on an adult and two children. Really? Isn't is just checkers?"

    Steve stared at her, then at the emblem on her blue scrub top. "Eastern Maine Medical Center?"

    "I don't comment on your uniform choices, Steve. I'm from Maine, and I felt like representing today. Answer, please. Particularly why I'm late to this in-progress party."

    "You're mad."

    "Incensed."

    Steve winced. "Sorry."

    "Don't be sorry, Steve. I get it. I'm really annoyed, but I get it." She stared for a moment at Bucky, suddenly realizing he hadn't looked up at all since she'd first said anything. "Is he that interested in the game, or... I don't want it to be an or. Please say it isn't."

    Steve sighed. "It just sort of happened after dinner, and Cooper accidentally gave him a mission to play Chinese Checkers without realizing he'd imprinted on him."

    Jill took a deep breath, let it out. "So he's dissociated? Right. At least it's a board game." She took a step back, looked at Shuri. "The ladies don't have to stay. We've got this. Wanda can immobilize him and the guys can tackle him if this turns ugly. It probably won't, but..."

    Shuri nodded and signaled the ladies of the Kings guard to leave the room. "I'll leave one outside the room, just in case."

    Jill smiled at the dry humor in the other woman's face. "Fair enough. Even with one arm, he's probably capable of a lot of damage, and would hate it if things got out of hand." She turned back and watched as Lila took a turn, moving her red marble one space across the board, and Bucky took his turn with the blue ones. "Chinese Checkers? Good choice! Can I join, kids?"

    Cooper smiled at her as he took his turn, and then Lila did again. "Sure, Dr. Pentel! Clear or light blue?"

    "Clear," Jill told him as she sat down at the round table on the side of the board with the clear marbles. Bucky, or whomever he was in his head at the moment, didn't even glance up as he moved another blue marble out of 'home.' "Introduce me?"

    "Can't!" Lila said. "Playing the game!"

    Laura tapped Jill on the shoulder. "He's been that focused since we realized what happened. Steve even failed to get his attention."

    "Ah. I take it the mission was to play a strategy board game, Cooper?"

    Cooper nodded. "It was really more of a question, and... then this."

    "That's fine, Cooper." She frowned, looking between them, then at the adults, and back to Bucky again. "Cooper? Did you touch him?"

    "Huh?" Cooper blinked, startled at the question, then nodded. "I think so?"

    Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Sam swearing under his breath and knew she was on the right track. "Can you show me where you touched him?" Cooper started to reach towards Bucky's arm. "No. On your own arm or your father's. Not his."

    Clint bent down and presented his arm, and Cooper laid his hand on a point near Clint's elbow. "Like that?"

    "Yeah. Like that, Dad."

    "Your turn," Lila sang out, having missed the significance of the moment while watching Bucky take his own turn.

    "No, silly," Jill said, and moved her clear marble out of 'home.' "My turn. I'm playing, remember? Now you. Cooper's busy having a moment."

    Cooper blinked up at his father. "What did I do?"

    Clint shook his head. "We'll talk about it later, all right? Play."

    Just then, Bucky shook his head, blinked, and stared at the game board. "Wha... what the hell? Weren't we eating?"

    Laura clucked her tongue. "Really, Sergeant. There are kids present."

    He looked up from the board to stare at her. "Laura?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "Who is this lady? And why are we playing Stern-halma? And... huh?"

    Lila pouted suddenly. "Aw, I wanted to finish the game! Boo!"

    "Emma, pouting isn't helping me."

    Jill saw Steve wince and moved to motion for Laura draw Lila away from the table. "Right, then. Not oriented, not that I'd expect you to be right this minute. I'm Jill, by the way. Also your grand-niece-in-law. And she's not Emma. And... Stern-halma?"

    Steve nodded. "That's the German name for it."

    "Oh, really? Interesting. Clint, why don't you and Laura take the kids, Wanda, and Steve into the other room to finish the game, hmm? And Wanda? You can lower your guard now."

    Wanda looked down and her hands, suddenly realizing she was glowing. "Oh. Sorry."

    "Don't be. Natural as anything to be high-strung at the moment." Jill shifted her gaze to Steve, who clearly looked unhappy. "Don't. We'll talk later. Choices, remember? This one is mine. Git." Steve sighed and allowed Clint to push him out the door while Wanda carefully picked the game board up, and Laura led the kids out as well. Then Jill turned back to look at Bucky, who was staring at her. "Now, then. Sam, tell the Dora Milaje to come in here while you go and get Khamisi, and tell him I want a vitals kit. We'll wait."

    Sam frowned, then did as he was told. Momentarily, the guard Shuri had left outside the door joined them, but did not approach.

    Jill then turned back to look at her patient, who was still staring at her. "You know... it's been a long day for me. You mind if I get a glass of water?"

    Bucky shook his head. "No."

    "Would you like one?" At his nod, she went and filled two glasses of water. "Fujo?"

    "No thank you, Dr. Pentel," the woman said with a solemn smile.

    Jill returned the smile, and returned to the table, placing the second glass within his reach, but sitting on the opposite side of the table. Then she went and retrieved her note pad from her backpack, along with a pencil.

    "You didn't have to make them leave," Bucky said after a minute or two of silence.

    She stood up slowly, pencil and pad in hand, and looked directly at Fujo, whose expression was as close as the Dora Milaje ever got to incredulous. "You think so?"

    "I'm fine. I just... what happened?"

    Jill turned back to him, then sat down again at the table, and collected herself while making several notes on the pad. "Cooper touched you, is what happened." She set the pencil down and showed him on her own arm. "About here. He didn't know that doing that was a bad idea, especially with you."

    Bucky frowned at her. "Especially with me?"

    "Did you or did you not spend six weeks in cryofreeze because you were afraid of being triggered?"

    "I... yes."

    "That's why." Jill resumed making notes on the note pad, and was saved from replying when Sam re-entered the room with Khamisi. "Take his vitals, would you? With your permission, that is, Mr. Barnes."

    Bucky frowned at Khamisi. "What?"

    Sam sighed. "You had a dissociative episode and played Chinese Checkers with the kids for an hour. Lila won the first time, you the second, and Jill interrupted the third. You know the rest. And she's the Psychiatrist who has been studying your file since SHIELD collapsed, if she didn't tell you already."

    "More like a month after the fact," Jill told him. "Your sister called me in to talk to Steve and I had to get out of Mauritania. That takes time. And I read the Kiev File, and saw other things that Rebecca and Steve found in the vault where you were kept in DC. So... I know a lot. And, unless I'm wrong here... Cooper touched you on the arm, right where one of the manacle things restrained you."

    "Vitals cuff," Bucky said automatically, then blinked in realization. "Oh."

    "Yep. Oh."

    Khamisi stepped forward slowly and placed his equipment on the table so Bucky could see it. "Stethoscope. Blood pressure cuff. Thermometer. Pulse oximeter. Otoscope. Just like yesterday and earlier today. May I take your vitals, Mr. Barnes?"

    Bucky nodded. "Yes." He noticed that Khamisi was careful not to touch his forearm while he called out numbers for Jill to write down.

    "Breathe in and out for me... Thank you." Khamisi listened, and then switched to looking in Bucky's ears with the Otoscope. "Ears and lungs clear, heart sounds normal."

    "Thank you, Khamisi. Put your kit back together and pull up a chair. Sam? Sit. Standing over us makes me nervous, and Fujo is outside the door, keeping watch just in case." Jill put her pencil down again and looked at Bucky, who was peering at the three of them with suspicion. "I can see the wheels turning, James."

    "Bucky," he said, and then grimaced slightly. "My name is Bucky."

    "Maybe with Steve it is," Jill said slowly, making a note to discuss that reaction later with Sam. "But not with your family, and not with me. And you're going to get used to hearing your name, your proper name. It's yours. No one can take that from you."

    Bucky stared at her. "They took it. They took everything."

    "And we are not HYDRA or the KGB. So yes, you are Bucky... you, sir-"

    "Sergeant," Bucky said automatically. "I was an NCO, not an Officer."

    "You remember that much?""

    "Yes."

    "Good. You, Sergeant, are James Buchanan Barnes. No one can take that away from you. Do you understand why it is just us, Sam, Khamisi, and Fujo right now?"

    Bucky shook his head. "Not exactly."

    Jill sighed. "Khamisi? Were patient rights explained to him?"

    "No, because I made an assumption that someone already had."

    "That stops right this minute, then, and I will be explaining to Steve later, too." She stared at her notepad for a long moment before looking at him again. "I was in Ituri this morning. Know where that is?"

    "No," Bucky answered.

    "It's in the Central African Republic. You know what I tell each and every one of my patients, before moving on to the next step? They have choices. You have choices, James." She held up a hand before he could say anything. "One my patients this morning was a trauma survivor... sixteen or seventeen. Pregnant. Probably has amesimamia msumari, too. I had to leave before the lab work came back, so I don't know."

    Bucky frowned at that. "What's... ames-what?"

    "AIDS. Do you know what that is?" The expression on his face told her that he didn't, and she nodded. "Doesn't matter right now, but the reason I bring up my patient is because she has rights, and choices, and so do you. You are a trauma survivor, and if you don't want to do something, or if you don't want someone present, then you have that choice. Steve didn't want to take your choices away and let you have yourself frozen, and neglected to mention that there was a choice. So... choices. We are not going to take them away, and you get to make them. Good and bad. Understood?"

    Bucky considered for a moment before nodding. "I think so."

    "All right, then. First question: do you want Steve present for your deprogramming sessions? I ask this because Khamisi actually cut your session short earlier today because Steve was there when he shouldn't have been. And... Sam?"

    "Yes?"

    "Was he on edge all afternoon, before Cooper sent him into dissociation by accident?"

    Sam paused, thinking about the day, then nodded. "He was."

    "No I wasn't-" Bucky began to protest before Jill silenced him with a look that gave him deja vu.

    "No lying, remember? I am going to be honest with you and you are going to be honest with me. That is how therapy works, and there will be days when you hate it. So... do you want him present?"

    "No," Bucky said after a moments hesitation. "I don't. It's... hard."

    "Then he won't be." She eyed his tank top, then stood up and went to the door, and got Fujo's attention. "Go get an extra-large short sleeved button-down shirt for me? One big enough to fit the Sergeant." Fujo nodded and went to do as asked. A couple minutes went by, and then the woman came back with a plaid button down shirt. "Thank you, Fujo." She turned back, considered the three men sitting at the table as she walked back to it, and sat down. Then she handed the shirt to Sam. "Help him put that on."

    Sam frowned at her. "Huh?"

    "A tank top doesn't seem odd in this situation, Counselor? For a victim of trauma who was subjected to repeated cryofreeze and was frozen just yesterday or the day before?"

    "Barnes, do you-"

    "Yes," Bucky said immediately and Sam stared at him. "What?" Sam shrugged and helped him into the shirt.

    "Nothing. And she's right. It's something we should have thought of."

    Jill nodded. "Creature comforts are important." She glanced around the kitchen and noted the squawking end of a baby monitor on the counter, then looked at Sam. "And now that I've covered patient rights and some patient confidentiality, why don't you two gentlemen go and tuck our patient into bed? He's had a busy day from the looks of things."

    "I'm not tired," Bucky said through a yawn, and Khamisi had to hide his smile while Sam rolled his eyes.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Standing in the doorway to the common room, one of two on this floor of the Wakandan palace residential wing, Jill watched as Wanda won the game by getting all of her marbles into 'home' first. "Done, now? Because I've got a topic to discuss if you are."

    Clint nodded. "I think they are. What topic?"

    "Hephephobia."

    Laura frowned. "That's not fear of cows, is it?"

    Jill chuckled, finding the humor where she could. "No. Fear of touch. Anxiety of any kind at being touched unexpectedly."

    Clint nodded. "Had some of that for a while after Loki. Why?"

    "Because," Jill said as she moved to sit down on the floor and lean against the door jam. "Cooper? That spot where you touched James on his arm? It's a contact hotspot. He was already not okay and disoriented."

    Cooper winced. "I didn't mean to."

    "I know you didn't, hon. I'm just making you aware so you don't do it again. If you want his attention, talk to him. No touching. Understand? Touching is an issue for him." She shifted her gaze to Steve, who was staring at her. "Certain people can get away with that, because they're certain people. And you saw... he slipped in his head between past and present and thought Lila was Emma."

    Steve tilted his head in curiosity. "What contact hotspot?"

    "He called it a vitals cuff. You know... the chair in the bank vault?" She demonstrated on her arm. "Thing that attached right here, but had nothing to do with the actual restraints?"

    "Oh. Did you know that before?"

    "I suspected. Didn't know for sure until he confirmed it." Jill glanced at Cooper again, noted how alarmed he was. "And you... you did nothing wrong. Understood? You were being you. Just be aware of these things, that there is a history of trauma. That is all I ask, Cooper."

    "Yes, Dr. Pentel." Cooper frowned. "What chair?"

    "Not your concern, kiddo. How about another game, hmmm?" She smiled and watched as Laura reset the game board yet again. Then she noticed that Lila's hand was up and she was waving to get someone's attention. "Lila? Something you want to ask?"

    Lila nodded. "Who is Emma?"

    Steve watched as Jill heaved herself up off the floor and left the room, then looked at Lila. "Emma was one of Bucky's sisters, Lila."

    Lila frowned. "Was? Isn't she anymore?"

    Steve stared at her, unsure of how to answer the question. "Um... Clint? Help?"

    Clint took a deep breath and put his hand on Lila's small shoulder. "She's been gone a long time, honey. She got very sick suddenly and there wasn't anything anyone could do."

    Lila mulled that over for a minute, and then... "Does Uncle Bucky know?"

    Steve shook his head. "Haven't been able to discuss that yet, and unless he brings her up, you can't either."

    "Why not?"

    "I'll field this one," Jill said from the doorway, her laptop computer case and the baby monitor in her hands. Setting the laptop case on the floor, she slid once again to the floor to lean against the wall. "Play another round. Lila? You want to see pictures?"

    "You've got pictures of Emma on your laptop?" Steve wondered.

    Jill nodded. "Mason tried his hand at putting together a slide show when I was home between missions, to keep Rebecca's spirits up, and I ended up with a copy of it. Hope matters, you know? It's not a lot, but... some?" Lila and Cooper joined her, and she smiled. "Both of you?" They nodded eagerly. "All right, then! Slide show!"

    "Jill?" Steve wondered. "Couldn't we just show those to-"

    "Play the game, Steve. We'll talk about that later."

    They played another round while Jill showed Cooper and Lila the slide show that Mason had put together from his fathers photo albums.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    In the kitchen again, this time with Steve while Sam leaned against the counter, Jill studied him for long minutes before sighing and taking the baby monitor out of her pocket and setting it on the table between them. "So tell me about this."

    "Clint didn't want me straining my hearing yesterday, listening for nightmares," Steve admitted.

    "Well, good. At least someone was using their brain yesterday. Obviously, you weren't."

    "Jill-"

    "Steve." She stared at him, anger flashing in her eyes at his confusion, then took a deep breath and let it out. "It could have been worse than dissociation and a board game, Steve. My priority here is safety. Yours. His. Everyone. You don't do the stupid thing and forget to explain to a child about post-traumatic stress and forget that it exists, as if you could wave a magic wand and have everything be perfect in an instant. Do you, Sam?"

    Sam shook his head. "No. And Steve? Plastic bags in the street."

    Steve frowned at him for a moment. "This isn't the same-"

    "Steve?" Jill interrupted, capturing his attention again. "It is the same. And you didn't call me, and Khamisi didn't call me... and the idiot here didn't call me. No offense, Sam."

    "None taken. I do feel idiotic right now."

    Jill glanced at him, nodded, and returned her gaze to Steve. "You want him to be all right? Fine. The path to wellness is fraught with reminders and setbacks. Lots and lots of reminders and setbacks. And James? Well... I was right. His PTSD trumps yours. And no, we can't just show selections from Dave's albums of Emma and her family in those fifteen years after the war. I'd love to, but I have no idea how James will react to that, seeing her with babies in her arms and then finding out how she died. One thing at a time, here. Establish safety first. You all failed to do that today."

    Steve winced. "Sorry."

    "Don't be sorry, Steve. Do better. And that brings me to my next topic... James doesn't want you in the sessions." Steve opened his mouth to protest, and she held up a hand to stop him. "Choices, Steve. And he has rights, just like you do. This is his choice, and you are going to let him make it. No arguments. And anyway, you've got your own therapy to focus on. You owe me a story."

    Steve frowned again. "What if I don't feel like it? And why do you keep telling me to draw, anyway?"

    Jill sighed. "I keep asking you to draw because I am trying to give you therapy tools that you were not given at the time of Project Rebirth. Dr. Erskine didn't have that opportunity, to do that with you, did he?"

    "I... no. Therapy tools?"

    "Let me put it another way, here. How vivid can your remembrances be?"

    "You mean my eidetic memory?" Steve wondered after a long moment of silence. "They can be incredibly vivid. Why?"

    "That's why I want you to draw. So you can project what you see in your mind's eye onto paper or canvass, for others to see, so you are not dealing with the image on a loop on your head ad nauseam. It's the first step in Art Therapy, which is a way to use media to solve psycho-social problems." She studied him for a moment. "You didn't have an eidetic memory growing up, did you?"

    Steve shook his head. "No."

    She looked to Sam. "And that time you had him at your home after his hospital stay, did he have nightmares?"

    Sam nodded. "Every night. And... oh. I get why Rebecca would have called you in from Mauritania, now."

    Steve sighed long-sufferingly. "It was a hard month, Sam."

    "And you were having issues before HYDRA popped up in SHIELD's clothing."

    Jill chuckled suddenly, and they both stared at her. "What? It's a good analogy." A sudden moan that turned into sentences in Russian erupted from the baby monitor at her elbow and caused the three of them to stare at it. Jill blinked in surprise. "I'm guessing that's not good?"

    Steve shook his head and moved to stand. "No, it's not."

    "Sit."

    "Huh?"

    "I'm enforcing patient rights, even for nightmares, and he didn't want you present for sessions. Sit. We'll go." She handed the baby monitor to him. "And I'll be turning the other end off for a couple minutes."

    Annoyed, Steve sat back down and watched Jill and Sam rush out of the kitchen.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    When they reached the bedroom in question, Fujo was peering in the open doorway and the light was on. She noticed them skidding to a halt, and shrugged. "Not sure if that's one language, or two different ones mixed together."

    Jill looked into the room and listened to the man tossing and turning for a minute. "Sam? Does that sound a little bit like Romanian to you? I don't speak it, but words here and there are familiar."

    Sam cocked his head, listened. "A bit. Shouldn't we be-" Jill pushed him into the room. "Hey!"

    "He knows you better and you're a man. You wake him. Gently," Jill told him as she followed him into the room at a distance. Sam went to the bedside and shook Bucky's right shoulder hard, ready to jump back with little warning.

    At the third shake of his shoulder, Bucky sat up with a gasp and Sam jumped back. Bucky stared at him, panting. "Gabe?"

    Sam shook his head. "No, Barnes. Jill?"

    "Careful," Jill said as she reached the other side and picked up the baby monitor's listening end. She turned it off with impudence. "James? Back with us yet?"

    "What the hell is that thing?"

    Jill set it back down on the nightstand and looked at him wryly. "It's a monitor. The other end is in the kitchen in Steve's hands. And is he Sam or Gabe?"

    "Sam."

    "Good." She moved slowly back toward the door, out of his immediate reach. "Will you tell us what the nightmare was about?"

    "Milk," Bucky said after a moment of silence. "Just... milk."

    Jill considered that with a small frown. "Milk?" Then she noticed that his eyes had glazed over. "Oh..."

    Bucky nodded, dazed. "Heard her coming. Her name was Renata. He killed her."

    Her frown deepened. "Where are you right now?"

    "Director's kitchen. He killed her. She came back for her cell phone. Saw me. He gave me orders: two targets, level six. Time limit ten hours," Bucky explained in a monotone as Jill glanced at Sam to find him staring at Bucky. "Tracked targets to causeway, to a bridge. Eliminated non-target. Targets became three. Mission failed. 'Who the hell is Bucky?'"

    Sam frowned. "And then what happened?"

    "Unknown. Mission reset." They watched as the blank expression turned to one of confusion. "The man on the bridge. Who was he? ...I knew him." This caused Sam to blink as they watched his face morph between expressions for a minute before... "But I knew him." and making that same grimace they'd seen in the kitchen. Then his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed back into sleep again.

    Jill carefully approached the bed and pulled the covers back over him. She stared down at his sleeping face, shaking her head ever so slightly. "Who was the eliminated non-target?"

    "A HYDRA SHIELD officer, named Stillwell," Sam answered. "And... I think I owe Steve an apology."

    "Oh?"

    "Yeah."

    Jill reached over and turned the monitor back on, then ushered Sam out of the room. She paused at the door, looked at Fujo. "If he has another one, wake him. Carefully."

    Fujo nodded.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Returning to the kitchen, Jill went straight for the note pad she'd left sitting on the table, sat down, and began writing notes on it while avoiding Steve's gaze...

    Dissociation
    Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complex Trauma
    Not Oriented to Person, Place, or Time following events
    Director and Milk
    Renata...........? Person killed by Director. Cell Phone retrieval, saw patient in kitchen? (will need clarification)
    "Who the hell is Bucky?" -from the patient himself, during dissociative episode, past event
    Mission Reset/Wipe/Conditioning -post events of very public causeway/bridge fight/attack in DC which resulted in Wilson, Rogers, Romanoff arrested on TV
    "The man on the bridge. Who was he?" "I knew him." "But I knew him." -associated grimace made, seen earlier in discussion with patient
    Non-Integrated Remembrances of Events, switching between two affected personalities (The Asset and The Patient? Soldat and The Asset and James Barnes?)
    Haepephobia/Anxiety response to contact hotspot

    Jill stared at the list, sighed, and set her pencil down, then massaged her temples to assuage her growing headache. "Sam, you had something to say. You should. In the middle of all this, it's a small victory."

    Steve turned to look at him as Sam leaned against the counter, arms folded across his chest. "Sam?"

    "You were right, back in DC. He remembered you."

    Steve paused. "I knew that already, Sam. Rumlow told us when Rebecca interrogated him while he was on Morphine."

    Jill snorted at that. "It's not funny, and remind me never to make her mad, ever. I just... wow. What we just watched... Sam, am I wrong, or did he make that same grimace earlier with us when he told me he wanted to be called by his nickname?"

    "You're not wrong," Sam told her, then frowned. "Headache?"

    "Long day. And if Arnim Zola weren't dead, I'd join Rebecca in dancing on his bones."

    "Peirce blew him up," Steve offered.

    Jill snorted in laughter again. "Steve!"

    "What? It's true." He leaned closer to get a better look at her notes, and frowned. "Non-integrated? What does that mean?"

    Jill flipped the note pad over and glared at him. "Patient confidentiality, Steve. I haven't actually evaluated him yet, and these are preliminary observations. I'm assuming there's non-integration, I don't actually know if there is or not."

    "Oh."

    "And right now, I want Vodka." A cup of coffee suddenly appeared in front of her, and Jill stared first at it, then at Sam. "Is this decaf?"

    "No."

    "Thank you. Have a question for you two: did he have nightmares last night?"

    Sam shook his head. "No. Mostly, he was dead tired and blank. Why?"

    "Psychological curiosity." She looked firmly at Steve. "You knew he was this unstable in his head and didn't call me or come and get me, while the medical team was defrosting him. Defrosting takes time. Time enough to use your head and plan ahead."

    "Jill, we didn't know if you'd be able to get away-" Steve stopped short at her glare as she took a sip of her coffee. "What?"

    "Excuses. And this is an emergency situation with a trauma survivor, of course I could have gotten away from my MSF team for this. I'm here right now, aren't I? You don't get to use the 'I had other things on my mind' excuse, Steve."

    Steve sighed and sat back in his chair, his posture almost melting into it. "In Bucharest, he was more closed off and spooked than I'd ever seen anyone before. Didn't want me there, trying to help him, and even said that GSG9 had a good strategy with the kill orders."

    "Can you blame him?" Jill took another sip of coffee, eyes missing nothing about how he'd deflated into the chair. "Seventy years in enemy hands, Steve. Two years free means nothing when everything comes crashing down again."

    Sam nodded. "It doesn't, no."

    "And you need to be prepared for setbacks. A lot of them."

    "I am," Steve answered immediately.

    Jill stared into her coffee cup, then looked at him again. "No, you're not. You think you are, but... this? You're really not. And you won't even do your own therapy without coaxing."

    "I... huh?"

    "Draw, and then we'll talk about what the drawings represent. Sort of a cross between Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Art Therapy, but you have to be a participant in it for it to do any good. That part is up to you."

    "Oh."

    "Like I sat at Rebecca's house in Brooklyn: a therapy tool. And you said yourself earlier that Dr. Erskine didn't have the chance to work with you on that aspect. What were you using to deal, before? Exercise and a punching bag?"

    Steve stared at her. "Yes. And I ended up in the USO instead."

    Silence descended between the three of them while Jill tapped a finger on her upside down note pad. Then she smiled. "Draw Dr. Erskine for me? The first time you saw him?"

    "Why?"

    "Why not? I'm curious, and it is a good place to start. Or continue, as the case may be..."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    In the lab, Jill found Khamisi and a tech doing tests on blood samples. "Ah, good. I was hoping you'd take my hint, there."

    Khamisi glanced at her. "I did the standard Chem20 and associated tests for Hypothermia, but it didn't occur to me to do one for sexually transmitted diseases. Why'd you think of it?"

    Jill shrugged. "Universal precautions. If a woman of childbearing age can't not get asked if there's the slimmest possibility that they might be pregnant, then a trauma victim needs to be tested for STD's. That, and I've spent a lot of time in third world countries."

    "Ah." He handed her the clipboard he'd been holding. "The first few tests we've been able to get results on, so far."

    Jill took the clipboard and studied the list of negatives, including... "Good. No slugs in his system."

    "Slugs?"

    "I know so many euphemisms for the same disease, having worked in Mauritania and now the Central African Republic..." She paused. "I know it's an odd question to ask, but can you email the other results, the Chem20 and the associated test results for Hypothermia to my laptop?"

    "Why?"

    "Would you believe I want to tell someone something without putting it in 5-cipher or sending a coded telegram?"

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    To: BaltimoreDinerLover
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: HasMinions, StonyERDuo,
    Subject: In need of a review...
    Attachment: AnnonymousLabWork

    Rob? Look these over for me, please? Thank you. You other two, ER child and nephew! Also look. Need feedback, don't care how we get it.

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: BaltimoreDinerLover
    CC: HasMinions, StonyERDuo
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    Those don't look that bad. Recommend bananas and other fruit, oatmeal... bland diet for the time being. Do labs again in a couple days and we'll see about considering something other than a bland diet.

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: StonyERDuo
    CC: HasMinions, BaltimoreDinerLover
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    That's what James thought, too. Where has this person been, that their numbers look like that, Mom? And... why are you doing all the tests for someone who has had hypothermia exposure?

    To: StonyERDuo
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: HasMinions, BaltimoreDinerLover
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    You're not far off... they're recovering from hypothermia. (Good job at test identification combination, Andi.) And thank you, Rob. Not so sure I'll be giving patient bananas, but yes to the bland diet.

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: StonyERDuo
    CC: HasMinions, BaltimoreDinerLover
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    Hypothermia... in central Africa? Now I've heard everything.

    To: StonyERDuo
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: HasMinions, BaltimoreDinerLover
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    You do realize there was snow in Egypt recently, yes? It's NOT that unheard of. Also... Limnic eruptions. Lake Nyos.

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: StonyERDuo
    CC: HasMinions, BaltimoreDinerLover
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    Thank you, Jill. Neither one of us needed that particular nightmare about volcanic lakes on or near the equator. -JP
    What he said. -Andi

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: FamilyTranscriptionist
    CC: BaltimoreDinerLover, StonyERDuo
    Subject: Re: In need of a review...

    She didn't tell me why, but after seeing this conversation, I think I understand why Aunt Becca started laughing so much she started crying... Really, Jill? Limnic eruptions and snow in Egypt?
    From Aunt Becca: "Thank you for allowing us to review your labs. Concur with Rob on the bland diet. Also suggest Jello and meatloaf."
    -Miriam (who is confused and would like an explanation for suggestion of Meatloaf now...)

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Jill looked up from where she was sitting in a comfy chair that Fujo had helped her abscond with from another room to place next to the door, and glanced at her sleeping patient thoughtfully. "Jello and Meatloaf?" At the sound of her voice, Bucky began to stir, and Jill closed her laptop. "Did I wake you? Sorry."

    He opened his eyes and stared at her as she set her computer down and picked up a piece of paper that Steve had drawn on. "Um..."

    "You seemed to sleep better with someone in here and the door open," Jill explained. "And good morning. Remember me from yesterday?"

    "A bit."

    "Is that the truth or are you telling me what I want to hear, James?"

    He sat up, then sighed. "Patient rights."

    "Glad to hear it."

    Bucky motioned to the paper in her hand. "What is that?"

    She smiled. "Oh, this? Art therapy. Steve drew Dr. Erskine for me. Nice looking older man, kind of reminds me of William Proctor. A little, anyway."

    Bucky paused at the familiarity of the name he couldn't quite place. "William?"

    Jill nodded slowly. "Rebecca's husband? I didn't know him very well or for very long, but he was nice."

    "I... don't-"

    "Stop, James. And I'll have Steve draw him for you later, since I know you met him before the war. It's okay, right now, that you don't remember him. That was a test, to see where your memory stops and starts." She stood up and brought the drawing over to him, set it on the bed next to him, then retreated to the chair again. "And do you see that white thing on the night stand?"

    Bucky turned and looked to find an innocent-appearing device with a small antenna. "What about it?"

    "That is a baby monitor. Usually used to monitor infants so the parents don't have to be in the same room while the baby is sleeping. The other end is in the kitchen." He turned to look at her, confusion clearly written on his face. "And while I do not condone monitoring anyone without their knowledge, this was necessary. Is necessary."

    "I'm not an infant."

    "No, but you are recovering from trauma. I just wanted you to know you are being monitored in this manner. It's off right now, because I'm here and Shuri is on guard in the hall. In fact... Shuri? Come in here and introduce yourself to the Sergeant." A woman stepped into the room and nodded to him. "James, this is Shuri, one of the Dora Milaje. She and her fellow guardswomen have agreed to be your guard in shifts."

    Shuri smiled at him. "Good morning, Sergeant." Bucky nodded in reply and she stepped into the hall again.

    Jill motioned to the drawing. "Take a look?"

    Bucky glanced down to find a drawing in a style he recognized, of an older man standing next to what had to be an MP, in front of an open curtain. He picked it up to get a better look, and blinked in recognition... "I saw this guy."

    "Oh?"

    "He was at the Expo recruiting station." He blinked again, shook he head. "Arguing with Steve, over trying to enlist? That... I... bathtub."

    "Bathtub?"

    Bucky nodded slowly. "William. Becca. Bathtub. What were they doing in a bathtub in uniform and a veil-"

    "Stop," Jill told him as she picked up her notepad and pencil and wrote more notes. "And we will find the answers to your questions. All right? One thing at a time, and memories sometimes have weird connections. A smell, a picture... a drawing."

    "I know that. I have twelve journals."

    Jill paused. "Twelve journals? Where are they?"

    "They were in my backpack that the taskforce took away. I want them back." He watched her frown and then stand up.

    She stopped in the doorway, looked back at him. "I'll send Sam in to help you get dressed, James."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    In the common room, Steve was helping Clint with a language lesson for the kids when Jill interrupted them. "There were journals."

    Steve looked at her in confusion. "Huh?"

    She sighed and looked at Clint. "James says he had therapy journals in his backpack that the taskforce relieved him of. How possible is it to get it back?"

    Clint smiled. "Unofficially or officially?"

    "Either."

    "Very."

    "Good." She glanced at Steve. "You're going to have to explain William and Rebecca's bathtub wedding, among other things."

    "How do you know about the bathtub wedding?"

    Jill rolled her eyes. "I've seen Rebecca's wedding album. How else?"


    Yesterday...


    The first psych exam of the day had gone all right, Jill reflected as she read over her case notes on her laptop screen and listened to idle banter while Steve made pancakes and bacon. Glancing at her still-one-armed patient as he talked with Sam and Clint, she smiled. If things stayed like this, they'd be doing Session Seven today. Maybe. It depended on how well he was on any given day... and other than the expected nightmares, he was fine today.

    She glanced at Steve again, noted that he only had one in the pan and none on the counter... "Where are the rest? You've made more than that by now."

    "Oven," he answered.

    "Oh."

    "You like bacon?"

    "Who doesn't?"

    This was actually the second breakfast shift, as Laura and the kids had eaten earlier and were now in one of the two common rooms with Wanda, holding their first lessons of the day. Today, it was martial arts with the Dora Milaje, which would be happening later, and math.

    Presently, Steve took a baking sheet out of the oven that was piled high with pancakes, and plated them onto plates set up on the counter. "Jill?"

    "One," she answered. "And I'll join you in a minute." She lost herself in the case notes briefly until a familiar but weirdly emotionless voice said: "The commander made Flapjacks." She swung around so fast she nearly fell off the stool, and peered at the four men sitting at the table. Three of them were staring at Bucky, who in turn was staring at the piece of pancake on his fork.

    Before any of them could respond, he spoke again, still without any inflection: "On mission. Wanted flapjacks. Got flapjacks. Sarah made better ones." He blinked, ate that piece, and blinked again. "Hospital room, faded away. Made me promise. She didn't have to make me promise. Would have, no matter what."

    Jill looked at Steve, who was staring at his own pancakes, a lost expression on his face. "What is he talking about?"

    "Ma. Tuberculosis. I didn't get to see her, before."

    "Oh." Slowly, she tried to take the plate away, but Bucky dropped the fork and pulled it back. "Right. Keep the plate."

    Bucky glared at her. "Commander Rumlow. Flapjacks. Only one that would. That did. They were awful. Worth it."

    Clint shook his head. "Something tells me this is a little more complicated than Brock Rumlow making pancakes for The Asset."

    Jill nodded. "He was on a restricted, mostly liquid diet."

    "That'd do it."

    Bucky's expression softened, and emotional inflections appeared in his voice that caused them all to startle at the difference. "Em tried, morning of the funeral. Didn't taste right. Close, but..."

    Steve nodded absently. "No, she didn't quite get them right. Left out the cinnamon."

    "Pассвет. Pассвет. Pozharnyy vykhod. Posle nochi, kotoraya izmenila vse. V odinochestve." Bucky blinked again, then groaned, and Jill placed a restraining hand on Steve's shoulder. "Fire escape. Alone. Not alone?"

    "Buck?" Steve said, trying to break the cycle. "We were together, that time, on the fire escape."

    "Alone," he repeated, then spit the word 'daybreak' again out in Russian. "Not alone!" Then he blinked again and his eyes cleared, and he looked at Steve. "You were there."

    "Yes," Steve answered, and then his jaw dropped open in shock when Bucky's eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out, right into the uneaten pancakes still on his plate.

    Sam deftly lifted Bucky's head and removed the plate and fork. Then he glanced at Jill, who was still standing next to Steve, with a hand on his shoulder and a frown on her face. "At least he had a cushion. And what was that?"

    "A trigger coming unraveled," she answered. "We've run into twisted memories with other triggers. And... fire escape, Steve?"

    "He followed me outside. We watched the sunrise."

    "Hmmm... finish your breakfast, then we'll get him to the couch in the common room."

    Steve turned and watched her go. "Aren't you going to eat?"

    "Later."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Laura looked up from leading Lila through a math problem to see Jill standing in the doorway. "Wanda? Take over for a minute?" Wanda nodded, and Laura joined Jill in the hallway. "What's up?"

    Jill glanced into the common room, then sighed. "We just had a trigger unravel."

    "Oh. Good? Bad?"

    "Pancakes. And somewhere in between." Jill shrugged. "And I know Natasha's due later on, and that you were planning on meeting them, but... could you take the kids to the waterfall instead for their lesson with the ladies?"

    Laura nodded. "Better not to have them here, making noise?"

    "Something like that. Though it's more about insulating them and protecting them, really. Just because they know about the PTSD, doesn't mean they have to or should see us dragging him to the couch because he passed out at breakfast."

    "Good point. And the more energy we can get them to get out with exercise, the better, anyway."

    Jill glanced into the common room again. "How's the math coming?"

    Laura smiled. "Not too bad, actually."

    "That's good."



    Translation from Russian

    "Pассвет. Pассвет. Pozharnyy vykhod. Posle nochi, kotoraya izmenila vse. V odinochestve.": Daybreak. Daybreak. Fire escape. After a night that changed everything. Alone.
     
  13. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Daena - Another intriguing, complicated chapter. You've clearly kept up far better than I with the continuity of the MCU. =D=

    (And wouldn't both Earth-616/Earth-Prime and the MCU benefit from more good psychotherapy for their respective heroes? Belated realization, I know ...)
     
  14. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I like this. And makes so much sense, even though I have a hard time following all the medical terminology. I mean, why wouldn't superheroes have PTSD? Or at least some episodes of depression or blaming themselves. They are almost guaranteed to have to deal with some form of psychological fallout, just because of the nature of what they do.
     
  15. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Onderon: They so would. (And I'm only up on it because I couldn't tear myself away from it and read a lot of meta...) Thank you. :)

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701: It's canon that both Steve and Tony have PTSD, and that Tony is text book PTSD in the MCU in part due to both Afghanistan and nearly dying during the Battle of New York, as well as the Ultron mess, so... yes. And thank you for confirming for me that I shouldn't go full medical terminology and that some is enough, but too much is overkill. [:D] Thank you!!!!!
     
  16. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: Was that enough exposition? Hope so. Back to the present! (Because, seriously: those boxes aren't going to unpack themselves...)


    Nathaniel's Bug


    Now...


    When Pepper awoke, it was to confusion as she stared at the ceiling, listening to the familiar click-clack of someone typing. For a moment or two, she wondered if Natasha really had picked her up in a Quinjet after midnight.

    Rolling toward the sound, frustrated that he'd brought a computer bed yet again... she stopped and stared at the sight of an unfamiliar, brown-haired woman typing on a laptop. She was about Miriam's age, or maybe a little younger, barefoot, wearing black leggings and an over-sized t-shirt that said 'SUNY-School of Optometry.' "You're not Tony. Who are you?"

    "Annoyed that I actually have to write a case file update where the trigger was pancakes," she muttered, more loathing and disgust in her voice than Pepper had ever heard anyone speak with before. "What was the moron doing, anyway, feeding someone on a liquid diet pancakes? Idiot. I don't care if he's dead, he's still an idiot."

    Pepper blinked in surprise at that and sat up. "Pancakes?"

    "Yes. Pancakes. He was a moron." She typed some more, then paused. "Wait. Did I remember to tell Martin to look up bland diets along with everything else I'm making him read?"

    "Huh?"

    Then the woman looked toward the door, blinked in confusion, and looked at her. "Oh. Thought you were Shuri coming to give me an update. She's on duty and has the baby monitor. Good morning and welcome to our crazy corner of the world, Miss Potts. Hopefully, today won't be as bad as yesterday's trigger unravel with pancakes."

    "Who are you?" Pepper wondered again. "And... baby monitor? Pancakes?"

    The woman chuckled and held out her hand, which Pepper shook awkwardly. "I'm Dr. Jillian Pentel. How are you?"

    "Fine, I think. What-"

    Jill motioned to the wall of art that Pepper had noticed when Natasha had led her in here. "I've been using this bedroom as a sort-of office. That is three weeks of Art Therapy for Steve. And after the madness yesterday, I needed a few minutes to myself, even if there was another sleeping person involved. Even if you glow in your sleep, you're not likely to dissociate and tell me about the Hungarian Uprising. And I'm choosing to blame Natasha."

    Pepper considered all the sketches mounted there. "That's a lot."

    "I wanted him to tell a story," Jill explained as she glanced at the boxes parked over by the door. "When he finally got the hang of it, I started confiscating sketchbooks. Go on and see to your hygiene needs, all right? Then I'll give you the run-down and we'll discuss whatever is in those."

    "You mentioned a baby monitor. For what?"

    Jill paused, studying her with her eyes. "What did Natasha tell you, about what's going on here?"

    "Mostly she told me about the Helicarrier and ops she's run behind the scenes since May by herself."

    "Ah. Sergeant Barnes is awake... not much loving life at the moment, but it's therapy. He's not supposed to love it. As for the baby monitor... originally, it was for Nathaniel, now it's to monitor James due to nightmares. I'm not kidding about the dissociation and telling me about some seemingly-random historical thing in very different circumstances that makes no sense until I look up the details."

    "Oh."

    Jill sighed. "And Steve's not on nightmare duty, in part because he also has nightmares on occasion. I'm on it, and I wanted to get plastered after the first one." She shook her head at Pepper's questioning expression. "I learned a lot. It was just traumatic to watch and listen to."

    "Are you usually this honest with patients?"

    Jill smiled at her. "Not usually, and you're not my patient. I heard what you said about Mike, paperwork, and dual citizenship for James. If I can't be honest with you, given that Mike trusts you, then who can I be honest with? Also, I apologize right now for sign language subterfuge."

    Pepper stared. "So you're who Natasha was looking at... and wait. That was yesterday?"

    "You slept for eighteen hours."

    Pepper nodded. "I didn't realize how exhausted I was."

    Jill smiled again. "Take better care of yourself, please. Oh, and you won't be seeing Natasha today. We sent her on an errand to Berlin."

    "What? Why?"

    "Clint told her she needed to covertly steal a backpack, back from the JCTF. No, that's not a joke. We really do need her to steal a backpack."

    Pepper mulled that over for a minute as she stood up and stretched. "Right. Where's the bathroom?"

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    To: EngineerStudent
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: HeadMinion, SpunkyNurse, StonyERDuo
    Subject: More reading for you...

    If we didn't add it, Martin: Bland diets. I know that seems unrelated, but things keep coming up.

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: EngineerStudent
    CC: GrandmaNurse, HeadMinion, StonyERDuo
    Subject: Re: More reading for you...

    I can't wait until you actually explain why you keep adding things, Mom. And yes. You did.

    To: PsychologyMom
    From: StonyERDuo
    CC: GrandmaNurse, HeadMinion, EngineerStudent
    Subject: Re: More reading for you...

    ...and that's the second mention of bland diets, this time in relation to Martin's extra curricular project that he hadn't yet stopped complaining about. Seriously? First the wacky telegram about a Turkey born in March (Miriam loved that, by the way), and now this? Mom!

    To: StonyERDuo
    From: PsychologyMom
    CC: EngineerStudent, HeadMinion, SpunkyNurse
    Subject: Re: More reading for you...

    What can I say? I like to cover all the bases, Andi. It'll be a well-rounded discussion!
    Martin! Stop complaining and read!

    To: StonyERDuo
    From: EngineerStudent
    CC: NurseGrandma, HeadMinion, PsychologyMom
    Subject: Re: More reading for you...

    A telegram about a turkey? Right. I'll add that to the list of details that make no sense. I wasn't even aware that Western Union was still in the telegram business... didn't they stop that in 2006 or something?
    Mom, I've been doing the reading. It's just that there's a lot to wade through. And I can complain if I want!

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    When Pepper returned from the bathroom, having changed out of the borrowed sweats and t-shirt (which was oddly college-themed... Farmingdale?) and into her own clothes, she found Jill smirking at her laptop computer screen. "Something funny?"

    Jill nodded. "I did tell Martin to read up on bland diets, and Andi is annoyed about the telegram I sent through her to Rebecca and Miriam, and now this. And Martin's not sure what to make of it all. Still wondering if I should send another, saying the March Turkey has been defrosted, or if making Rebecca laugh so hard she couldn't type is enough. Am starting to wonder what Andi and Martin are doing up this early in the States..." She glanced up at Pepper, who was staring at her with an odd expression. "What?"

    "The March turkey?"

    "Oh, that? I couldn't put what I wanted to say in an email, because I have no idea how far the monitoring actually goes and if it's being watched or not, so I sent a coded telegram, and referred to James as a Turkey born in March." She shrugged. "Obviously, they got it, seeing as Miriam apparently found the description hilarious."

    "How do you-"

    Jill blinked, and held up a hand to forestall the question. "Were you at the party?"

    "I... yes."

    "Then you probably met Kristy and Rob, right?"

    Pepper frowned, thinking back to the party. "Rob... doctor? About forty-five or fifty? Married to Rebecca's granddaughter Kristy?"

    "That's the one. He's my brother."

    "Oh... so you're the one who wanted comedy routines in the Central African Republic."

    "Not entirely. Steve somehow managed to miss Bill Cosby while getting caught up... and if you heard about even part of the message, Andi's in so much trouble."

    "Why?"

    "Because she had that telegram for three weeks and didn't drive in from Stony Brook." Pepper looked at her funny, and Jill sighed. "But I guess it doesn't matter now, and I get to send a new one." She closed her laptop, set it on the nightstand, and stood up to stretch, looking at her wrist watch as she did so. "Now, then. It's a little after 0730 hours, and since no one has yet come in here to tell me about a psychology crisis, and we do have those, I'm going to work on the assumption that this is a good day and not a bad one until proven otherwise. So... first rule: no touching James at all unless you can't get his attention. And definitely not right here." She showed Pepper on her right forearm. "Cooper did that and the kids got an hour of undivided, dissociated attention and Chinese Checkers."

    Pepper winced. "I remember Tony, right after the Battle of New York. He'd startle like nothing else."

    Jill nodded. "So you're no stranger to PTSD and Anxiety."

    "No."

    "Good. Second rule: if he has an episode, and they are hard to miss, you listen and watch, and interact with him if the situation warrants it. If he comes out of it, great, if not... wait. That first nightmare I mentioned? Sam woke him up, he spoke directly to us, and then he dissociated when I asked what the nightmare was. And then he passed right back out into sleep like nothing happened and didn't remember it the next day."

    Pepper nodded. "Makes sense, why you wanted something alcoholic."

    "I settled for coffee. Third rule: act normal and be aware. He's not a bomb, but he does have triggers. Yesterday, he was fine, and then Steve made pancakes just like his mother used to make, right down to the cinnamon." Jill frowned for a moment. "Which might be why he was able to unravel the trigger by himself. Something that touched on a sense memory that started a cascade. I've started to wonder, over the past several days, what his baseline was before Berlin. A person can't stay hidden that well if they're acting out all the time."

    Pepper blinked and turned to look for her bag. Seeing it on top of the boxes, she rushed over and got her StarkPad out of it, and turned it on. "I showed this to Rebecca several days ago and she was so furious she couldn't speak English for a couple minutes. Which file... ah. That one." She handed the pad to Jill, who looked at the picture of her patient in the containment cage with a frown. "Tony said that the restraints for his left arm were electrified."

    Jill studied the picture with a deepening frown. "That explains a few things. And now I have to add things to Martin's reading list, again. He's going to be thrilled to read about ECT... and I have something to discuss with Khamisi. No wonder he's been so off the map, considering he could have had seizures from being shocked like that."

    "Who is Khamisi?"

    "Oh him? Nice Wakandan doctor on the medical team, doesn't mind if I'm his partner in deprogramming." Jill motioned to the boxes. "Now... one more thing, before we get to those. I did not give Steve that report from Oymyakon, because I have to have patient consent to do so. I have to have it, but you do not. If you want to tell him, and someone should, then do so. Just, if you also tell James at the same time, be very careful. We dealt with the mentioned trigger during the first session I was here for, without realizing the significance of it or the memory of a Siberian Husky trying to bite a Russian Colonel."

    Pepper smiled. "Really?"

    "Really. He remembers it, but then he also keeps calling Lila by his sister's name and forgetting he did that, so... I don't know if he actively does or not."

    "Be aware of triggers and be careful?" Pepper asked after a moment of silence.

    "Exactly."

    "So it would be a bad idea to mention Tony?"

    Jill thought about that, then shook her head. "Probably better if you do, since you are going to have to explain who you are. How is he, by the way?"

    "In therapy. Making progress."

    "Oh? Glad to hear it, especially since he's the reason my patient got re-disabled." Jill frowned when Pepper reached into her bag again, looking for something, and pulled out a flash drive, then handed it to her. "What's this?"

    "I walked in on Tony discussing the part of the prosthetic that he's got with a doctor and a mechanic from Oymyakon. He wanted me to give that to His Highness, but since you're on the medical team, I'm giving it to you."

    Jill stared at her, then down at the flashdrive in her hand, then at the StarkPad in her other hand. "Oh."

    "And," Pepper said as she carried the top box over to the bed and set it down, lifted the lid, and rooted around in it for a minute, then grinned and pulled out a thick binder. "You will want this, too."

    Jill set the flashdrive and the StarkPad down on the nightstand on top of her laptop and carefully took the binder from Pepper. "Is this..." She opened it and her eyes widened. Turning pages, her jaw dropped open in shock. "No way. Where-"

    "Tony," Pepper told her. "Went back out to Siberia after arriving home a week after the fact, and found their file room. He and Rebecca had an... altercation, and he gave the information to her. Rebecca put it all together in order, and made copies. Tony has one that he has to read through for the sake of perspective, and Legal has another."

    Jill shook her head, tears welling up in her eyes, and closed the binder. Hugging it to her chest, she looked up at Pepper. "Thank you. And... do you have video of the interrogation that wasn't? On your StarkPad?"

    Pepper nodded. "Via Tony's sunglasses, actually."

    "You've made my year."

    Pepper smiled, turned back to the box, and found a bag with Jill's name on it. Frowning, she pulled it out and looked at Jill again. "Did you tell Rebecca you were here? Because there's one in here for you, personally."

    "Sort of." Not letting go of the binder, she took the bag from her, and opened it to find a card, and... "Oh, they didn't." She pulled out a disk in a jewel case, labeled 'Wild America,' and 'Ronald Reagan Funeral June 2004.' "They did." One by one, she pulled disks out and laughed. "Only Kristy would send me Last of the Dogmen, Leonard Part Six, three Cosby albums, the World War Two Memorial Dedication, Bill Engvall's Here's Your Sign, a Foxworthy album, Christmas music Parodies, and what appears to be a greatest hits selection from the Walmart Bargain bin. And..." She held up another for Pepper to see. "Proof Miriam had no final say in this."

    Pepper took the Silly Songs with Larry DVD from her, frowning. "Miriam doesn't like VeggieTales?"

    "No, and every time Rebecca finds and wears her Bob and Larry scrub top, Miriam threatens to turn it into potholders." Jill pulled a small black mini-binder out of the paper bag, and zipped it open. "Oh. Olympics to watch. Good call."

    Pepper laughed. "Well, they would make very cute potholders. Which Olympics?"

    "Some of Atlanta, Nagano, Salt Lake, and Athens. Is everything else in there this silly?"

    "Not quite," Pepper said as she lifted the POW care package approximation out and showed it to her. "Along with several photo albums, they figured it was better late than never."

    Jill smiled. "I'm in agreement on that. What's in the other two?"

    "The second one has some things from Steve's apartment at the Tower, and the bottom one is toys."

    "Toys?"

    Pepper nodded. "The letter that came with that one, from Hope Van Dyne in San Francisco, said that Rebecca got in touch-" Jill laughed suddenly, and Pepper frowned at her. "What?"

    "Subterfuge, and it's the other way around. Steve gave Rebecca's contact information to Scott Lang when Hank Pym came to collect him quietly. I was here for that, and Mr. Pym reminded me of my father when Rob would act out and miss curfew." Jill put all the disks she'd pulled out of the bag, back into it and set the binder on the nightstand along with the bag, next to her laptop. Then she stood up, went over to move the boxes, and opened the bottom one. "Good on Scott and Hope."

    "Dada!" a young voice yelled, startling them both as Nathaniel tottered into the room and stood there for a moment staring at Pepper, wearing nothing but a diaper. "Dada?"

    Jill laughed and scooped him up into her arms. "Wrong room, kiddo! Dada's not in here, but Pepper is!"

    "Bug?" Nathaniel asked her hopefully.

    Jill smiled at him. "No, no bugs either."

    "Bug!"

    Pepper moved closer, and he reached out and grabbed a strand of her long, loose hair. She smiled, and untangled his hand from it. "I've only ever seen pictures that Clint sent to Tony. Hello, Nathaniel!"

    "Aba!" he said to her. "Bug?"

    Jill frowned. "He keeps asking that."

    "Hazel, is Amos being fussy again?"

    Jill turned at the familiar voice to find Bucky standing in the doorway, wearing a sweat shirt and green pajama pants with monkeys on them, eyes glazed over with the tell-tale signs of not being present in the moment. Sam was standing behind him in the corridor, and he shrugged at her, mouthed 'bathroom.' She fought to hold down a chuckle. "Sort of. Seems to want a bug."

    "Bug!" Nathaniel said again, and tried to squirm out of her arms. "Bug!"

    Jill looked down at Nathaniel, then at her patient. "Oh! Come in and sit down, James? He wants you!"

    "Is that wise?" Sam asked.

    Jill ignored him as Bucky moved to sit in the comfy chair she'd been seated in earlier, then looked at her expectantly. "You want him?"

    "Of course I want to hold him, Hazel."

    "Bug!" Nathaniel yelled again, and Jill placed him carefully on Bucky's lap. Nathaniel turned to look at him, then reached up and touched his stubbly cheek. "Bug-Bug!"

    Pepper frowned at what he was wearing, and leaned closer to Jill as she stood up. "It's not that cold in here. Why...?"

    "Cold sensitivity," Jill told her, not taking her attention off of him and Nathaniel. "And Sam? This is probably the wisest thing we could do."

    Bucky smiled and caught Nathaniel's hand before he went for his hair. "None of that, Amos. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral..." They watched as he started to sing the seemingly nonsensical song, and Nathaniel tried to follow it.

    "Have you seen," Laura asked Sam from the hallway, before she looked in and blinked. "Oh. Never mind."

    "We'll give him back, Laura," Jill called over her shoulder. "Where's Steve?"

    Laura stepped back and looked down the hallway just in time to see Steve exit the bathroom in a bathrobe, hair wet and messy. "Steve? Come here." He frowned at her, and she motioned with her hand. "You'll love this. Come here."

    Steve joined them at the door and looked in, listened. "Ma used to sing that to me when I was sick. What's...?"

    "Nathaniel has a new favorite person," Jill told him, still watching Bucky closely. "Thinks he's a Bug."

    "Bug!" Nathaniel agreed, and resumed trying to follow the song. "Too?"

    "Yes," Bucky told him. "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-rai..."

    "What started this?" Steve wondered.

    "I have a better question," Sam muttered. "Who is Amos?"

    Steve blinked in surprise. "Bucky's oldest nephew. He was three years old when Buck left for England."

    Pepper turned and looked at Steve. "So this is a flashback to 1941 or so?"

    Steve nodded. "Thereabouts. Want me to try and get him back to now?" Then he noticed the open box on the bed. "Pepper, put that stuff away. He's going to be confused enough as it is."

    Pepper nodded and re-packed what she'd taken out of the box back into it, and set the box against the wall next to the other two. Then she stood up. "It's good to see you, Steve. Also..." She bopped him on the arm as he entered the room, and he stared at her in surprise. "Thank you for that letter."

    Steve chuckled. "You're welcome. How is he?"

    "All things considered? Improving." She turned and studied the man with the one-year-old on his lap, singing in rounds with a smile on his face. "And this isn't what I thought I'd find. Jill told me about some of it, but this..."

    "Jill?" Steve prompted.

    "We wait," Jill said clearly. Soon enough, it was Bucky who fell asleep and Nathaniel who was left playing with his hair. "Well, kiddo? Want to go have breakfast with Momma?"

    "Bug," Nathaniel said again. "My Bug!"

    "Your Bug is tired, sweetie," Laura told him gently as she moved to their side and held out her hands. "Come on. Let's go eat, hmmm?"

    Nathaniel looked at her, then at Bucky. "Bug!" Then he launched himself into Laura's waiting arms. "Mama!" Laura caught him, nodded to Jill, and left the room.

    Jill finally allowed herself to break her own concentration, sat down on the bed, and pulled her laptop off the nightstand. "Were you really headed for the bathroom, Sam?"

    Sam nodded. "He was." Then he frowned at Pepper. "How are you this morning?"

    Pepper smiled at him. "Not nearly as tired as I was yesterday."

    "One would hope not," Jill said with a chuckle as she opened the laptop computer back up, opened the correct case file, and started typing. "I think Nathaniel got Bug from you, Steve."

    "From me?"

    "Sounds like Buck, yes?"

    Now Steve laughed. "Yes it does!"

    "Too loud," Bucky mumbled. Then he opened his eyes, stared at all of them, blinked, and looked directly at Jill. "I-"

    "Flashback," Jill told him without looking up. "And Nathaniel loved your hair."

    "Oh. I got to hold Nathaniel?"

    "You did. And he thinks your name is Bug. So if you hear him shout Bug! at the top of his lungs, he's talking to you." She sighed at her laptop. "What do you remember last?"

    Bucky frowned at her. "Before now?"

    "Yes. Before now."

    "Getting out of bed, to go to the bathroom."

    "And then...?" She glanced at him, noted his blank stare. "James?"

    Bucky blinked several times, shook his head, and opened his mouth, then paused. "I... I... I... can't. I..."

    Jill glanced at Steve, then looked at Bucky again. "Can't? As in can't because he's in here, or actually can't say?"

    Bucky winced, shook his head again. "Can't! Can't!"

    Quickly, she set the laptop back on the nightstand, got down in front of him, and took hold of his hand. "Look at me. Focus on me."

    "Can't!" Bucky said, but looked right at her. "I..."

    "Take a deep breath, James. Okay? In and out." She took a deep breath herself, and let it out in demonstration, and he joined her, pain clearly in his eyes. "Steve? Over here, please. Pepper, join us. Now. In and out, James. That's it."

    "What was that?" Pepper asked, sitting down on the bed close to them, and Steve knelt on their other side.

    "Focus on my hand, James. My hand on yours. Better?" At his nod, she turned her gaze to Pepper. "That is one reason that Steve's an idiot. He actually can't say he remembers Amos right now."

    "Can," Bucky muttered, and winced again.

    "Sam, go get some O.D. 2mg Klonopin from Khamisi," Jill instructed. "Tell him that we hit a conditioned response. He'll know what that means."

    "How about I bring him in here? With a vitals kit?" Sam asked.

    "Or you could do that." She watched him leave, then looked at Steve, who was looking at her funny. "We'll discuss it later."

    "Yeah. Buck?"

    "Ow," Bucky moaned. "Don't want the meds."

    Jill sighed. "And I'd rather you didn't have a seizure. The day has been too good for that, and we've got photo albums for you." Now she winced at how tightly he squeezed her hand. "James?"

    "Emma," he said with a gasp. "Liked cameras."

    Steve nodded. "She did."

    "Want this to stop," Bucky muttered. "I..."

    Jill squeezed his hand back. "What's better here? Not being able to remember because there's a mental block, or breaking the block? Because I'm all for breaking the block so it can't be used against you again."

    "Breaking it," he admitted.

    "Hmmm... Pepper? Drawer of the nightstand." She watched as Pepper opened the drawer and pulled the envelope stashed there out in confusion. "We are going to discuss that right now, and rejoice in protective Siberian Huskies and acts of protesting Soviet oppression."

    Bucky raised his head to stare at her. "Huh?"

    Jill smiled. "Seems you took a very long, summer time walk to Oymyakon in June of 1984. Only thing you remember about it is the dog who tried to bite your superior, one Colonel Karpov."

    "Oh."

    "He's dead," Pepper told him gently. "According to Tony, he died in May, in Cleveland, Ohio. Found near him were HYDRA files."

    Bucky winced, and frowned at her. "Who are you?"

    Steve grinned. "Buck, this is Pepper. She's... what is it right now, Pepper? Girlfriend? Fiance?" Jill reached over with her free hand and bopped him on the arm. "Jill!"

    "You're worried about their couple status at a time like this?"

    Pepper snorted in laughter. "He was so worried, he wrote me a letter. And it's a work in progress, Steve. Not unlike Tony himself." At Bucky's pained and confused expression, she shook her head. "I'll explain later. Right now... how's your head?"

    Bucky winced again. "Still hurts. Still unclear..." He gasped and focused again on Jill's hand in his. "What. Is. This?"

    "According to Mykola, you were fighting with yourself not to remember anything at various points during the five hours you were in his care... which must have been why you ended up being comforted by Bliss," Jill explained. "That was the dog's name, by the way."

    "Doesn't explain," Bucky started to say, and winced again.

    "Yes it does." Jill gestured for the envelope with her free hand and Pepper gave it to her, and she handed it to Steve. "And just this once, I'm including you in a deprogramming session, which this is, now, officially. Read. Where is Khamisi?" Then Bucky squeezed her hand again with a gasp, and her attention was taken again. "Focus, James. Our Hands. Breathe."

    "Don't wanna do this," he whined as Steve read the report in silence. "Want to. Be. Frozen."

    "And I'd still like a pizza from Brewer," Jill told him. His gaze flashed up to her face, and she frowned at him. "There is no magic bullet to undo what was done, James. A piece at a time, one thing at a time... sometimes with a side of Doctor In Siberia Doesn't Want to Go Quietly Into That Good Night Like He Was Ordered To."

    "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," Pepper articulated kindly, and Bucky glanced at her again in pained confusion. "It's a poem. Dylan Thomas."

    "You're talking about the conditioning," Steve said suddenly. "And so was this doctor, whomever he is."

    Jill turned and looked at him funny. "What part of everything went over your head? The part where you had to break his conditioning and he broke your face, or the part where Rebecca called me in long distance for a consult because this is that complicated and she knew it?" She winced at the increased pressure on her hand. "Going to want to use my hand later, James."

    "I... I..."

    "Breathe. Focus." He did, and his grip lessened. She glanced over her shoulder at the door, just in time to see Khamisi skid into the room, vitals kit under one arm, and a box in the other, and Sam behind him. "What took you so long?"

    "Had to find orally disintegrating Klonopin," Khamisi told her. "How are you, Sergeant, on a scale of one to ten?" Bucky raised his head to glare at him, and Khamisi chuckled. "Right. Can I take your vitals?"

    "Pain. Bad."

    "Move, Captain," Khamisi requested, and Steve moved to sit on the bed next to Pepper, while he set the vitals kit on the floor and took a good look at Bucky. Then he pulled the ear thermometer out and started taking vitals. "Slightly elevated at ninety-nine... Jill, stretch out his arm and rotate slightly? Thank you." Then he strapped the blood pressure cuff on after rolling the loose sleeve up to his bicep... "160 over 100, where your normal is 110 over 60."

    "And his eyes have been dilated like that since this started," Jill told him. "And all I did was ask what he remembered before the flashback. Did Sam tell you about that?"

    "Mentioned it, yes. And good for Nathaniel."

    "Want to remember," Bucky muttered, staring at his hand grasping onto Jill's, and then groaned.

    Khamisi stared at him for a moment longer, then reached down and picked a small box out of the case he'd brought and showed it to her. "This might be better than the Klonopin."

    "Don't want it," Bucky told him vehemently.

    Jill frowned at the box. "Actually, you're right. And now I want a hair drug test, but one thing at a time. James? This is Ativan. It was one of the things in the vault that Steve and Rebecca found, so I know it works on you."

    "Don't. I... I..."

    She focused onto him again, and her eyes softened. "It'll make you feel better, calm you down so we can talk and not risk an active seizure. That'd be bad, all right? Please?" He stared at her for a minute before nodding his assent and wincing again. "Can Khamisi put it on your tongue?"

    "Jill, this is an injectable," Khamisi told her. "And you know better than that."

    She blinked, glanced at him. "Injectable... actually, that's better. James, I know you're not going to like it, but the mechanism of action is faster, and the method is safer. Can he?"

    "Just. Get. It. Over. With," Bucky ground out slowly, his breath coming in gasps. A pull on his skin on his lower arm after the blood pressure cuff was inflated quickly again, and he opened his eyes to find Khamisi injecting the vein in his elbow. "Why doesn't that hurt?"

    Khamisi deflated the cuff again, finished the injection, pulled the needle out and handed it to Jill, and secured a cotton ball to the injection site with a piece of paper tape. "Pressure points, Sergeant. And give it a minute or two. IV is faster than IM."

    "Thank you, Doctor," Jill said as she handed the hypodermic needle and syringe to him. Then she noticed Bucky's eyes following the syringe. "James?"

    "Insulin," he muttered, and Steve blinked, startled. "Looks different."

    Khamisi frowned at the hypodermic syringe in his hand. "Insulin?"

    "Ma was diabetic," Steve explained, emotion in his voice, and Pepper put her arm around his shoulders. "And he's right. Syringes used to look different. I'm all right, Pepper, I..."

    "No, you're not," Pepper told him. "If I'm not fine, then neither are you. And this is hard. It's okay to not be okay right now."

    Jill watched as Bucky's breathing normalized and the lines around his eyes became less severe, then glanced back at Steve. "That was part of his flashbacks yesterday morning, wasn't it? Your mother, the hospital room, and the fire escape with you."

    Steve nodded. "And Rumlow."

    "I'm right here," Bucky complained. "Don't talk about me as if I'm not!"

    Jill squeezed his hand to get his attention. "We're not, James. I'm trying to figure out where the block is. You can't say something, and you want to say it, and you were, are getting a migraine just trying to say it. Clear?"

    "Yes," he said after a moment. Then he frowned. "Rumlow? What about him?"

    Jill sighed. "Okay... do you remember yesterday morning? Steve made pancakes." Bucky winced, nodded. "Do you remember snoozing on the couch yesterday, or dinner?"

    "I... yes."

    "What was dinner?"

    Bucky frowned at her for a minute, then looked at Steve. "Was dinner meatloaf? Ma made meatloaf... a lot."

    Steve nodded. "Yes, dinner was meatloaf."

    Jill paused, then chuckled. "I should have just asked you! Meatloaf! That explains why Rebecca would suggest it to me for a patient with a bland diet, if she knew whose labs she was looking at. It was after Andi gave her the telegram!" They stared at her. "What? That's been bugging me for two weeks."

    "My sister suggested meatloaf and jello?" Bucky wondered.

    "She did. Over email, through her niece because she was laughing so much she couldn't type at my antics with Andi and your grandnephew, her grandson, James. Know what email is?"

    Bucky shook his head. "Only ever used a cell phone to text, haven't seen once since DC." His gaze fell to their hands. "Jill?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "You're touching me. You've... not, before."

    She nodded. "Because you are still a trauma victim, we're of the opposite sex, and until now... there wasn't a need. Right now there's a need. Would you like me to let go?"

    "No."

    She smiled when he raised his head to look at her. "Then I'm not going to. And... wait. They had you using a cell phone? How so and for what?"

    Bucky took a deep breath, glanced at Steve, winced, and focused on their hands again. "Director told me to stop them, at any cost. I... I..." He shook his head, took another deep breath, and let it out. "Quinjet engine."

    "What about a Quinjet engine?" At his silence, she glanced back at Steve. "Do you know what he's talking about?"

    "Deck crew, pilots at the Triskellion," Steve answered. "Maria Hill pieced it together later, that Sam and I had backup, but said backup got ambushed."

    "Oh." Jill refocused on Bucky, at how he was staring at their hands. "Look at me, please."

    "No."

    "Look. At. Me. That isn't a request, James." Slowly, he raised his head and glared at her. "Are you just remembering the pilots and the deck crew now, or did you before?"

    "Now."

    "Right. I'm going to tell you what they would, if they were here: none of it is your fault. You had no choice and no say in the matter. Do you understand that?"

    "I still did it."

    She nodded. "You're right. It still happened. The past is the past. You either learn from it, or you run from it. And... really, how many clichés do you want me to pile on? It comes down to the same thing: there were no choices, save for the ones that Secretary Pierce made. Those deaths? They are on him, and no one else."

    "But-"

    "Right, Steve? Pepper? Khamisi? Sam?"

    Bucky looked up to find nothing but compassionate acceptance in every face. "Stark blamed me."

    Pepper rolled her eyes. "Tony is a different matter, and he's got his own issues. Also... that video was bad. Very bad." At his frown, she nodded to Steve with her head. "Steve wrote me a letter, and I watched the Iron Man suit's A/V log from Siberia. I almost brought Tony up on charges in front of a judge for it, too."

    "What? Why?" Bucky winced at her mild glare. "It's not like he wasn't right. I-"

    "James?" Pepper interrupted. "Do you remember anything about that 1991 mission? Other than Howard and Maria, I mean."

    "Huh? What else is there?"

    Pepper smiled. "You don't? All right. Allow me to fix that, hmm?" She released Steve from her hold and moved to go open one of the boxes, rooted around until she came out with a back, looked through that for a moment until she found a yellow envelope, and then sat next to Steve again on the bed. "I'm going to open this one for you, because... well... let's just say that Tony and I suspect something and it relates to that night." She opened the envelope and pulled the card out of it, to show him the card with a tabby cat laying on it's back.

    Bucky stared at the card. "Feline Fine? I don't understand. What's-"

    "You see... Tony had a cat. His name was Alecto, and he looked a bit like this, only not nearly as fluffy." Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed her StarkPad's screen was on, showing a picture of herself with Alecto, and smiled as she handed the card to Steve as she picked up the tablet to show to him. "And Friday wants to help. Thank you, Friday. Different picture, though, please. A close up, and younger?" Another one took the place of that one, and Bucky stared at the picture of Maria Stark holding a kitten. "You see, the story of this cat was that Tony found it in a pet carrier next to his bed, the morning after the accident."

    "Tony doesn't have a cat," Steve started to say, and Pepper shook her head.

    "Not now, no. He died in '06." She watched as Bucky stared hard at the screen, tears in his eyes, and then he began to rock back and forth, mumbling in Romanian. "Oh. That's not good."

    "No, it is," Jill said. "Hug him, Khamisi."

    "What?"

    "Hug. Him." Khamisi did as he was told, and Jill winced as Bucky again gripped her hand tightly. "Steve? What's he saying?"

    "Something about not being dormant. He's saying it really fast."

    Bucky still rocking back and forth, caused them all to startle when he started mumbling in a completely different, harsher sounding language... "Subjath 'e' ylmev! Tlhab ’oS ’Iw; HoHwI’ So’ batlh. BIQ'a'Daq 'oHtaH 'etlh'e.' cha'maH cha' joQDu', may' bom pIm bom, naH jajmey, 'IwwIj jeD law' 'IwlIj jeD puS!"

    They stared at him while he repeated the same words several times over five minutes, and then he stopped rocking back and forth and fell still. He stared at their hands for another moment. "I... couldn't keep it. Didn't even know why I wanted to keep it, just that I suddenly knew what kind of kitten it was, but not how I knew. No witnesses."

    Jill glanced at Pepper, then refocused on him again. "What language was that?"

    Bucky blinked. "Huh?"

    "You switched from Romanian to something else that wasn't Russian. Do you know what it was?"

    The StarkPad in Pepper's hand pinged to get her attention, and Pepper looked down at it to find a translation from Friday. She stared at it for a moment, eyes wide. "Jill, you might want to save that question for a later time."

    "Why?" Jill looked at her, and Pepper turned the screen so she could read it, and her eyes widened. "Oh. You're right. Not right now. So many questions, though."

    Steve took the tablet out of Pepper's hands and read it, then looked at Sam. "What's Klingnon?"

    Sam stared at him. "Steve, how do you not know what a Klingnon is? Barnes, I understand, but you? You've been out of the ice since 2012!"

    "I'm hungry," Bucky said suddenly, distracting them. "And... Sam, did I get distracted on my way to the bathroom?"

    Sam nodded, still staring at Steve. "You did." Then he frowned at Bucky, who was looking back at him over Jill's shoulder. "Want to go now?"

    "Yes."

    Jill let go of his hand and stood up, wincing as she did so and shaking out her hand. "Okay. You'll feel a bit off until the Ativan fully metabolizes, so go to the bathroom, and then join us in the kitchen for breakfast." She stepped aside while Khamisi unstrapped the blood pressure cuff, watched Bucky get out of the chair and leave the room with Sam following after him. Then she looked at Steve. "And you. How did you manage not to watch any Star Trek?"

    "There's a difference between that and Star Wars?"

    Khamisi chuckled while Pepper turned to stare at him, and Jill put her hands on her hips incredulously. "Oh, Captain. So, so much to learn. And be careful who you say that to, even here in Wakanda." He plucked the report off the bed from beside Steve and read it for a minute or so, then nodded and handed it to Jill. "We'll be having a long talk later."

    "Yes," Jill said as she continued to stare at Steve. "We will. And also maybe have a chuckle or three that some HYDRA operative was a Trekkie and bored enough to teach Klingnon to James. Can you imagine when that skill would come in useful? At all?"

    Pepper nodded. "Comic Cons." She paused. "Which is a terrifying thought, come to think of it. Hilarious, but terrifying. And really, Steve. Star Wars but not Star Trek?"

    "I was going to get around to it. Eventually."

    Jill smirked at him. "Eventually is today, and we get the BBC here, because his highness loves it, so... TNG for you."

    "Huh? TNG?" Then he remembered the cat card that was still in his hand, and opened it to look inside: Barnes, you've got some explaining to do, even if I think it's crazy. Wake up! -Stark Steve frowned at that.

    Khamisi chuckled again. "So, so much to learn, Captain. So, so much."

    "And Tony, apparently, thinks the cat story is crazy. Even if it actually isn't."

    Pepper took it from him and looked. "Oh. I told him to sign it, but didn't he didn't show it to me afterward."

    "That reminds me... exactly how many letters did you write, Steve?" Jill asked, arms folded across her chest. "Natasha told me about one of them, and then there's this one that you wrote to Miss Potts. Was there another?"

    "Becca." Steve looked at her, to find Jill glaring at him. "What? I couldn't not tell her anything!"

    "You're an even bigger idiot. Also banned from writing any more letters to anyone, you grand imbécile! Vous ne déclenchez pas une vieille personne qui était déjà fou comme l'enfer!"

    Steve winced at her slip into French. "She needed to know, one way or the other."

    "You're still banned."

    "For telling her the truth?"

    Jill sighed. "No, for setting off a 92-year-old so badly that she had an altercation with the man she doesn't like! Or did I hear you wrong, Miss Potts?"

    "No, you heard correctly. She also ended up, somehow, at the Compound." Pepper stood up, grabbed the tablet from Steve, and searched for a minute... "There. Brace yourself, Steve. She startled the heck out of him."

    Steve stood there in mute shock as he listened to Rebecca tear into Tony, to the conversation that ensued, and at the end of it had forgotten he was standing up. He shook his head, blinked down at his feet, and left the room in a daze.

    Jill stared after him, then looked at the tablet. "Funny how Martin's question about Mr. Stark's BARF system turned into a weapon. That reminds me of another thing... don't let him use that thing again."

    "Huh?"

    "Let's just say that I know exactly how and why he snapped in Siberia, beyond Steve not telling him anything and that video being really upsetting, and the person to blame here is the one who gave himself an electromagnetic headache."

    Pepper frowned at her. "That's what Dr. Knutz said when we talked it over while I prepared him to meet Tony, too. Something about an overactive Hippocampus?"

    Jill smiled. "Exactly that. You wouldn't happen to have his email address, would you?"

    "Of course I do. You want Elley's Skype number, too?"

    "Who is Elley?" Pepper gestured to the report in Jill's hand, and pointed to the paragraph about the teens at the end. "Really?"

    "Really."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    The call came in on the StarkPad from a number he didn't recognize, and Elley frowned as he picked up the tablet and answered it. Then he smiled. "Hello, Miss Pepper!"

    "Hello, Elley," Pepper said with an answering smile. "I've got a two doctors here who wants to say hello. Jill? Khamisi?" She held the pad so he could see two other people, a light-skinned brunette woman, and a dark-skinned man with kind eyes. "Meet Elley, Mykola's nephew and now the doctor at the clinic in Oymyakon."

    The woman waved. "Hello, Dr. Elley. On behalf the Barnes family, I thank you, your Uncle, and your friend for caring for James the way you did."

    "You a family member?"

    She smiled. "I'm his grand niece-in-law, and currently also one of the doctors treating him. And he's on his way to healing. When we get a minute and I've prepared him, I'll see if I can get him on the line with you. Needs to be introduced to Skype, anyway. If that's all right?"

    Elley nodded. "That be fine. Just remember time difference. Stark never does."

    Pepper laughed. "We will, Elley! Have a good day, sir."

    The call ended and Elley was left with a smile on his worn features.


    A/N: Because I did go full medical and not everyone has a medical background, some things...
    1. You do not put your hand in anyone's mouth unless you absolutely have to. Medical no-no, because a person in distress can bite you.
    2. IV Ativan (Lorazepam) works in one to five minutes. The reason HYDRA would have been using it on Bucky... it's a Benzodiazepine. Look those up. They can be nasty.
    3. Blood pressure cuffs really can double as a make-shift tourniquet.
    4. Insulin was refined into long-acting Zinc Insulin in 1930, and our syringes are not 1930's syringes.
    5. The Pressure Point in Injections technique? That's real. Done right, it's less unpleasant than when done wrong.

    Translation from Klingnon...(which I pulled from two different fansites...)

    tlhab ’oS ’Iw; HoHwI’ So’ batlh.: Blood represents freedom; honor hides the killer.
    Subjath 'e' ylmev: Shut up! (to a group)
    bIQ'a'Daq 'oHtaH 'etlh'e': The sword is in the ocean. (is used to mean that something has ended, that it is impossible to return to a prior condition)
    bo'DaghHom lo': Use a little scoop. (ie: make less of something than it really is, minimize the importance of something, with the connotation that this is inappropriate.)
    cha'maH cha' joQDu': twenty-two ribs (something not quite right)
    may' bom pIm bom: sing a different battlesong
    naH jajmey: vegetable days, days of one's youth
    'IwwIj jeD law' 'IwlIj jeD puS: My blood is thicker than yours!

    Translation from French...

    Grand Imdecile: Big Moron
    Vous ne déclenchez pas une vieille personne qui était déjà fou comme l'enfer!: "You don't set off an old person who was already mad as hell!"
     
  17. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Daena: I loved so much of this chapter. :D

    The SW vs ST argument (who here hasn't had that conversation with another fan?), Klingon! on these boards! :D, and just the whole piece. =D=
     
  18. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Onderon: I think we've all had that convo, yes... ;) Thank you. :)


    A/N: And it was getting long, so... post!


    Save the Cheerleader, Save the World...


    ~*~*~*~*~*~



    When Pepper entered the kitchen with the box in her hands, she found an odd mix of things going on. Steve, still in the dark blue bathrobe, was seated at the kitchen table focusing on a sketchbook, while Sam was sitting at the kitchen island, and Bucky was perched on a stool by the stove watching Clint cook and asking questions while occasionally yawning. She noticed the table was mostly set with silverware and napkins... "Where are Laura, Wanda, and the kids?"

    "Common room," Sam told her while throwing a concerned glance at Steve. "They ate while we were dealing with Barnes."

    Pepper followed his gaze back to Steve, nodded. Something wasn't right about that, and she agreed. "Right. Where do I put this?"

    Sam patted the kitchen island. "Right here. And really, Barnes. Don't you remember how to cook eggs?"

    "Nous avons utilisé pour bouillir tout, Sam," Steve mumbled distractedly.

    Sam frowned at him, then looked at Bucky, who was looking back at him in concern, while Pepper gratefully set the box on the kitchen island and began pulling items out of it. "He's said that before. Is it true?"

    Bucky nodded slowly. "Some. I keep remembering Ma cooking soup for some reason, but can't place why. Sarah, too." He noticed Pepper looking at him funny. "What?"

    "Are you really that cold?"

    Bucky glanced down at his sweatshirt and pajama pants, then back at her, and shrugged. "Depends on the day." Then he had to catch himself on the counter, and Clint put a hand out to steady him on his left shoulder. "Woah."

    "Careful, Barnes. You're medically stoned," Sam teased him kindly with a chuckle.

    "Oh, he'll be stoned for a while," Jill said as she entered the kitchen, then paused and looked around, her gaze settling on Steve. "Steve?" He ignored her, and she frowned at him.

    "He's been like that since he came in here," Clint told her with a glance over his shoulder.

    "Didn't change out of the bathrobe, either," Pepper observed.

    Bucky spun carefully on the stool and peered at him, then frowned. "What's he drawing?"

    Jill got close enough to look over Steve's shoulder, then stared down at it. Slowly, she put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey."

    "Tú a choinneáil ar mian leo dom a tharraingt," Steve told her without looking up. "Tá mé ag déanamh an méid a dúirt tú dom a dhéanamh."

    She frowned at him, looked at Bucky, then down at the drawing again. "You're worrying someone... and is that a graveyard?"

    "Ceadaigh dom a chríochnú an." And then he shrugged her hand away.

    Jill frowned again, then looked at Bucky to find him sharing her concerned frown. "I think this is a you moment, James."

    Bucky nodded and carefully stood up from the stool, then moved to sit next to Steve at the table. He looked at the drawing to find a detailed depiction of a familiar casket in the foreground evolving... "Oh. Steve?"

    "She's next to Dad," he said softly.

    "And?" For some reason, those words gave him an echo of a memory that he could kind of reach for, that felt really important. Then he blinked, startled at the clarity of following behind, trying to comfort in the only way he knew how... by being there.

    "And Becca's not here."

    Bucky blinked again, startled out of the memory. "Steve?"

    "And Hazel and Emma passed while we where both in ice or being used by the enemy. And William, and George, and Winifred. And... and... and... you died."

    Bucky stared at him for a moment, wondering why no one had told him about Emma or Hazel before... "I'm right here."

    "But you weren't." Steve finally put the pencil down and simply stared at the sketch for a long, long minute. "Everything was different. Changed in one way or another. And I didn't even know Becca was alive because no one thought to tell me!"

    Pepper winced at that. "Steve, she's fine."

    "She's not here!"

    "No, but she wishes she was." Reaching into the box, Pepper's hand landed on a wrapped bundle and she blinked. "Oh. And in a way, she is." Picking up the bundle, she turned and moved to set it in front of Bucky, then backed away again. "Open it."

    Bucky frowned at her, did his best to open the tissue-paper wrapped thing with one hand. Then he stared at the OD green shawl with pink and lighter green tassels, and he grinned. "Something warm!"

    Steve picked it up with a frown, then looked at Pepper. "Army green?"

    Pepper shrugged. "Mason talked her out of pink. And she was furiously upset while camped out in Rhodey's hospital room at Columbia. Called him an idiot at least once in Romanian, kept having to find the English in her head."

    "Oh, she didn't," Steve breathed, stunned.

    "Imagine it: the Elvis scrubs, hair down, and knitting."

    "Who or what is Elvis?" Bucky wondered, and blinked when they all stared at him. "What?"

    Pepper smiled. "Well now, if we're introducing you both to Star Trek today, why not Elvis for you? Elvis was a musician that put out a lot of good music, James."

    Bucky nodded and turned his attention back to Steve. "And what happened to Emma and Hazel?"

    Steve shook his head and looked away, only to find Jill glaring at him. "Not now, Buck, okay?" Her glare intensified. "What? You said it was bad, before!"

    "Now is a perfect time," Jill told him, hands on her hips. "He's on Ativan. No, offense, James."

    Bucky looked at her funny. "None taken. And really, what happened?"

    Steve sighed. "Emma died in '54, and Hazel had Leukemia." He winced when Jill glared at him again. "Jill, Becca could barely tell me, how am I supposed to tell him that?" She folded her arms across her chest and continued to glare at him, and he shifted his gaze back to Bucky. "Emma's youngest survived. His name is David."

    Bucky frowned at him, then at Jill, then back at Steve again, unsure of how to react, before nodding. "David, huh? Can't wait to meet him." His gaze shifted to Pepper and he looked at her curiously as she reached into the box again. "What else is in there?"

    "For you? This," Pepper said as she held up a paper sack with his name on it, while Jill ducked out into the hall. "Also three photo albums and a late care package."

    Steve frowned. "Care package?"

    Pepper smiled. "Miriam has been finding creative ways to deal with Rebecca to keep her occupied, though I think the cards and whatnot were Rebecca's idea. Also? You might have to explain certain things to Tony when we finally allow you two in the same room together again."

    "I will?"

    "Yes, you will. Namely why there's a note on the Aspirin, telling you not to take any." At his perplexed frown, she shrugged again. "Perspective is important?"

    "Oh."

    "But before any of that," Clint interrupted as he plated scrambled eyes and Sam joined him in buttering toast. "Breakfast. Pepper, can you put the fruit bowls on the table?"

    "Sure," Pepper said with a smile as she took the tray from the counter, and turned just in time to see Jill return with her laptop. She watched her walk to the kitchen island and set it down next to the box, and then Pepper began to set out the bowls of fruit on the table while Steve draped the shawl around Bucky's shoulders. She stared at him as she set the last fruit bowl in front of him. "Oh. Good color choice."

    "Warm too," Bucky told her with a smile. Then he yawned.

    Standing by the toaster next to the stove, Sam blinked in surprise. "He's smiling. Jill, we should have tried Ativan sooner."

    "No, we shouldn't have," Jill said, annoyance in her tone. "And that, there, is the result of a trigger unravel, not the Ativan, which is a tool in the psychological arsenal that one should only use sparingly. Use it wrong, and you end up with bad things ."

    "It was a trigger unravel?"

    "No idea which one, and no desire, right now, to start saying words in Russian to prove it."

    "I'm against that, too," Bucky told both of them with a glare, then looked down at his bowl of fruit.

    "Oh," Sam said as he set the toast down on the table while also helping Clint bring the plates over with scrambled eggs and bacon.

    "I wonder how Doctor Mackenzie and Sally are."

    Jill froze for a moment, then turned to find Bucky staring at his fruit bowl, and frowned. "Doctor Mackenzie?"

    "Yeah. I didn't call him like he wanted me to."

    Steve looked from Bucky to Jill, who was staring at Bucky with her arms folded across her chest. "Am I missing something?"

    "When was this encounter with Doctor Mackenzie, James? And where?"

    Bucky pushed the bowl away, toward Steve. "Maybe a month after DC when I was finally able to get out? I'd run out of meal supplements I'd been able to find at a safe house. And... some diner outside of Baltimore. I forget the name of the town. Cat something."

    "Catonsville?" Jill suggested, her tone neutral.

    "Maybe. Why?"

    "Because a month or so after DC lines up with the Endocrinology conference in Austin, Rob doesn't like planes much, and always visits a diner in Catonsville on his way home," she explained.

    Bucky looked up from the bowl of fruit and frowned at her. "Huh?"

    "My maiden name is Mackenzie, James. You met my brother."

    Steve blinked in surprise. "Kristy's husband? That Rob?"

    "Yes, Steve. That Rob."

    "He gave me his business card," Bucky offered with a yawn. "And Sally gave me a nutrition book. And something about a Whipple, whatever that is."

    Jill eyed his frame. "That explains some things about how you don't look like a concentration camp survivor when you didn't know how to eat properly for your metabolism. And... oh. Were you thin? Really, really thin?"

    He nodded. "I think so? That time is kind of foggy." Bucky glanced at the bowl of fruit he'd pushed away. "And can I have something else? Bananas don't taste right. Didn't then, either."

    Steve looked down at the fruit and studied it, then chuckled. "Oh. No, Buck. They wouldn't. They don't. There was a crop changeover in the '50s."

    Jill smiled, finally. "Yes, and you tend to swear in Gaelic every time you forget about it yourself. Let's avoid that, because there are actually kids present. And... Pepper? Is there a way to be able to use the email system, without having to use 5-cipher, to yell at Rob like he deserves?"

    Pepper shared her smile. "I'll ask Tony about it when I get home. Probably."

    Clint took the bowls of fruit away from Steve, very quickly picked all the banana pieces out, and cut up another apple. Then be brought the two bowls back to the table and set them down again. At Steve's questioning expression, he shrugged. "I have children."

    Steve nodded, then frowned at Bucky. "What's a Whipple?"

    Jill rolled her eyes and sat down at the table. "It's a surgical procedure. And I'm not going to explain it, because I'd rather eat."

    "And how could Rob miss..." Steve motioned to Bucky.

    "Same way that someone could miss you completely, if you lost a hundred pounds, your hair was long, and didn't look like yourself. Remind me later, and I'll show you the Discovery Health special on Lori Hoogewind."

    "Who?"

    Jill smiled. "Giant tumor survivor." He frowned at her again. "You asked how Rob could have missed the obvious, Steve. That, and failure of imagination. Let's eat." She looked at Bucky, who was looking between her and Steve. "Don't mind us, James. Rebecca introduced us at JFK International without telling him that I was flying in for a consult on you and a therapy session for him. I was witness to him swearing in Gaelic and throwing a banana at Miriam."

    Bucky chuckled. "At least you didn't meet him because he couldn't stay out of a fight... Steve? Could you ever stay out of a fight? And was I saving you right before I shipped out?" He blinked, shook his head, and blinked again. "Paramus? What does Paramus have to do with it?"

    "And we're still happy you saved his butt," Pepper chimed in with a smile, while Steve buried his face in his hands.

    "Pepper!"

    "What?" She asked innocently. "You're the one who told us he saved your butt. We can't thank him properly? And, really, Steve... New Jersey?" He didn't even justify that with a reply.

    "I don't understand. When...?" Bucky started to say, and Clint chuckled. "What?"

    Clint smiled. "We had Steve show us Brooklyn, not long after the Battle of New York. Which was how we stumbled across Rebecca in the first place, taking out the trash in one of the more... odd scrub tops I'd ever seen. Black with red and green apples."

    Sam raised his hand. "Pink and green monkeys. And she had a grandson in tow who had to be back in Stony Brook the next day, named after you. Took Steve's vitals manually, then interrogated me. And..." he paused. "Wait a minute. 'Save the world, undo the brainwashing.' Steve, stop hiding in your hands."

    "No, and you're not going to get me to watch Heroes ever again. No one is. Once was enough! And the thing about Paramus, Buck, was that I tried enlisting five different times in five different cities!"

    Jill frowned and looked at Pepper, who was also frowning. "Heroes?"

    "Tony convinced me to watch a TV show with him, said it was good, and... no. It wasn't."

    "Oh," Pepper said slowly. "I remember that. He was confused, because he thought you would like it, due to Project Rebirth." Steve lifted his head and glared at her. "And that was the wrong assumption to make."

    Jill looked between them and shook her head. "That explains how you missed Star Trek if he didn't start with the basics and work his way up from there."

    "Still don't see what the big deal is, and why it matters."

    "Because," Sam said slowly. "You missed a whole cultural movement. Something that started out as a TV show, became something that everyone could understand and connect with, no matter the country that they're from. If they're Trekkies, anyway."

    "Heroes?" Bucky wondered through a yawn. "Save the world, undo the brainwashing?"

    "Actually, it was 'save the cheerleader, save the world,'" Jill told him, then frowned at Steve. "And what made you say that?"

    "You try explaining Bucky to Becca and see what kind of analogy comes to mind when you're laying in a hospital bed," Steve muttered. "And woke up two minutes ago."

    "Ah."

    "And-"

    "Steve?" Clint prompted with a motion of his fork. "Eat. Complain later."

    "And Jill keeps calling me an idiot, expecting me to know things!"

    Jill sighed and reached over, pointed at his sketchpad. "Fine. You want to do this now, we'll do this now. When you look at this, do you see a drawing, or are you there, in front of it, in the moment?"

    He blinked at her, then looked down at his sketch. "Both?"

    "Uh-huh... so was Stark." At Steve's questioning expression, she shook her head. "Pepper? Tell him about it. I can't. I'm upholding HIPAA on Mr. Stark's behalf, and I've already broken it once today."

    Steve turned to look at Pepper while Bucky began eating his scrambled eggs. "All right. What's HIPAA and what did Tony do, and what is going on?"

    "Electromagnetic headaches," Sam suddenly said with a roll of his eyes. "Jill said it was a smoking gun, back in May when she realized what had happened. Martin asked her a question, related to a presentation he saw Stark give at M.I.T. We'll show you that after breakfast, and then you'll understand. Don't look at me like that, Jill. He asked and this has gone on long enough. And HIPAA relates to medical professionals and healthcare information, Steve."

    "Oh, I'm fine with it being out on the table. I just wasn't allowed to say anything. I needed consent for that. I didn't have it from Mr. Stark, even if he did put his problems on stage for all the kids to see." She frowned. "And... Pepper, do you think you could ask Elley for a favor?"

    "Probably."

    "Who is Elley?" Steve asked.

    Pepper smiled. "Eat. And then Jill has to prepare James for a Skype call. You'll love it."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    He'd just finished charting after seeing a patient when the StarkPad rang again, again with that same number, and he answered it to find Pepper looking back at him. "Hi!"

    "Sorry to bother you again so soon, Elley," Pepper told him, then angled her own tablet so he could see other people, including one distantly familiar one wearing a sweatshirt, a dark green shawl, and odd pajama pants, watching in confusion with the brown-haired woman sitting on one side, and a blonde man in a blue bathrobe on the other. "But we had a question and Jill figured it was better to introduce James to Skype now, rather than later."

    "That all right. And hello, James!" He waved back in confused acknowledgement. "Question?"

    "Yes. Do Siberian Huskies make good service dogs?"

    Elley laughed. "They do. Have litter of 12 week old puppies, too. Getting good at following basic commands."

    "Can we have two of them?"

    "I don't need a dog," James said through a yawn, and the brown-haired woman turned and glared at him. "We have a cat here. What?"

    "Blackie keeps hiding from Nathaniel," she pointed out. "And she's the king's cat. And you need more than a frightened European Shorthair that hides behind couches."

    James yawned again, and Elley frowned, looked at the clock in the corner of the tablet's screen. That was twice in less than five minutes. "All right, fine..."

    "Besides, the dog we'll get is probably a relative of the one who tried to bite your Colonel in '84."

    Elley chuckled at his sudden, if tired, grin. "Think we could work thing out. Send someone?"

    Pepper turned the tablet back around and smiled at him. "I'll arrange that. Will she need a parka?"

    "It summer. But yes. And Pepper?"

    "Hmm?"

    "What time where you are?"

    Pepper frowned at him. "Just after 8:45AM. Why?"

    "Him yawning a lot for that hour. Be watchful."

    Pepper glanced away, nodded. "We will."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Exiting the Bundestag as covertly as possible with the requested backpack and Steve's found leather jacket from the bottom of the elevator shaft, Natasha's burner phone buzzes with a text message and she has to stop and look at it.

    Nat? Stop in Oymyakon on your way back and visit the medical clinic, please? Elley agreed on something and we need you to pick them up. Buy some dog treats and wear a parka. -Pepper

    She stares at the message for a minute, then smiles. "Interesting."

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Translation from Irish Gaelic...

    Tú a choinneáil ar mian leo dom a tharraingt: You keep wanting me to draw.
    Tá mé ag déanamh an méid a dúirt tú dom a dhéanamh.: I'm doing what you told me to do.
    Ceadaigh dom a chríochnú an.: Let me finish this.

    Translation from French...

    Nous avons utilisé pour bouillir tout,: We used to boil everything.
     
  19. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Attack of the Ten Hour Nap...

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Pepper watched as Steve got up off the couch after looking down at his bathrobe for a long moment. "Going to change?"

    "That's what I was on my way to do, before," Steve said with a smile that wasn't reaching his eyes. "Buck?"

    "Go change, Steve," Bucky said through another yawn, and now Jill was frowning at him. Steve nodded and left the common room. "I shouldn't be this tired."

    Jill glanced at Pepper, then looked at Sam. "Watch him for me? There's something I need to do. And James?"

    "Yeah?"

    "I'd be more surprised if you weren't tired. What happened this morning wasn't an easy thing." At his tired nod, she stood up and left the room.

    The tablet still in her hand made a 'you've got mail' beep, and Pepper looked down to find a text from Natasha: Dog treats and a parka? Will do, even if I want an explanation later. Tell Steve I also found his jacket and want to know what he was doing at the bottom of an elevator shaft when Barnes got triggered.

    Pepper frowned at that and looked at Sam. "You wouldn't know why Steve ended up at the bottom of an elevator shaft, would you?"

    Sam nodded to Bucky, then got up and went to sit next to him. "Sort of. I got thrown across the room, and... Barnes?"
    "No control," Bucky mumbled as he leaned hard into the cushions. And then he was snoring almost inaudibly.

    Sam frowned and tried jiggling his knee. When he didn't even flinch from that, Sam shook his head. "Well, that can't be good..."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Steve had just finished changing into jeans and a t-shirt when a knock sounded at the door. Frowning, he went to answer it, wondering all the while why that person hadn't just poked their head in... and found Jill standing there, an uncertain expression on her face and a very thick binder and her laptop under one arm. "Oh. Hi."

    "I need a minute."

    Stepping back, he allowed her in, then closed the door because he knew that tone in her voice. He'd heard it on her first night back in Wakanda, seventeen days ago. When he turned around, he found her sitting on his bed, hugging herself. "Jill?"

    "I can't fall apart out there," she said after a moment. "And... crap, Steve. I've been calling you an idiot, in regard to certain things that I didn't tell you about James due to patient confidentiality. You're not an idiot, you just didn't know. Not unlike Marie Curie, really. For that matter, if I'd known how deep the conditioning ran before Bucharest, I'd have told you that you could have caused a seizure just asking certain things-"

    "Klonopin," Steve interrupted as he sat down beside her. "I had some in my pocket that Becca got for that eventuality, if it came down to that. And I realize how idiotic it was in hindsight, Jill... more so after today and yesterday."

    She nodded. "And I admit to trying to force you to release some emotional pressure, too. Rebecca isn't here, and I'm not her, but..."

    Steve chuckled at that. He'd started to suspect that, and it was good to hear her admit it. "Points for effort, and at least you've been preparing Buck for seeing her eventually. She's not the same girl he remembers, seeing him off for England. No one prepared me for her, and that was one reason she sent me into shock. Not the only one, but one of 'em."

    Jill took a deep, settling breath. "There is that. And... what do you think? We didn't ask you about service dogs."

    Steve glanced toward the door with a sigh. "He sleeps better with someone in the room, or with one of us right next to him on the couch, and talking, as much as he complains when he's half out of it. There isn't always going to be the option of a person, and he does need all the support he can get. And what happened this morning? He seemed..."

    "More comfortable in his own skin afterward?"

    "Yeah."

    She smiled and stopped hugging herself. "Not completely certain, but I think, judging by those idioms in Klingon, that he smashed right through some of the conditioning by himself, with our support. That's why I had Khamisi hug him... first he had to want it bad enough, and then he needed us to hold him up while he did it. Call it traumatic integration, if you want a label."

    "Oh."

    She nudged his knee. "And while we might have another attack of the ten hour nap today, at least he'll sleep off the rest of the Ativan. I really did not want to do that to him."

    Steve nudged her back. "Worry less about things you can't fix than things you can, and find the joy." She blinked at him in surprise. "That incident Buck half-way remembers about saving me in an alley? There was a guy mouthing off at a war newsreel in a theater. Also in the audience was a friend of Emma's whose husband was on a ship somewhere in the pacific. She would have been next in line to get into a fight with the guy had I not gotten him out of the theater when I did."

    "Ah. Wasn't about wanting to fight, was it?"

    "No. And you've seen Becca's wedding album, so you know they staged an informal, unofficial wedding ceremony in our bathtub. If she sent her wedding album, I won't have to explain it after all."

    "Emma really said things like finding the joy?"

    "Things to that affect. There was a war on, things looked bleak." He paused, thinking back. "She was the first family member to see me, like this, after. Anyone else, and I'd have gotten a lecture, but Emma? She was happy that I came to Becca's wedding, and happy to see me healthy in a way I'd never been before."

    "Hmmm..."

    "Ready to face the world again?"

    Jill nodded slowly. "Even if I'm the one who wants a ten-hour nap." She blinked, startled when he reached over to touch her hand, bringing her attention to the finger-shaped bruises that were starting to appear. She stared at them for a minute before lifting her head to look at him. "It was worth it."

    "You should have told me what you needed."

    "No."

    "Why not?"

    "Because when he started to react like that, there was no time to do much more than remember I was holding my laptop. He needed a focus and it couldn't wait for me to explain it, and yell 'Steve, hold his hand for dear life!' Though you'd have done it in a heartbeat." Jill studied the bruises some more. "Good thing I packed my Arnica Montana for mission, just in case."

    "Arnica?"

    Jill shrugged. "Anti-bruising agent. Lessens the severity and speeds the healing process." She glanced at him to find he was staring at her. "What?"

    Steve shook his head. "I knew what it was. It's just been so long since anyone has mentioned herbal remedies to me. Sorry."

    She nudged his knee again. "For what? I reminded you of home. It's a good thing. So... question for you. Golf, baseball, or the space program?"

    Steve paused. "That was random. Huh?"

    "Kristy and Rebecca sent me a bag of entertainment. Golf movie, baseball movie, or the space program?"

    "Baseball," he said after thinking about it.

    Jill smiled. "Sure you don't want the space program? Apollo 13 was really good."

    "How good? And... maybe we should watch that one. Buck loves science."

    "Really, really good." She glanced toward the door. "Science, huh?"

    Steve nodded. "Yes. And we could watch both?"

    "Good plan. Photo albums first, though." She picked up the thick binder from where she'd set it down on the bed and handed it to him. "Pepper brought this."

    Steve frowned at her as he opened it and flipped through several pages... then he flipped back, and forward again. "This. This is a lot."

    "I wasn't going to show you, but if Rebecca put it all in order after getting even more information than you two found in the vault on the computers there, it matters that you know." He glanced at her, confusion written in his eyes. "According to Pepper, Stark went back out to the base after arriving home, and found their file room. You heard their meeting. And... telling you a month ago about the BARF system thing wouldn't have solved anything or actually explained it. Choices were made, Steve. Yours and his."

    "I know."

    "Good." She gestured for the binder and he handed it back to her. "And I want you to continue the therapy we've been doing. There's still a story to tell."

    "What? Decorating one wall wasn't enough?"

    "Nope."

    Steve sighed. "Right. It's weird... Bucky said the floating car of Howard's was red, but I saw green."

    Jill nodded as her gaze slid to the nightstand next to the bed, which at the moemnt contained a lamp, a pile of books, two sketchbooks, and a bottle of clear fluid that reminded her of Vodka. "Why are you keeping alcohol on your nightstand?"

    Steve reached over, picked it up, and handed it to her, whereupon she discovered that it wasn't Vodka, but Schnapps. "T'Challa got that for me, the second time he went to Berlin for the JCTF. And it's in here, because I have an idea. And am I really banned from writing to anyone?"

    "It depends on the circumstances in which you do it," Jill told him as she studied the lettering. "I was mad that you set Rebecca off, Steve. I still am mad, actually. You wrote to her, told her... what did you tell her?"

    "It's more what didn't I," he admitted. "And that was before I remembered you were an option, right after I'd written to Tony. And Pepper."

    She nodded slowly, taking it all in. "Right. And the significance of the Schnapps?"

    "It's from Augsburg."

    "Augsburg?"

    Steve took the bottle back from her and set it back in it's spot on the nightstand. "Dr. Erskine was from Augsburg. We were going to share some Schnapps after the procedure was done, but... HYDRA."

    For a moment, Jill wondered if he would have told her if she'd not noticed the Schnapps sitting there. It had been incredibly hard, getting him to open up, and though she knew some of the details of how Dr. Erskine had died, she'd never heard it from the source. "And...?"

    "And I thought I'd send it to Tony. Odd idea, I know, but-"

    "No," Jill interrupted. "It's a good idea. A small step to lead to a bigger one. If either of you want to open up to the other, it has to start somewhere."

    "Which is why I wanted to know if I was really banned from writing letters or not."

    Jill smiled. "Draft a note, explaining the importance of it to you, and I'll proof it for you. No straying from the topic of Dr. Erskine, no meandering into discussing James. Simple, to the point."

    Steve nodded. "I can do that." He watched as she opened up her laptop, turned it on, pressed several buttons, and then turned the screen to face him. "What now?"

    "You asked, and I couldn't also show this to James without being utterly sure I wouldn't set off another flashback." She frowned. "Come to think of it, maybe we should have considered getting him a cat that likes kids."

    Steve chuckled as she hit play. "You're only just thinking of that now?" They watched together for a few minutes. "Oh. That..."

    "I didn't tell you in May, aside from the part where I was upholding HIPAA... knowing what he did frivolously with technology doesn't solve anything. You both still made choices."

    Steve nodded. "Yes, but-"

    The door opened suddenly, startling both, and Sam looked at them funny. "Am I interrupting?"

    "No," Jill told him as she closed her laptop again. "Just a little mutual therapy, and we can continue later. What's up?"

    Sam sighed. "How much Ativan did Khamisi give to Barnes?"

    She nodded to Steve. "His minimum dose, or close to it... one or two MG. Why?"

    "Because he fell asleep on the couch in the common room and then I couldn't rouse him," Sam explained. "No reacting like he usually does when people are talking around him, either. Fujo and Pepper are watching him, making sure he doesn't swallow his tongue."

    Jill stared at him. "Really? I noticed the yawning, but thought it would abate... Steve, what did Rebecca say when she found it in the vault?"

    Steve paused, thinking back... "That the single-use vials were twice the dosage of a normal person's metabolism. In that box was Alprazolam, Clonazepam, Diazepam, Lorazepam, Midazolam, and Librium, among other things."

    Jill nodded. "And Khamisi gave him an MG or so of something with ten times the kick of Valium, on my call. Darn it."

    Steve frowned at her. "Ten times?"

    "One milligram of Ativan is equal to ten milligrams of Valium, Steve." She stood up, sighed, grabbed the binder and her laptop from the bed, and stomped out the door, purpose in her stride that left two men staring after her before they even thought to follow.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Pepper watched from an armchair as Jill stomped into the room with a deep frown on her face, greeted Fujo, and immediately began taking manual vitals on Bucky, then checking his eyes with a pen light. "Elley was concerned about his yawning before. And... you carry a pen light?"

    "Both of us were on the same page, then," Jill said as she finished checking his eyes, then stood up and looked at her. "His highness has a cat that does a lot of hiding, and any time Blackie ventures out... not as fun as the red laser pointer, but you know."

    "Oh. How is he?"

    "Sedated, strong pulse, normal breathing rate... James!" When he didn't react initially to her voice, she shook his right shoulder, he grunted, his eyes opened and he looked at her sleepily but without any wakeful awareness, and then he was asleep again. "Between a two and a three on the sedation scale. So... Miss Potts? Baseball, comedy, or space program?"

    Pepper considered that for a moment. "Baseball? And what do you mean, between a two and a three?"

    Jill grinned. "I'll be back." She stood up and turned just in time to see Steve and Sam catch up, and she motioned to the couch. "Far as I can tell, just sedation: he'll react, but fall asleep again. That's what I meant by between a two and a three, Miss Potts. And... I have an and. I don't want to think about the and..."

    Steve rolled his eyes at her while reclaiming his seat on the couch from Fujo. "Go have your talk with Khamisi about your and."

    Jill looked down at the binder again in her hands, glanced at Bucky's sleeping face. Then she nodded and left the common room in a rush, scooping up her laptop as she went.

    Pepper frowned at him. "What does she mean, she has an and she doesn't want?"

    Steve glanced down at Bucky before looking at her. "Becca and I found Lorazepam in the vault where he was kept, Pepper. Among other things. The box Becca found the sedatives in was labeled 'Cryo-Prep.'"

    "Oh," Pepper said, wincing in sympathy.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    He was in the middle of a consult with a fellow doctor and the King in the medical lab when Jill entered with a very thick binder, found a flat surface, spread open the binder while setting her laptop aside, and started flipping pages until she found the one she wanted, which had been flagged and labeled 'medical information' by Rebecca. "Jill?"

    "Hang on." Then she blinked, pulled a flash drive out of her pocket, and set it down on the counter. "You'll be wanting that."

    Khamisi frowned at her as he picked up the flash drive. "Right. Jill-"

    "Wait, I'm reading... thought so. They noted tolerance but abnormal sensitivity to hypnotic benzodiazepines, including Lorazepam, which we didn't know before we gave it to him, dang it." Jill sighed and looked up at him, then frowned at her husband standing next to Khamisi and T'Challa, who was looking at her funny. "Uh..."

    Damian smiled. "Surprise?"

    "Not that I'm not happy to see you, but... what in Green Acres are you doing here? For that matter, when did you get here?"

    T'Challa smirked. "I needed a consult with an Orthopedist, as well as my own medical team. And he's been here for half an hour, Dr. Mack."

    "I needed a day away from Ituri and wanted to see you," Damian put in. "And what about benzodiazepines?"

    "Our patient is sedated on the couch right now from 1mg of Ativan," Jill told him with a pointed look at Khamisi. "Was it one or two?"

    "One and a half."

    "Right. We're not ever giving him Ativan again." Jill flipped a few more pages in the binder until she found evidence pictures from the bank vault, showing the boxes clearly. "See?"

    Khamisi took the binder from her and studied the pictures, then shuddered. "It hadn't even occurred to me that they'd have used hypnotic sedatives to calm him down, prior to freezing. Makes sense, though." He looked at the opposite page, showing the chair. "Is this...?"

    "The reason that Cooper sent him into dissociation by accident? Yes." She looked at her husband. "So: Field of Dreams or Three Fugitives?"

    Damian smiled. "Three Fugitives. Why?"

    "Because I've got two guys who missed seventy years of stuff... and Steve and Pepper both voted for baseball, and I need some comedy, even if James is out cold, between a two and three on the sedation scale." She glanced at the binder still in Khamisi's hands. "Still need him for a consult, or can I steal him?"

    "We'll come and get him if we need him," Khamisi said. "Can I study this?"

    "That's why it's here: medical history is important." Jill held out her hand, and Damian took it. "You know where to find us, if you want us."

    "Oh, go enjoy introducing Captain Rogers to media, would you?"

    Jill smirked. "Plan to, but I need a vitals cuff for the wrist first." He handed one to her. "Thank you!" Damian suddenly caught one of her hands in his and inspected it, frowning at the bruising. "It's nothing that won't heal, and also what happened this morning. Psychological crisis."

    "Bad?"

    "Bad enough." Jill pointed to the flash drive that Khamisi had set down in favor of the binder. "Your Highness? Miss Potts said that Mr. Stark studied the part of James's arm that he blew off and consulted with a doctor and a mechanic. That's what is on the flash drive."

    T'Challa picked the flash drive up with a nod. "Thank you."

    She paused, looking at him with wide eyes. "Wait a minute. We were so caught up in things that I forgot to ask you, and it's your house. Are you all right with dogs? I've yet to see one, and... oh boy."

    "Dogs?" Damian wondered. "What are you talking about?"

    "Service dogs. Miss Potts knows someone in Siberia with a litter of six month old pups, and he agreed to let us have two. One is for James, because he needs a companion animal that doesn't hide from a one year old and also belongs to him. No offence, Your Highness."

    T'Challa shrugged. "I'm not offended. And it's a good idea." He paused. "Siberia?"

    "Apparently Mr. Stark met people on his way out, and kept in touch to the point of him giving them a StarkPad." Jill looked at Khamisi. "Where's that report that Elley found?"

    "Oh! Now it makes sense," T'Challa said as Khamisi set the binder down and reached for a piece of paper he'd seen the man reading when he had entered the lab. "I've met Elley."

    Jill frowned at him. "You have?"

    "Stark did not get out of Siberia by himself without any documentation, Dr. Mack," T'Challa told her with a wink. Then he sobered as he read the report. "And it's all right with me. What happened that Barnes bruised your hand?"

    Jill sighed. "He had a flashback caused by Nathaniel being a one year old. Apparently, his nephew Amos was a very fussy baby." At Damian's chuckle, Jill smiled. "I know, right? It's hard to imagine Amos as a fussy kid. Anyway... he came out of the flashback, was fine for a minute or so, if confused, and then had a conditioned response reaction when I asked him what he remembered, and I didn't have time to explain what I needed, or it would have been Steve giving him a focus instead of me." She blinked when Damian stared palpating her hand suspiciously. "What are you doing?"

    "Seeing if you've got any broken bones in here."

    "It only looks bad." He poked at her palm and she winced. "Ow."

    "Xray for you, dear wife."

    She sighed. "It's only sore."

    "Let me be the judge of that." Damian looked at Khamisi. "If that's alright with you."

    Khamisi nodded and directed him to one corner of the lab. "No, if I'd thought about his strength versus her hand, even one-handed, I'd have demanded an xray at the very least."

    "It's just bruising," Jill objected.

    "Let us be the judge of that," Damian told her again.

    She did.
     
  20. Onderon1

    Onderon1 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Daena - Another great pair of chapters, here. Hopefully, the dog will help Bucky - and it's intriguing how much Steve is unloading, as well. :)
     
  21. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Onderon: That's because he's being given the emotional freedom to do so. :) Thank you. :)


    ~*~*~*~*~

    It was quiet when T'Challa made his way to the 2nd floor common room near the kitchen, and he looked into the room to find Steve seated on the couch, singing what sounded like Irish Lullaby quietly in a round, next to a now-familiar mound of a person covered in a very green shawl that had pink and lighter green tassels. Sam was seated on the other end of that couch, and Miss Potts in one of the arm chairs, listening with a relaxed but concerned smile on her face. Stepping back, he glanced at Fujo, who was seated on a chair and reading a book. "All clear?"

    Fujo set the book down on her lap and looked at him, smiling slightly. "Other than the oddity expected of the Sergeant? Yes."

    That she'd put it like that spoke volumes, and he glanced into the room again. "I saw Dr. Pentel's hand. Intercede before something like that happens next time."

    "I wasn't present for that," Fujo admitted. "Happened during shift change and on Mr. Wilson's watch. But duly noted, and I'll tell Shuri, too, so we can all be aware. How is she?"

    T'Challa sighed. "Being seen to by Khamisi and her husband right now, letting her have breathing room and time, and going over x-rays of her hand." Silence reigned for a moment, then he smiled. "It was a good idea that Shuri had, getting him here."

    Fujo nodded. "It was." Then she blinked at Miss Potts who had snuck up on them. "How'd you move so fast?"

    Miss Potts smiled at her. "I didn't. You were distracted." She looked at T'Challa, glanced back into the common room, and then nodded and beckoned him to follow her away from the doorway. When she was satisfied, she turned and looked at him seriously. "Thank you."

    "For what, Miss Potts?"

    Miss Potts frowned at him, shook her head. "Pepper. Please. And I'm thanking you for a lot here, but mostly... making Tony get out of Siberia the long way."

    "Oh you didn't," Fujo breathed, her tone all sorts of mock scandalized.

    T'Challa turned and looked at his Dora Milaje with raised eyebrows. "He was in no danger, and he needed time and sleep. Of course I did."

    Fujo chuckled and returned to her book. "In that case, I'll pretend I know nothing, Your Highness."

    He turned back to look at Pepper to find her silently laughing. "How is he?"

    "Improving. Does Steve know you did that?"

    T'Challa shook his head. "No, because he was out of it from going to the breaking point and not eating enough like he should have been, that he passed out at my feet and took Barnes with him, and then I had to give him emergency Insta-Glucose, once Barnes could tell me about his metabolism and make me understand about the Super Serum. He was out of it for a while and went through five tubes before he was cognizant."

    She glanced back toward the common room. "Oh."

    "And everyone here has been making sure he eats enough ever since."

    Pepper sighed. "That makes sense. Anyway... thank you for that note you sent, telling me that Tony would be back in New York eventually. It helped. It also took him two months to even admit to me that he drove five hours from the base to Oymyakon, or that he was even stuck in Siberia to begin with."

    T'Challa frowned at her. "Most people would own up to something like that."

    "Your highness, you've met Tony. Getting him to tell you his shoe size is easy, everything else is not."

    He had to agree with that assessment, though he'd not actually spent that much time in the man's company.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Waiting while Khamisi and Damian read the X-ray together after the King had taken his leave, Jill had time to sit on the bed in the lab and just look around, her gaze finally going to the cryo-bed that was still in here, even if now in one of the other corners of the room because it took up too much space otherwise, and Khamisi wasn't sure if he wanted to dismantle it yet. She stared at it for long minutes before hopping off the bed and getting a closer look at it.

    It was taller than she was, and the glass had been cleaned of any residue that the coolants would have left behind. And... aside from when she'd seen Bucky actually in it, it seemed harmless. Seemed being the operative word. Jill shook her head slowly as she walked around it before glancing toward the other two again, to find them watching her. "What?"

    Khamisi shrugged. "Nothing. I just didn't think you liked that thing much. Usually, when you're in here, you avoid looking at it."

    "I don't," she told him as Damian joined her at the cryo-pod. "And the only reason I'm looking at it right now is because there's time to."

    "Is this an upright bed?" Damian wondered, staring at it.

    "It's the cryo-pod James spent six weeks sleeping in of his own will."

    "Oh. That's... wow." Damian walked around it himself, then frowned at her. "And you're examining it why?"

    "Siberia."

    "Huh?"

    Jill put a hand on the glass. "Yesterday, I tried to get Steve to talk about Siberia by making him free-draw associate. I ended up with an awful picture of Tony Stark, and the room that held the frozen soldiers... including an empty one of these. And the chair set up in the center of the room. I almost tore it to shreds when I realized what he'd given me, when I realized that James had been standing mere feet from... horror, and holding it all together because he had to."

    "I'd like to see that one," Khamisi said after a minute of silence.

    She nodded and looked at the cryo-pod again. "And then this. Of his own will, because he was terrified of being used again. Of being forced to... I'm angry, damn it! And there's no time for it!"

    "There's time today," Damian told her, slowly taking her injured hand in his. "And you are going to take it. Right now. It's not broken, by the way. Just... how was he holding your hand?" She showed him. "Oh. No wonder. He nearly dislocated your thumb. That's why it's sore the way it is. Khamisi? Ace wrap?"

    "I don't want-"

    "Jill. Stop. Take a deep breath." She stared at him, then took a deep breath and let it out. "Better?"

    "If I lie, will it make you feel better?"

    Damian snorted in laughter as he accepted an ace wrap bandage from Khamisi and wrapped her hand. "No. And you know better than this, about the emotional distance you have to keep in your head."

    Jill sighed. "Are you really giving me the lecture on medical empathy?"

    "Yes." She reached up and kissed him on the nose. "What was that for?"

    "Allowing me my anger. Being a shoulder to cry on." Jill stared up at him, gazing and drinking him in. "It's just... this is personal. It couldn't be more personal. And I can't wait until he gets most of his issues ironed out so I can see him, himself. I saw him this morning, in the midst of the flashback with Nathaniel when he thought it was Amos, and it hit me, how much everybody lost, you know? Amos is... what?" She counted on her fingers. "Seventy-seven now. I think. And he had an entire life without the uncle who sang to him, who probably read him stories, and got him to calm down when Hazel and his father couldn't from what was maybe Colic. And... I'm going to mix up my tenses, because this is that complicated, and I've been thinking of Miriam teaching Irish Lullaby to me as a way of dealing with crying babies. Where'd she learn it? Her father, who learned it from James. And... psychological crisis isn't how I like starting my mornings, two days in a row."

    Damian nodded. "Screwed up tenses or not, that made sense. What was yesterday?"

    "Steve made fantastic pancakes." At his incredulous expression, she smiled. "And you thought pancakes were a safe food, right? Not when made by a HYDRA operative for The Asset who is on a liquid diet."

    Damian winced. "Oh. Your stories aren't going to be at all normal today, are they?"

    "You want normal?" Jill smiled and pulled him from the lab. "Oh, we've got ourselves some normal!"

    Khamisi chuckled to himself and returned to studying the binder.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    In the common family room, which was one of two on this floor and closer to the bedrooms than the other one by the kitchen, Clint looked up from coloring on a sketchpad with Nathaniel to find Jill and an unfamiliar man watching them. "Oh. Hi."

    "Damian wanted to see something normal," Jill said with a smile. "This is as normal as we get, right?"

    Clint chuckled. "Until Wanda makes Lila's day with a red mist display and makes the crayons dance, yes."

    "Oh, can I?" Wanda asked as she led Lila and Cooper through dance moves.

    "Yeah, Dad! Can she?" Cooper asked. "It's fun!"

    "No," Clint told her with a look. "I like the crayons un-hexed."

    "Bug!" Nathaniel suddenly said, looking up at Jill.

    Damian frowned. "Bug? You're a bug?"

    Jill chuckled. "Nope. And that was the fun you missed of the Psych Crisis. James is the Bug." She bent down and motioned Nathaniel to come to her, and he toddled over to her, and then she picked him up. "Your Bug is sleeping, Kiddo. Maybe tomorrow, hmm?"

    "No Bug?" Nathaniel asked.

    "No, no Bug." She watched at he started to pout, then looked at Damian and hid his face with a squeak. Jill held him closer, hugging him, then set him down again, and he ran back to Clint. "They're so cute at that age."

    "Want another one?" Damian asked humorously, and Clint looked up at him funny.

    "Jill, who is this?"

    "My husband, Damian." She turned to give him a look. "And no, I don't want to start over, when we finally got Maria off to college and everything. Four was enough."

    Damian rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Just a thought. Maybe a bad one, but..."

    "I know." She glanced at Clint, and then at Laura, who was looking at them funny. "They snuck him in. And James is going to have a ten hour nap. Again."

    "Better or worse than yesterday's ten hour nap?" Clint asked.

    "That's the question, isn't it? On the bright side... we have a medical history now, so this thing that happened this morning by accident can't happen again." Clint frowned as he hauled Nathaniel into his lap. "Ativan sensitivity."

    Clint nodded in understanding. "He was yawning a lot at breakfast, and definitely medically stoned."

    "And I'm still wondering exactly what reaction to bananas it was that Rob witnessed, too."

    Damian paused. "What about Rob? And... bananas?"

    Jill grinned. "Oh that's right. You weren't at breakfast. Laura, Wanda? My brother witnessed a war veteran having a PTSD reaction to fruit with a waitress named Sally while on his way home from a conference in Austin, and gave him his business card. Only he didn't tell me about this, and if it weren't for Clint making fruit bowls for breakfast, we never would have known."

    "But really," Damian said again. "Bananas?"

    "Didn't I tell you the story involving Steve forgetting about the banana changeover when I got back to Mauritania?"

    "Oh my," Laura suddenly said with a giggle. "You're kidding!"

    "Nope, I'm not. Really not." Jill basked in the hilarity, then turned and looked at her husband, who was staring at her. "What? We've got normal, and then we've got Rob having a failure of imagination. Come on. You're due for the psychology lecture. And... Clint?"

    "Yeah?"

    "About how well does Steve tolerate time travel stories? I think I saw Star Trek Four in my bag of movies and albums."

    Clint shrugged. "After he stopped complaining about it, he seemed to like Back to the Future just fine. And isn't The Voyage Home all about saving the whales?"

    "So it'd be an interesting starting point?"

    "Probably."

    She nodded. "And we could also save the good stuff for when James is awake, too. According to Steve, he loves science. Which might explain why they sent From The Earth To The Moon..."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    In the common room, Steve looked up from watching Bucky sleep the sleep of the accidentally sedated to find Jill sporting an ace bandage on one of her hands, carrying five DVDs as well as her laptop, what appeared to be a wrist watch, and a man he'd only seen once following her in from the hallway with blankets in his hands. "Jill?"

    "Khamisi and the King are very sneaky when they want to be," she said as she set the DVDs down beside the DVD player, and her laptop on the seat of the chair she planned to sit in. "Damian... Captain Rogers, Miss Virginia Potts, Sam Wilson, Fujo, and the sleeping one over there is James. You'll meet him later when he finally comes to." She tossed the wrist watch to Steve, and he was surprised to find out that it wasn't, in fact, a watch. "Put it on his wrist, Steve."

    Steve looked at Damian. "How is Ituri?"

    "Better than here, apparently," Damian said, nodding to Bucky while Steve put the vitals cuff on his wrist.

    "Just for that, and the unwanted xray, we're not watching Last of the Dogmen first," Jill said as she put a DVD in, turned the TV on, found the remote, and turned back to them. At Steve's expression of concern, she held up her ace-bandaged-wrapped hand. "Not broken, as confirmed by xray."

    "Oh," Steve remarked as he watched her take the blankets from Damian and cover Bucky with them, making it so the shawl was on top.

    "And doctors make the worst patients," Damian teased and then Jill glared at him. "What? It's true!"

    "Who is this?" Pepper wondered.

    Jill smiled at her. "My husband, Damian. Like I said: the good doctor and the ladies and the King snuck him in without my knowing about it." She turned to look at Fujo, who was silently laughing. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's been a long seventeen days!"

    Fujo nodded. "You're welcome."

    Steve frowned as the movie actually started with a really odd advertisement. "What is that?"

    Pepper blinked in surprise. "That's... Jill, what did they send? That's an advert for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think."

    Jill grinned as she picked up her laptop before she sat down in one of the unoccupied arm chairs and Damian sat down between her feet. "A dubbed copy of Star Trek 4's video release, and you're correct. Oh... Steve? Here." She passed the envelope she'd been holding over to Sam, seated on one end of the couch at Bucky's feet, who passed it to Steve. "They sent a lot."

    Steve frowned at her as he opened the previously-opened envelope to find a card with a picture of a very grumpy-appearing cat with the words 'Good Luck, you'll need it' on the front. He opened it to find a note and a separate piece of paper with a hand-written list...

    Dear Jill,
    We're glad you're there, too.
    Grandma Becca talked me out of some things, and we had a lovely afternoon deciding on what to send you. And you're correct: if he managed to miss Bill Cosby, then we've done him a disservice in helping him get caught up.
    Rob and I will be wanting our movies and albums back eventually. Enjoy.
    Much love, and she thought he'd love the one with the whales.
    -Kristy

    Steve paused. "One with the whales?"

    Jill smiled again. "Star Trek Four has whales... and is probably the best way to introduce you to Trek, if we don't have the Original Series at our disposal. Which we don't, unless His Highness has those under lock and key somewhere with his Monty Python collection."

    "Oh." He frowned and looked over at her. "And just what is Last of the Dogmen?"

    She tapped the top of Damian's head with a smile. "It's a western story. One of this one's favorite movies. But fun of you was made for the purpose of stress relief, and we can't introduce James to Elvis if he's sedated, so... Whales it is!"

    Damian glanced back at her. "Elvis?"

    "Yes. Elvis. Pepper was witness to Rebecca wearing the Elvis scrubs and knitting that shawl, and we've not had much of a chance to do any pop culture for him, due to the deprogramming process."

    "Oh."

    "Bug!" Nathaniel yelled as he toddled into the common room, now wearing a purple onesie, Wanda following behind him.

    Jill laughed. "Again?"

    "Clint keeps calling him a little escape artist," Wanda explained with a shrug as Nathaniel went straight for the couch and Steve grabbed him before he could do anything else.

    Nathaniel looked up at Steve, then pointed down at Bucky. "Bug?"

    Steve smiled. "He's tired, Nate. Wanda?"

    "Sure you don't want to keep him? Seems to want his Bug," Wanda teased. "Asleep or awake. What do you think, Nathaniel? Want to stay?"

    "Want!" Nathaniel agreed.

    "As funny as this is," Jill broke in, seeing Laura in the doorway. "Laura? What do you think?"

    "Oh, he can," Laura said with a smile.

    "There's some blocks and things in one of the boxes that Pepper brought, then. In the room I've been using for an office."

    Laura smiled again. "Oh? I'll be back."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Laura returned with a set of blocks and a smaller box labeled "Dumbass Bars" on it. She handed those to Steve, who couldn't help but stare. "I opened the wrong one first."

    Pepper chuckled at the expression on Steve's face. "One of the boxes has things from your apartment in it, Steve. Those were in one of your cabinets."

    Nathaniel grabbed at the box as Steve took it, and they looked at it together while Steve shook his head ruefully. "Becca would yell at me if I started eating these."

    "Bec?" Nathaniel asked, confused.

    "Yes. Becca. Can you say that?"

    "Bec!" Nathaniel enthused with a big smile, and then be blinked when Bucky grunted before lapsing back into sleep. "Bug?" When Bucky didn't respond again, Nathaniel looked up at Steve, who shrugged.

    "He's sleeping. Reacts to things, but still sleeping."

    "Laura?" Jill asked. "Can I see those?" Laura set the blocks down beside the couch, then brought the box over to her. Jill studied it. "So they're really called Dumbass Super Soldier Meal Bars..."

    Steve nodded. "Tony named 'em."

    "Uh-huh... was there a story to the naming, or is he just really random like that?" At his silence, she glanced up at him, noticed he was suddenly attempting to play Paddy Cake one-handed with Nathaniel. Then she looked at Laura. "Bring the other two in here in an hour or so? We've got Balto."

    Laura frowned at Steve, nodded. "Good idea. Wanda? Weren't you going to help me with a physics lesson?" Wanda nodded. "Let's go, then."

    Damian watched them go, then gestured for the box of meal bars. "Physics?"

    Jill handed it to him with a laugh. "She's been learning from the King to better control her abilities. See one, do one, teach one? It's a wonderful learning method, and also a confidence booster, to pass on what you've learned."

    "Ah. So it's therapy." He studied the box for a long moment before opening it and taking one of the bars out, opening the packaging as he did so. "This... looks like a really gooey granola bar. Or a Power Bar. Or a combination of the two."

    "Power Bar?" Steve wondered as Nathaniel got down off his lap and started to play with the blocks.

    "Think sports nutrition candy bar that doesn't taste very good." Damian looked at him with a frown, then at the bar again. "You mind if I try this?"

    "Not at all." Steve watched with a grin as Damian gingerly bit into it, chewed for thirty seconds with a surprised expression on his face, and swallowed.

    "How do you eat these things? They... I'm sorry, Captain. I'm in agreement with Rebecca on this. Real food is better."

    Sam chuckled. "Maybe, but if we're in the middle of an op, it's better than nothing."

    "Right. Do you mind if Khamisi and I do tests on these things?"

    "Sure, go for it," Pepper told him before Steve could respond, frowning. "They're that bad?"

    "I've tasted better Power Bars," Damian said with a grimace as he wrapped the bar back up right as Nathaniel got up and toddled over to him, demanding it. "No, bud. Not for you."

    "Want!" Nathaniel argued, and pouted when Damian handed the box back up to Jill. "Shiny!"

    Damian chuckled. "Yes, shiny. And no, you don't want. Let's go play with your blocks." Nathaniel focused on him with wide eyes, screeched loudly, and ran for the safety of Sam's legs. "Or you could do that..."

    "Mmmph!" Bucky grunted, and sat up with a gasp.

    "Bug!" Nathaniel yelled as Sam pulled him up into his lap with a frown. "Up!"

    Bucky blinked a few times at both of them. "Sam?"

    "Yeah?" They waited, but Bucky yawned again and leaned hard into the cushions of the couch, and Sam chuckled as he looked at Steve over his shoulder. "Well, at least he doesn't think I'm Gabe Jones again."

    Damian glanced back at Jill. "Now I see why you're calling it somewhere in between, on the scale. Loud noises."

    She nodded as she opened her laptop and turned it back on, while Steve pulled Bucky back down into a laying position and recovered him with the blankets. "Yep. And Sam? He called you that because he was in the middle of a nightmare when you woke him up."

    "I know that. Just... like you said, it's been a long seventeen days. Have to find the humor somewhere."

    "Jill?" Damian ventured as he heard her start typing.

    "Yes?"

    "Maybe now's not the best time to type-" and then he interrupted himself as both Sam and Steve turned to stare at him. "What?"

    "They both know that telling me not to do case notes amounts to telling Steve, no he can't go for a run at 0600. And if you're worried about my hand, it's fine. Besides... Pepper's going to want to take something to Mike, and Mike and Jane are going to want it. I have confirmatory evidence on a lot of things, so far." She paused, looked at Pepper over the top of her laptop screen. "Correct?"

    Pepper nodded. "Correct."

    "So introduce yourself to Nathaniel, Damian, and get him used to you. Not that James being all confused and passing out on us isn't cute and entertaining... don't look at me like that, hon. I can't see you through my screen and I still know you are. Watch the movie, play with the kid. Whichever." She glanced at Sam. "On second thought, go tell Khamisi that I want a hair drug test done, so we can take full advantage of the sedation while it lasts. Take Nathaniel with you."

    Sam nodded. "A hair drug test?"

    "Yep."

    "All right." Sam stood up, Nathaniel still in his arms. "Let's go visit the doc, kid."

    Steve frowned again. "What's a hair drug test?"

    "James didn't cut his hair yet, Steve. Everything a person takes, drug-wise, ends up in the hair as minute residue."

    Steve looked down at Bucky. "Oh. So when you say evidence, you mean it."

    "Yes, I mean it. And... Pepper? You want to be the one to tell Jane she gets to go to Catonsville for an interview with that waitress named Sally? If I do it, Jane will have to translate a cipher." Damian pushed her laptop screen down and looked at her funny. "What?"

    "Interview with Sally?"

    "Yes. And Rob, after I'm able to yell at him properly over email." She pushed her laptop screen back up and continued typing.

    Pepper pulled her tablet out and consulted with Friday for a moment, then smiled. "I'll do it. We've got encryption already due to the ongoing mock trial being had on paper between Legal and Michael and Jane. What's the name of the diner?"

    "The Double T Diner." She frowned in thought for a moment. "I think it's on the Baltimore National Pike."

    "So you've been to this diner," Steve observed.

    "Yes, I've been to that diner. I've gone to at least one Endocrinology conference with my brother, which is how I know he likes to stop there on the way home. It's kind of a throw back to the 50's, exterior is bright and welcoming and the interior is homey." She glanced at Pepper, smirked, and wrote something really quick on a piece of paper, then had Damian hand it to her. Pepper frowned as she read it, then frowned at Jill.

    "Is this... what is this?"

    "The telegram I was going to send. Granted, I was going to send it to Andi, but..."

    "Ah."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Upon checking her email first thing in the morning after taking her shower, Jane was surprised to find an email from Miss Potts...

    To: BarnesFamilyLegalTeam
    From: CEOWomenRock
    Subject: Surprises...
    Attachment: DoubleTDinerInformation, WarMachineAVLogPhotoRomania

    Jane, you're going to need to go to Catonsville, Maryland and interview a waitress named Sally about a war veteran she met... two years ago now, a month after DC. Jill says the timing matches to some endocrinology conference in Austin that her brother Rob went to. Take Rebecca and the above picture with you.
    And from Jill, so she doesn't have to send a telegram...
    "Tell Crazy Scrubs that the March Turkey is defrosted.
    Grateful for photo albums and packages received.
    We started with the Whales.
    Nathaniel's Bug loved the shawl. Something warm!
    Sing Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral for Amos. Yes, really.
    Addition to Martin's reading: ECT."


    Jane frowned as she opened the photo attachment, and then could only stare at her Uncle, wearing four layers including two jackets, a black t-shirt, and a red Henley sweater. Also a backpack with a sternum strap. "Oh..."


    To: CEOWomenRock
    From: BarnesFamilyLegalTeam
    Subject: Re: Surprises...

    Will do. And tell Jill thank you, and that I want details! Lots of details! And... was he wearing four layers all the time, or was that just for Bucharest because it's cold in the spring?

    To: BarnesFamilyLegalTeam
    From: CEOWomenRock
    Subject: Re: Surprises

    From what I've seen so far, because it's not actually been that long this morning: He's always cold, and Jill's explanation was cold sensitivity. I've yet to see him without a sweatshirt, and he said "it depends on the day" before he passed out from sedation after breakfast. No, don't ask about that. It'd take too long to explain right now, and I'm still reeling a little.
    Tell Rebecca that he loves the Shawl, like Jill said.
    Also? Don't tell Rob until Jill can yell at him properly, about going to Catonsville.
    She's making sure you get the details right now. And my day started with her being really distracted and an explanation of 'the moron gave someone on a liquid diet pancakes! I don't care if he's dead, he's still a moron!' Presumably, that story will be in the case notes...

    To: CEOWomenRock
    From: BarnesFamilyLegalTeam
    Subject: Re: Surprises...

    I'd have to actually SEE Rob to say anything, Miss Potts. And I'll tell her.
    And I get actual case notes? I look forward to that! (What am I saying? MIKE looks forward to that!)
    She's right. Dead guy was a moron.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Pepper smirked as she read Jane's last reply. "Jill?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "Jane agrees with you on whomever the dead man was, being a moron."

    Steve frowned as Jill glanced up from her laptop screen. "Did you have an attack of 'thought someone was checking on you' with Pepper?" At Jill's nod, he chuckled. "Right. Pepper, tell Jane that she was talking about Brock Rumlow giving Bucky pancakes during some kind of op." Bucky mumbled something unintelligible in his sleep and Steve reached down to soothe him by stroking his hair.

    "Rumlow? The man that blew himself up in Lagos trying to kill you?"

    "Yes. That guy."

    Jill lowered her laptop screen to look at Damian. "What do you think? Two on the sedation scale? Or still a three?"

    "Probably still in between."

    Jill nodded and returned to typing. "So it knocks him out, he's pliable for a while, but slightly arousable if someone yells at him... long enough to, say: put him on ice."

    Steve winced. "That makes gruesome sense." He watched the movie for a long minute... "So they've done this time travel thing before?"

    "Yes," Damian said with a smile, then blinked with Steve sighed dramatically. "What?"

    "You all keep showing me things with time travel as a plot device!"

    "It get's better," Pepper assured him. "And you're probably one of the only people living to know exactly what their time-adjustment problems are going to be like."

    "I still threw two agents through a fake wall, Pepper."

    Jill chuckled. "One of these days, we're going to talk about that, specifically. And... why was there throwing of anyone through a wall?"

    "Do we have to talk about this right now?"

    "You brought it up, and group therapy is good for the soul." She glanced at him. "What was the other thing with time travel?"

    "Back to the Future," Sam answered as he reentered the common room behind Khamisi. "And that was because he tested Barnes's memory with actor trivia, right out of cryofreeze."

    "Bug!" Nathaniel said as Khamisi bent down in front of the couch and moved the blocks. Bucky grunted, opened his eyes blankly to look at Khamisi, and then rolled away from him toward the cushions.

    Khamisi blinked at that, then looked back at Sam. "Come back in a few minutes? I'd rather he didn't move while I do this." Sam nodded and took Nathaniel with him again, and Khamisi turned back to look at the back of Bucky's head. "You're right, Jill. Between a two and a three. I could give him a reversal agonist..."

    "That has it's own side effects, and we don't know how he'd react to it."

    "Good point."

    "Reversal what?" Steve wondered.

    "An antidote for Benzodiazepines, Captain," Khamisi explained as he laid out three pieces of foil, pulled on a set of gloves, and studied the back of Bucky's head for a long moment. "Keep him calm and still if he does wake, all right?"

    Steve nodded. "Why are we taking advantage of the sedation, exactly?"

    Khamisi very quickly took three pencil-thick strands, wrapped them in the foil, and then set back and took a deep, calming breath. "Because if we tried this when he wasn't sedated, he might throw me through a wall and not realize he did it."

    Steve blinked in surprise. "What?"

    "During session three, I brought up the subject of a haircut," Jill explained. "Even went so far as to show him the scissors. He had a panic attack and refused to come out of the corner for an hour. We haven't gone into that subject again since."

    "Oh."

    Damian frowned at Khamisi while the man put his kit back together. "Exactly what haven't you been telling me over email? 'Oh everything's fine here, honey... how's your day, and remind Martin to do his reading that he's not loving, even though he's the one who asked the question.' Uh-huh... Steve, do you have email, so I can ask you instead?"

    Jill snorted in laughter when she looked up at Steve and saw the wry expression. "If you had email right now, would you use it?"

    "I left my phone with my jacket at the bottom of an elevator shaft in Berlin," Steve told her frankly. "And I might, if I could, if the political situation wasn't what it is, and Becca wasn't being watched by the State Department. I want to talk to Becca. I want Bucky to be able to talk to Becca."

    "Steve?" Pepper asked after a minute of movie-watching silence and Khamisi quietly leaving the room. "I was actually going to ask you about your jacket. Natasha found it, wanted to know how you and it ended up there, at the bottom of an elevator shaft. And before James passed out, he mumbled something about no control, whatever that means."

    Steve winced and looked down at Bucky. "So he does remember at least some of it. I wondered. Soldat punched me, is how I ended up at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Backed me right into an elevator door."

    Pepper shared a look with Jill, who had paused her typing to listen. "And then?"

    "And then I had to climb out and go crash a chopper." He shook his head and stroked Bucky's hair again. "Can we not? Not now. If he does remember it, I don't want to give him nightmares."

    "That's all I wanted to know," Pepper told him. "And we don't have to continue talking about it right now. We're watching the movie."

    "Even if the movie is a time travel story," Steve muttered as Sam returned with a happy Nathaniel.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    When Michael Proctor got into his office that morning, he was surprised to find that Jane wasn't already at her desk, hard at work. Then he found a note on his own desk... Gone to Catonsville, MD with your grandmother for an interview with a waitress and coffee. Three hours there, three back. Will explain tomorrow. -Jane

    Michael stood there reading over and over for a minute before nodding to himself and sitting down at his desk. If it was that important, and if she took his grandmother along, then he'd wait to hear the explanation.
     
  22. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I don't know if I said this already, but I am loving this story.
     
  23. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Cowgirl Jedi 1701: Is good to hear. Thank you. :)



    Silver Linings in Catonsville

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Early morning was usually a quiet time in the Proctor-Baines (and Nettleton) household, Rebecca reflected as she sat at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. She sipped her coffee, and puzzled at one article related to ongoing construction. It seemed like they never stopped building.

    A knock at the front door sounded, startling her out of her reading, and she frowned. Who would be coming over at this early hour? Was Daniel back early from his business trip, and had he forgotten his keys?

    Getting up to answer the door, she frowned again at Jane, who seemed to be jumping out of her skin with excitement, though she was standing still. "Good morning."

    Jane smiled. "Can I come in, Aunt Becca? I've got something you're going to love. Well... maybe love, or it might make you want to throw things."

    "Oh really? At this hour?" Rebecca pursed her lips and stood aside, just as Mason fell off the couch with a grunt and Miriam ambled into the kitchen, not even saying hello to either of them. "Mason?"

    "I love this carpet," he mumbled.

    Jane laughed. "Oh, Mason! Really?"

    "Huh?" Mason looked up at them blearily, then rolled his eyes. "Honestly? I've fallen off the couch at least three times a month in a year. And Miriam wanted me to stay last night, so I didn't go to the Detail's apartment."

    "Ah. Well, up with you. I've got a thing. You're going to want to see the thing. Thing is good."

    Rebecca frowned and led them both to the kitchen, where Miriam was staring at her cup of coffee. "Don't."

    Miriam blinked up at her. "No amount of you telling me not to feel guilty is going to make me feel any less at fault, Aunt Becca. It still hurts. Good morning, Jane."

    Jane paused, taking in how disheveled her first cousin was, even for having just gotten out of bed. "Miri?"

    "I'm fine, Jane. Just... things. Bad things."

    Rebecca sighed. "I keep telling you, Miriam. Hazel did the right thing. And you were eleven. Stop kicking yourself, please."

    "I'm missing something here," Jane said slowly as she sat down at the table and pulled a folded piece of paper from her purse. "What was the right thing? And... eleven?"

    Miriam glanced at Mason as he sat down, then looked at Jane. "When I was eleven, Grandma Hazel and I had a near-miss while out grocery shopping. With Uncle James."

    "Oh?" Jane asked as she unfolded the paper and handed a picture to Miriam. "Did he happen to look that good?"

    Miriam blinked in surprise as she looked at the photo, taking in the four layers and the ripped sleeve and the metal left hand that was clenched while his other hand was not. "I... no. Where did you get this?"

    "From Miss Potts, very early this morning, along with a message from Jill." Jane handed her the piece of paper. "Among other things, you'll need to sing Irish Lullaby to your Dad."

    Miriam read the printed out emails for a long moment before grinning and handing the page to Rebecca. "That's weird. Why would she make that suggestion?"

    Rebecca sat down as she read, then smiled. "Amos had colic, Miriam. And whom did you learn Irish Lullaby from?"

    "Dad. What does that have to do with anything? And... why are you looking at me like that? What?"

    "Put another way: who would have taught Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral to Amos? It wasn't Hazel or Richard, or me, or Emma, or our parents. And it was something only usually heard around our home when Steve was ill after his mother died. Until Amos had Colic, that is."

    Miriam looked down at the picture in her hand. "You're telling me that Uncle James taught my father a song, that I...? Oh. Wow."

    "So is Jill, in her own way." Rebecca glanced at Jane, as Mason took the paper and read it. "Is there a way to reply?"

    Jane nodded. "Later today, after we've gone to talk to that waitress."

    "Catonsville?" Mason wondered. "Where is that, exactly?"

    "About thirty-six miles out of DC," Jane told him. "Why?"

    Mason smiled and looked at Rebecca. "Do you want to meet Lucinda? That's close enough that she can take a long lunch and meet us there."

    Rebecca took the paper back from him and read it through again, then looked at him. "Go ahead and call her. Also, I want you to take pictures and do Emma proud."

    "Um... why?"

    "I have an idea. You'll love it, darling nephew."

    "Aunt Becca, that's usually how I end up spending the night on the couch. You and having some wild idea."

    Rebecca looked at Miriam. "What do you think? Christmas in July, the leaves, or Elvis?"

    Miriam glanced at Jane. "You mind going anywhere with a woman dressed in skiing penguins?"

    "Not at all." Jane winked at Rebecca. "Though Elvis is a fabulous idea."

    Rebecca nodded and stood up. "Both, then."

    "I vote for the monkeys," Mason told her with a grin.

    "Of course you do."

    Miriam watched her go, then looked down at her pajamas. "I should go change, too. And Mason?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "Peter Pan."

    Mason smirked. "Sure you don't want Speedy Gonzalez or Goofy?"

    "Yes, I'm sure. Speedy is too orange for me to look at it all day long, and as much as I love Goofy... no."

    They were alone in the kitchen for a minute when Mason leaned over to Jane. "It possible for you to send a bunch of pictures back through the encrypted email?"

    Jane smiled. "I think so. Why?"

    "I have an idea," he said as he stood up. "Maybe a bad one, but... still an idea. And Aunt Becca did say she wanted me to do Grandma Emma proud. So we will. As a family. Together."

    Later, a request would go out via Daniel's facebook account: "We've had a rough couple of days and Miriam and Becca need to see all of your faces. Assignment for today: everyone is to take a safe and sane selfie even if usually you never do, and then a picture of where you are or whom you're with. Kudos if you can do both at the same time. Post them and Tag both myself and Jane. Thank you."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Alone in her bedroom, Rebecca had time to choose five scrub tops and put them in a bag for safe-keeping while she picked a sixth to wear first. Her hand stumbled across one she'd gotten for herself in a fit of wanting to support Steve and the Avengers and she smiled for a moment before taking it off the hanger. It was red, with stars and graphics of Black Widow, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, and the Hulk. Turning around, Rebecca found Mason standing in the doorway, a smile on his face. "What do you think? Too much?"

    Mason shook his head and hefted the camera. "Put it on over your undershirt, even if it isn't the one you're going to wear."

    "Mason..." She studied him, then did as he asked. "All right."

    Mason motioned to the bed where Gracie was lounging. "Sit down with Gracie." He watched as she did so, then frowned as he studied them. "Something's missing..." Spying the tablet on her dresser, he picked it up and handed it to her. "Pretend to read, and pet Gracie."

    Gracie surprised them both and climbed into Rebecca's lap, and they shared a chuckle.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    In the parking lot of the Double T Diner in Catonsville, Rebecca got out of the car and looked at the building with an interested frown. It was bright, old-feeling, welcoming, and reminded her of Happy Days in Brooklyn... if it had more room and was decorated differently. "I can see it, you know. How he could have washed up here."

    On the other side of the car, Jane smiled as she closed her door. "Is welcoming. Classic, too. And just think... if you'd gone with the blue skunks instead of the Lilac, you could have matched their exterior color scheme."

    "Jane..."

    "What? It's true!"

    "And there's Lucinda," Mason said suddenly, excitement in his voice and they both turned to see a blonde woman in a nice dark blue button-down shirt and a skirt and flats approaching from the direction of another car. "Hi!"

    Lucinda smiled as she looked at Mason's outfit, then laughed. "Whose idea was Peter Pan?"

    "Mine," Miriam asserted as Rebecca shut the car door. "Or he was going to test my patience by wearing something orange." She held out her hand. "Miriam Baines. Lilac Skunks is my Aunt Rebecca, and the other woman is my cousin Jane."

    Lucinda returned the handshake. "Lucinda Conklin. And it's good to finally meet you all. And... what are we doing here?"

    "I am going to interview a waitress," Jane told her. "And you'll never guess why."

    "Oh?" Miriam suddenly pushed a paper into her hands and pointed at the diner. Lucinda frowned at her, then looked to find that she was holding a picture of... "Oh. No, I never would have guessed that." A sudden clicking sound drew her attention and she glanced up to find Mason taking a picture. "It's one thing to fly under the radar and lie to my boss, it's entirely another to have pictorial evidence of it, Mason."

    "He's following my orders," Rebecca told her. "And it's for Pepper only."

    Miriam smiled at Lucinda's confusion. "Well... not just Pepper, but you didn't hear that from us. And after all, you're with us. We are the last people who are going to tell anyone you were here, including your boss the Secretary of State."

    "What are you people doing here?"

    Mason turned to find a member of his detail team frowning at them, hands on hips. "Oh. Hi Bill. We're... here for coffee. What are you doing here?"

    Bill nodded to the diner. "Visiting family. You know, like I always do on my rotation day off. Sally's due to take a break in about ten minutes." All but Lucinda stared at him in shock. "What?"

    Rebecca stepped forward. "I'd love to meet your sister, Bill. In fact... that's exactly why we're here."

    "You're not going to make her read the manual too, are you, Mrs. Proctor?"

    Rebecca shook her head. "No." Another click of the camera and she turned and looked at Mason. "And did you know it was Bill's sister?"

    "No. I didn't even know he was from Catonsville." Mason fixed Bill with a look.

    "You never asked," Bill said simply.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Inside the diner, Rebecca was surprised about how nice it was, and watched as Bill went and greeted his sister, a brunette wearing a waitress outfit, holding a pencil and an ordering pad. She looked over his shoulder at them, then nodded and walked away. Bill came back to them, smiling. "She needs to turn that order in, and then she'll take her break."

    "Hi Bill!" Another waitress said as she passed them holding a platter that had several dishes on it. "And... they with you?" At his nod, she smiled. "Hang on, and I'll get ya seated!"

    "Thank you, Connie!"

    Mason watched Connie deliver food to a table where a man and a woman were seated with two little kids, then turned to Bill. "So..."

    Bill smirked. "I'm here often enough that I have a usual, and I went to high school with Connie. Helps that Brooklyn is so close, too."

    "It's three hours away, Bill," Lucinda pointed out.

    "And I've been stationed in places that were half-way around the world." He shrugged, glanced at Rebecca and Miriam and Jane. "Not that it's a good thing that I'm on the detail that's only in Brooklyn to follow you around, but... three hours? It's fantastic."

    Miriam smiled at that. "Silver linings."

    "Exactly."

    Connie returned right then, without the tray. "So... Six of you?"

    Bill nodded. "Seven. Sally's joining us."

    Connie glanced over all of them, then nodded and led them to a table far away from the door. They sat down and she pulled out an ordering pad after passing out menus. "I know what Bill's having. What do the rest of you want to drink?" She took their orders and bustled off to fill them.

    Miriam glanced around at the tables and the stools... "I wonder where-"

    "Okay," Sally interrupted as she sat down next to Bill with a smile. "To what do I owe the company? Bill doesn't usually come with so many. And why didn't Kurt come with?"

    "He's with Daniel on a business trip," Bill answered. "And these people brought themselves, supposedly for coffee, all the way from Brooklyn, except for Lucinda. She's local. Sort of."

    "Jane, this is your show," Rebecca began as she gestured for the picture back from Lucinda and then handed it to Sally. "But I'll do the asking. Have you met this man?"

    Sally studied the picture of the man wearing two coats, a red henley sweater, and what appeared to be a black t-shirt underneath, as well as a backpack with a sternum strap, hair to his shoulders... "Oh. The thin mystery sergeant from a while back, when Doctor Mackenzie was here, time before last. Looks better in this picture. Gosh, he looks upset. What happened?"

    "What can you tell us about him?" Jane asked, notepad out and pen ready.

    Sally frowned. "Well, there's not much to tell, really. He was overly thin, wearing a baseball cap and jeans and at least two layers when he was here. Doctor Mackenzie and I watched him have the weirdest reaction to fruit salad that I'd ever seen... swearing in at least three languages, different ones, including what sounded like Russian, every time he tried to eat a piece of fruit. And then Doctor Mackenzie told me to get him some eggs... you know, bland foods, because he was having such a bad reaction to the fruit. I got him a breakfast platter, toast, soup, and Rodney, one of our cooks, suggested a chocolate shake with protein powder. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have remembered a particular food order, but this was out of the ordinary."

    "Anything else?"

    "Aside from my surprising him and him pulling a knife on me like Bill here did when he had PTSD really bad, and then being shocked that he'd done that?"

    Jane glanced up at her. "A knife?"

    Sally nodded. "Yes. A combat knife. I took it away from him. Oh, and he said he'd been on liquids. Why?" Bill tapped her arm, and she handed him the picture.

    "Because..." Jane motioned to Rebecca. "You've just identified her formerly missing brother as your mystery Sergeant."

    Sally looked at Rebecca, eyes evaluating the elderly woman. "Really? I'd have guessed grandson. And... Bill, why are you laughing?"

    Bill passed the picture to Mason, sobered. "Mrs. Proctor? Tell her who he is. Please. And... wow, was not expecting that. Do you still have that knife?"

    Sally shook her head. "No, I gave it to Doctor Mackenzie. Nice man, comes through here once or twice a year on business. And... oh. I gave the Sergeant one of my nutrition books, and the good doctor gave him his business card. And... why are you, lady, writing all of this down?"

    Jane smiled but did not look up. "Aside from the knife incident, was he violent?"

    "No. Just confused, hungry, and far too thin, like the VA had let him go too soon or something." Sally looked at Rebecca, who was smiling back at her. "Who is he? And is he okay?"

    Rebecca nodded. "He's fine, as far as we know. And he really is my brother, James Barnes. And Jane is working on a Burden of Proof."

    Sally stared at her. "Sergeant James Barnes? Howling Commando, Second World War, recently framed for an attack on the UN as the Winter Soldier even though he's dead... THAT James Barnes?"

    "Yes. And this explains why Jill wants to yell at her brother."

    "Huh?"

    "Doctor Mackenzie is my grandson-in-law," Rebecca explained, and smiled when Bill started laughing again. "Bill's got the right idea. On some level, this is funny. Bill?"

    "In a minute," he gasped. "Sorry! It's just..."

    "It's a lot of things. And Mason will be taking your picture with the manual later."

    "I... huh?"

    "Manual?" Sally wondered. "And what's a Burden of Proof and why do you need it?"

    Miriam grinned. "You see... Bill told her the story about his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder during one of our weekly strategy meetings with the Detail team. She forced him into reading our Psychology Manual because one does not pull knives on one's family if it can be avoided, and my aunt is a nurse. If he'd told that story when the psychiatrist in our family was around... Bill, you'd still be in therapy."

    "As to what a Burden of Proof is," Jane explained. "And why we need it... a Burden of Proof is what one has to present in a court case, the evidence, negative or positive. And this?" She tapped the note pad. "This is positive. We needed it."

    "Oh." Sally frowned at her, then looked at Rebecca. "Is he in trouble with the law?"

    "He was framed for blowing up that UN meeting," Rebecca answered. "So yes, I'd say he's in trouble with the law, but not of his own accord. That's another reason we needed your statement."

    Connie came to their table with their drinks right then and served, then paused. "Ready to order, or should I come back?"

    "Not ready, Connie," Sally told her. She watched her go, then looked at Rebecca. "So... what detail? Bill didn't tell me anything, and now... now it makes no sense."

    "That's a longer story involving HYDRA, the State Department, and my amnesic brother who ended up in Bucharest instead of Brooklyn," Rebecca mused. "And maybe Lucinda can explain the State Department. After all, she works there."

    Lucinda shook her head. "No, I can't. And I'm simply here for lunch, not to explain the how or why of Ross putting you on a watch list when it makes no sense."

    Sally looked at Bill, who shrugged. "That's why Kurt isn't here, by the way. Daniel, Miriam's husband, is also on our Detail Watch List. Only they know about it, so Kurt actually went along as a traveling companion and body guard. But we're not telling the Secretary of State that."

    Lucinda chuckled. "Thank you, Bill. I so needed the levity."

    "Happy to please." Bill watched Mason stand and line up a picture. "And what's the deal with the picture taking?"

    "We," Mason waved his free hand at them. "Are making Grandma Emma proud. So smile. Act natural. Whichever." Connie passed by, and he snagged her arm after taking a picture. "Here. Take picture."

    Connie frowned at him, took the camera, and watched as he went and bent down between Rebecca and Miriam. "Okay. Going to order?"

    "In a minute. Picture, Connie." She took a picture, and then Mason took the camera back. "And we haven't looked at our menus yet. Couple more minutes?"

    "I'll be back, then." She walked away again.

    Rebecca opened up the menu and frowned at it. "You said James ordered a fruit salad, Sally?"

    "Yes."

    "Was it the Captains Boat with the pineapple or the Tropical Health Salad?"

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    It was late in the day and Rob's day was winding down when Miriam showed up with Mason. "Hi. Having a better day?" Miriam nodded and swept him up in a hug. "Miriam?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "Why are you hugging me?"

    "Something good happened," she answered and they stood there in the corridor for a while, drawing onlookers. Rob completely missed Mason taking a picture from three different angles.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Michael was just about to close the office for the day when Jane arrived with his grandmother, who was wearing the Skiing Penguins. "Oh, I thought you said tomorrow."

    "I did," Jane said as she pulled things out of her purse, including a notepad. "But this was too good to wait on, and I can't say anything to Rob, so Aunt Becca and I are here instead of with Miriam and Mason."

    Michael paused and looked at his grandmother, who had seated herself in Jane's office chair. "Too good to wait?"

    Rebecca nodded. "Rob had a near-miss with James, two years ago, at a diner in Catonsville, Maryland. We talked with the waitress and Jane took her statement."

    "Not exactly a near-miss," Jane said after a moment. "He did give him his business card. And then there's Miriam and Grandmother Hazel... which just happens to coincide with an entry from HYDRA where he disappeared for the better part of a month."

    "Right," Rebecca concurred. "He ended up here in Brooklyn. We know he did, because Miriam remembers grocery shopping and Hazel never went into Manhattan or Queens to shop." Michael stared at her. "Miriam had a nightmare that turned out not to be one, two or three days ago, before Dan left on his business trip, which is how we found that out. She's still kicking herself over missing him like that, even though she was too young to know or realize, and Hazel did the right thing by walking away and protecting her from a possible threat." She sighed. "It does hurt, knowing he was here, that he was that close."

    Michael nodded. "Right. So... Catonsville?" Jane pushed her notepad into his hand and he stared down at a written account, signed and notarized by a notary, from a waitress named Sally. "Oh. That's... oh."

    "And as soon as Mason gets here with the camera," Jane said as she shooed Rebecca out of her chair and booted up the computer. "I'm going to work on sending pictures via the encrypted email to Miss Potts. She's in Wakanda right now, by the way."

    "For what?"

    "Running an errand for us," Rebecca said with a yawn. Michael pulled a chair over for her to sit in and she did. "And visiting. Still wondering what happened that rattled her, that James ended up sedated after. It takes a lot to rattle her."

    "Better question," Jane said as she pulled up the encrypted email again. "Why is Jill adding ECT to Martin's reading list? I thought it was a question related to Mr. Stark's BARF system?"

    Rebecca sat up, blinked at her. "ECT?"

    "Yes." She watched as Rebecca's eyes went wide. "You know."

    "Well... what happens when you damage a person's hippocampus? Plus, she's talked with Pepper obviously. Pepper has pictures of the cage thing that James was in, in Berlin. Did I tell you what she said about it, that the restraints were electrified to keep his arm immobile?"

    Michael paused, shook his head. "No. You didn't."

    "Well, when Pepper gets back, or-" Rebecca blinked, interrupted herself, and looked at Jane's computer. "Jane? Email Pepper."

    "When Miriam and Mason get here, I will. And... wow." She'd logged onto Facebook and was perusing through pictures. "My goodness, that's a lot. Wow. Seriously."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    To: CEOWomenRock
    From: BarnesFamilyLegalTeam
    Subject: tropical health salad
    Attachments: FacebookFamilySelfies, CatonsvilleInterviewPictures, MiriandRobHugPic, RebeccaGraciePic

    Miss Potts, thank you for sending us to Catonsville. It did both Miriam and Aunt Becca good to listen to Sally. Tell Jill to be careful with the photos of Grandma Hazel and Miriam that date to 1973 when Miriam was eleven, as there was a near-miss with Uncle James when they were out grocery shopping. Not sure how flashbacks work in this case, but it's better that you're warned.
    Sally's Story: he tried eating a fruit salad, and kept swearing in multiple languages every time he tasted the fruit. Sally wasn't sure if it was the pineapple or the bananas that did it, but Aunt Becca suspects Bananas. Rob called a stop to that after watching this for unknown amount of time and told Sally to get him bland foods instead, ie: a breakfast platter, toast, soup, and a chocolate shake with protein powder. (Actually, the shake was the cook's idea...) Also, he pulled a combat knife on her when she startled him... something that her own brother, who is on our detail team (he's the other guy in the interview pictures), did to her at least once while suffering PTSD. Also, Sally said she gave him an uncomplicated nutrition book.
    Hope that helps.
    There are a LOT of pictures because Mason was under orders to "do Emma proud," as Aunt Becca delicately put it, and then we challenged everybody to take selfies. Safe ones.
    Also, I think we need more information on the restraints from the cell in Berlin, Miss Potts. There a way to get that?





    The Peter Pan Scrubs... http://www.uniformadvantage.com/img/products/300x360/views/ck6876pe.1.png
     
  24. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    So I knew that I was a few updates behind, but I hadn't realized that I had fallen that far behind. :oops: Forgive me. [face_blush]

    Because this continues to be an awesome story - I'm still a couple of posts back, but I love the depth of your world building and the Barnes family. They continue to be amazing. Steve's role here, helping Bucky cope even as he is learning to cope to, is beautifully explored - so much so that a part of me is glad that I have so much material to read. [face_love][face_love]

    Thank-you for sharing, again, and keep up the good work! =D=
     
  25. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: You're forgiven and we've all got lives. :) Thank you! [:D]


    A/N: I thought I was done with a scene. I wasn't. (It's not the first time, probably won't be the last...)


    Welcome, Baby Boy...


    Pulling away from the computer to look around after sending the email to Miss Potts, Jane considered them all. Miriam was seated in Allison's office chair that she'd pulled into the room, frowning at her cell phone, while Mason was peeking at whatever it was over her shoulder. And Rebecca... was sleeping sitting up. Jane chuckled at that. "Miriam."

    "Hmmm?"

    "Nurse cat nap."

    Miriam glanced up, smiled, and returned to her cell phone. "She was up early, and we dragged her all over creation."

    Jane glanced at Micheal, who was leaning haphazardly against the doorjam in the doorway of his office. "It's weird... you know who I was thinking of all day, when I wasn't worried about Fran? Grandma Abby and Uncle Amos, and..."

    Michael nodded. "I know, Jane."

    "He missed her by three years. Steve nearly missed her, too..."

    "But he didn't," Mason said absently.

    Jane sighed and reached over to shake her aunt awake, and Rebecca glared at her mildly. "Sorry. How old was Grandma Abby when...?"

    Rebecca yawned, then thought about it for a long minute. "Abiah was barely a year old, Jane. Why?"

    "Just... how complicated this is. And... Fran told me to go, this morning when I checked on her. Told us to go and do what we had to do, that Henry was home and not letting her out of bed like she wanted to be, up and cleaning."

    Rebecca nodded, smiling. "Good on Henry. But then, if I'd been stuck in bed since May, I would probably be a little stir-crazy too."

    "So stir-crazy that she used that energy to call all the missionary parents in her son's hockey league," Miriam mused. "Told her where I was, just now, and Jane, she said to tell you that she found some missionaries who went to the Sakha Republic." She frowned. "Why would Mormons be going to the Sakha Republic, wherever that is? And why did you need to know?"

    Jane turned and looked at Michael with a grin. "Mormons will do! And the answer to that, Miriam: they go everywhere. One of them probably even met John Smith the Ukrainian Siberian. And the Sakha Republic is in Siberia. That's where the lab is. And also..." She opened the folder on her desk next to her computer and pulled the report out of it, handed it to Mason, who gave it to Miriam. "That's why I needed a missionary that went to Siberia. We couldn't tell anyone officially that Mr. Stark got stuck there and met people."

    Miriam set her cell phone down and read the report, then frowned at Jane, and gave it to Mason, who read it himself with wide eyes and then pushed it into Rebecca's hands. "You got that from Stark?"

    "Actually from the nephew of that doctor, who is now the doctor in Oymyakon," Michael said with a smile. "Who sent it to Mr. Stark. Miss Potts sent it to us."

    "Green Army Socks?" Rebecca wondered, and they all paused and looked at her. "Why would...?" She set the report back down on Jane's desk and thought about it for a long, long moment. {{"Oh. Something simple. Memorable and ordinarily incongruous... unless you're a soldier, had a best friend whose mother was a nurse and whose father died as a result of mustard gas in the first world war, and lived through the Depression."}} She glanced at Michael, who was frowning at her. "Remember those stories I used to tell about Chilblains?" He nodded. "I had them myself at least once in the winter time... we all did. Sarah told stories of hospital cases where the chilblains turned into gangrene. And..." She shook her head, blinked, and took a deep breath to steady herself. "I'll lose my English. You get the idea, I hope."

    "We do," Mason told her, and jumped, startled when Miriam's cell phone beeped with a text alert. "Miriam?"

    Miriam read the message, smiled, and looked at Jane. "Henry says they're on their way to Maimonides, that one of the Detail guys volunteered to babysit until Jenny could get there and take over, so you could go and join them on maternity."

    "Jacob," Mason filled in when Jane frowned. "I'll go and relieve him. Miri, I need a ride, since my car is at your house."

    Michael laughed. "No, you're going with me, since my wife volunteered to babysit. You three go on."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    In the waiting room of the Payson Birth Center at Maimonides Medical Center, Miriam watched over her magazine as Rebecca, who had changed into the Elvis scrubs at Jane's request, sat across from her, keeping her hands busy with knitting. "I can't believe you packed knitting needles and yarn in that bag."

    Rebecca smiled at her yellow-orange yarn that was slowly taking shape into a small baby hat. "One must always be prepared for boredom."

    "Uh-huh... and I'm glad you used all of the Dill Green yarn."

    "What? You don't think it would have looked good as a baby hat?"

    Miriam laughed and concentrated on reading the gossipy articles. "Birth is a little young for Army or National Guard inductions. Other than that, I'm sure it would have."

    Rebecca glanced at her, then looked at the yarn in her hands. "I could always get some more. Or the bright pink that I wanted originally..."

    "It's not a girl," Jane told them from the doorway.

    "So? Pink goes with everything!" Rebecca frowned up at her. "What's up?"

    "Put the knitting needles and yarn away and come on," Jane said with a smile.

    Rebecca did exactly that, then looked at her watch as she stood up. "Already? We've not been here more than an hour."

    "Some babies just don't want to wait," Jane told her knowingly as Rebecca stood up. "And she was in transition when she got here."

    "Ah. And you're right, every baby is different."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Jane led Rebecca and Miriam into Fran's hospital room, where Fran was holding a small, baby-shaped bundle and Henry was perched on the edge of the bed at her side with a relaxed smile on his face. "By personal request... your grand aunt!"

    Fran, pale and tired, but smiling nonetheless, motioned Rebecca over with her free hand, and Rebecca sat down on the other side of the bed. "We know how hard it's been lately, Aunt Becca, so... Henry? Tell her." She let Rebecca take the baby from her.

    "This," Henry said succinctly. "Is Grant Buchanan Fuller. Seven pounds, two ounces. Nineteen inches."

    Startled at the name, Rebecca stared down at the sleeping face, then raised her head to look at both of them as they smiled back at her. "Grant... Buchanan? Really?"

    "Really," Fran confirmed, and reached up to catch the tears that were now flowing down Rebecca's wrinkled cheeks. "We wanted to surprise you. Good? Bad?"

    "Good," Rebecca whispered as she looked down at the sleeping baby boy again, named for two men not present, but thought of often.

    Over by the door, Miriam smiled and raised her cell phone and took a picture while Rebecca started singing Irish Lullaby. She had a feeling that Baby Grant would eventually end up with a Dill Green hat.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    A/N: For those who need a chart to keep track of the Barnes extended family? I've got one, now. Fran is Jane's oldest. (And Abiah, Amos's next youngest sibling, was born in 1942.) Back to Wakanda next post...