The Other Side of the Looking Glass

Summary:
February 28, 2015: After pulling herself and the Winter Soldier out of Slaughter Swamp, Fracture resorts to extreme methods to clear his head. Afterwards, they plot the downfall of their enemies… and share.

Fracture's Safehouse

A house with all the comforts of whoever previously lived in it.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


The In-Between point, where everything was a carbon copy of the facility that they were held in, yet ruined and abandoned, tables toppled over and chairs upturned, doors wide ajar and hanging from the hinges. It would seem that everything was abandoned, yet there were still echoes of the commotion that they had caused earlier. Phantoms of bodies rushing through the coorridor, a ghostly scene into the look of how Fracture travels to escape alive.

"I don't like it here.." One says, her voice at a pitched whine.
"We're leaving soon."
"He's heavy.."
"This arm is weird."

Oddly enough, this place seemed to carry an old scent of flowers, jasmine to be exact, a little hint of comfort and something lost, yet favored..

"This way."
"There's no telling where we're going."
"Just focus, everyone. We'll be back home soon."
"But can we take him?"
"No, somewhere close."

A flash of light and a collapsing of both of their bodies through a row of glass, depositing them both upon the floor, Veruca's shackles upon her feet not breaking upon impact, metals holding true to thin ankles that tripped her up and caused the fall. But they both were free, they were alright.. in a most favored spot of hers in Gotham pre-set up before the fall of Fracture and the Winter Soldier.

No matter how brief it was.

She lays there upon her back, her hand lifting to sweep through her hair, a slight look of anger drawing upon her face as she slowly sits up, surrounded by glass that threatens to puncture the skin through the now dirtied prison garb she wears. Knees crook up as arms lay atop of them, fingers joining to pick the dirt from beneath nails as she takes a few breaths to calm. Her gaze lifts towards the ceiling of the basement of the other manse she acquisitions, the dusty, dirtied floor a telling of how long the house hadn't been in use, the smell of the corpses that lingered in the basement a long while ago still a touch upon the nose.

"Snap out of it." No asking if he was alright, no checking to see if he was okay. He was a strong one. He -will- be alright, drugged or not.
-

Before being dragged through the ghost of he and Fracture's prison, the Winter Soldier was shambling towards his primary objective in a narcotic fog.

Given that, the trip is not quite as disjointing as it otherwise might be— at least, at first. Ruined or functional, abandoned or buzzing with hostiles, the facility rushing past him is background noise, a flickering dream on their way to the exit: easily tuned out until someone or something steps out of the wreckage to bar them.

A few seconds in, though, he realizes that he isn't actually in control of the escape anymore, despite his fumbling efforts to change their pace, direction, anything at all. He notices that the voices around him are practically identical, plus or minus some amount of annoyance; he rolls his head towards the Fracture with his arm draped over her shoulders and urging him along, but just as he begins to focus on her…

… they're somewhere else entirely.

Somewhere sharp, foul, and— safe?

The Soldier doesn't roll around much after the landing, both because he feels glass pushing against his body the first time he tries shifting a leg, and because he's really rather continue laying down if this is some safehouse of Fracture's; he's had a long day of cyberpathy and SHIELD-grade tranquilizers, after all.

Unfortunately for him, Fracture has something else in mind, and her directive hits him like adrenaline to the heart.

With eyes as wide as exit wounds, he bolts upright and sucks in a breath that sends a grimace passing over his features; whatever pain he might be feeling doesn't keep his gaze from bouncing around the basement for a few moments before settling on Fracture.

"Where's… is this a safehouse?" he slurs. "Arm…" His eyes begin to shrink as they scan around for the ruined limb and while he remains upright, his body visibly sags.

"What's… your status?"

-

The bolting of his body upright drew her attention, her eyes narrowing briefly, combating against the dark as she settles in on his slightly addled form. Finger-nails were clicked briefly, and a slight turn within the glass is produced as she pushes herself upright, her feet shuffling against the ground amist cuts and shards of glass to stand directly in front of the man still upon the ground. Her head tilts at an odd angle, a slight smile in the darkness produced;

"I'm fine."

And.. that was it. She was still shackled, and she felt dirty. But the aim of the night was to tackle one problem at a time, so with a slight turn and careful pace, she moves towards the corner, feeling around for an oddly placed rod, which was soon gripped with slender fingers so that she could hammer down upon the shackles upon her feet.

"Your. Arm. Is.." She stops hammering for a moment to glance towards the ceiling, the glass shattering among itself as the arm drops from the purgatory to land upon the ground not too far from where he sits. "Damaged."

She tosses the rod away, her foot drawn back slightly to kick up and snap metal in two, she can now move.

"I wasn't thinking. We shouldn't have left without one of them in our collection. Not our collection. Your collection. The man with the shield. He should have been grabbed right then and there and brought with us. And for that, I apologize. But we will get him soon; you need to eat.. if that's what you do. Rest. This house is safe for now."
-

The Winter Soldier's upper body weaves to and fro as Fracture stands— stands over him, even. When she speaks, he lifts his head to look at her, but it falls before he's ever really able to focus, chin tucked in against his chest.

"Affirmative," he mumbles at her report, barely able to form the syllables.

And then he falls backwards into the dirt and glass, eyes barely open but failing to adjust to the lack of light all the same; it's hard when the darkness was already creeping in around everything.

The hammering that follows does a marvelous job of keeping him from slipping any further away; the words accompanying it aren't quite as helpful in that regard, but he makes himself focus on them just the same. When it's interrupted in favor of shattering glass, he initially tenses up defensively; after the arm *thunks* down beside him, he relaxes and rolls his eyes towards it, just in time for Veruca to put a word to the semi-visible wreckage before him.

He finds that he isn't too drugged to glare.

"It— they— tampered with it…" he murmurs. "But it'll… it can be rebuilt." Still, he continues staring daggers at the thing as Fracture apologizes, confusion ghosting over his face towards the end.

"I— was captured; I failed my mission. Twice, I… you… you don't apologize. You salvaged the operation," he struggles to explain.

Given a moment more, however, he adds to that: "Should have taken… woman, if not him. Leverage."

A beat after that, a question: "Why… was he there?"

-

There was a little frown as his disjointed words echoed through the basement, if they tampered with it, they possibly could have planted a bug inside.. the arm truly would need to be destroyed. How long did they have in this place? Her little home away from home away from home…

"Operation? Let's go.." She snaps out, rushing towards his side, the chain that drags behind her reminiscint of ghost stories as she tries to grab the one good arm that remains. "If that arm is bugged as I suspect, it needs to be destroyed. Do you know if they copied the schematics? Do you know if they can control it from where they currently are?"

She tugs and pulls at the limb, her head shaking, nevermind her salvaging anything, and never mind the fact that Captain America showed up during their escape. But she owed him an answer, at least.

"I don't know, and I don't care. Your arm is all that matters now and the fact that we may need to burn it." Yes. Kill everything with fire.
-

He doesn't want to sit up, but he isn't in much of a position to fight when Fracture pulls on him. If she were hostile, if this were a mortally perilous situation, he might have tried to summon the will for a defiant twist away, or an elbow; right now, though, he is fine with letting her lead.

"Last thing… before it went off-line… the lights— nnh— "

The Winter Soldier squeezes his eyes shut after that groan; a long moment later, they open again and waver towards Veruca, darting around what he can see of her as he fights to focus. "— EMP. Would stop bugs, wouldn't it?" He isn't terribly bulky, but he's not doing very much to help her help him up; a bit of shuffling of his feet, but that's about it.

"I… could sense interference," he continues as he tries to find purchase in the glass. "Occasionally. Not much, but— something. I was able to ignore it… until the EMP. Could barely generate it, and when I finally did…"

Eventually, Veruca and the Soldier manage to get him on his feet, but unless he's allowed to lean on her, he'll almost immediately take to wobbling around on rubbery legs. Either way, he concludes, "… something tried to stop me. And then…" His eyes fall towards the limb. "… it went off-line."

He would rather not burn it, since it's done right by him over this last year or so of operating time; Fracture's paranoia is infectuous, however, and the possibilities of SHIELD tracking, couneracting, or otherwise compromising his arm flicker through his consciousness like fireflies.

"I would have copied the schematics," is all the insight he can offer, there.

-

He made a good point. If there were a bug in his arm? The EMP would have destroyed it. No killing with fire today, no bashing and burning until it's a melted husk of what aid used to be. The arm was lucky, this time.

With him upon his feet, his one arm was flung over his shoulder; her arm connecting to his waist to grasp and hold tight, taking slow and careful steps to avoid being thrown up on, or tossed aside and upon the ground due to his falling. It would make him worse, with all of the glass around.. but that does give her an idea.

"Let's leave it for now."

"If they were smart to copy the schematics, which I'm going to assume they are, then you need to rebuild it in a totally different way. That is the obvious course." She states, attempting to drag him towards the stairs, not rushing in her movements. No. She needed to get him into the kitchen, to water. To sustinence, and if they reached the stairs unscathed, she'd allow him to lay his weight on her where she would be the support. "Foot. Up."
-

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right.

The Winter Soldier keeps his eyes glued to the ground and concentrates intensely on the act of walking. Walking, not shambling, not dragging himself, or being dragged; with Fracture there to hold him steady and willing to keep a measured pace, it's not only an option, it's a necessity for making himself useful in some capacity.

The mechanical rhythm of moving upstairs proceeds without a hitch until she suggests leaving his arm, at which point he tries to plant himself and disagrees so vigorously that he briefly resembles a bobblehead. If she is at all insistent about it, urging him forward again shouldn't be hard at all.

"If— if it must be forgotten, then… it should burn. It can't be found, can't be seen— again—"

His eyes frantically move between it and her as he protests; somewhere amidst the narcotic haze and natural monotone, he sounds desperate not to let it be discovered. Once he's made his plea, though - if she hasn't already gotten them moving again - he unlocks his knees and resumes walking. And climbing, too, when the time for it comes; his foot comes down on the first stair like there's lead in his prison-issued sole, but he gets it there.

"It was a good arm."

-

Veruca doesn't strain as she keeps him tight against her, one hand clasped against the banister to help, her own legs were a little wobbled but it was nothing compared to what Winter suffered through. They were official comrades in arms; as she assumes it so, he came to rescue her and they both made out of their bind in the end.

The top of the stairs were reached, any protest that his body had made were ignored, the light-switch felt for against the wall and flicked on, flooding the kitchen with flourescense as she creates a slow path to the nearest chair to park him into. The easing down of his body would be slow, practiced, careful.. then and only then is when she dislodges from his side to step in front of him, both hands upon his face and soon to brush away brown hair, fingers pressed just beneath his eyes to pry down to stare into pupils with her own icy blues.

"The arm. Can you fix it?" Was her first question. The second? "How do you feel?"

For what she was about to do next? He may just kill her for it.
-

"It could be fixed," the Winter Soldier murmurs as he slumps in his seat, his arm and the twisted, broken hand dangling from it hanging loosely at his side. Bemusement flickers in his eyes at the hair brushing, the face touching, the close-up eye contact; he is used to being questioned and examined following missions, but Fracture isn't one of his handlers.

It's a little strange; he doesn't fight any of it, though.

"I can't fix it." Dead brown eyes barely clinging to consciousness squint as he tries to maintain eye contact without letting his own shut entirely. Basic maintenance, repairs… yes. Maybe. But I am not an engineer."

If there is any inkling of ill intent - some facial twitch or darkly mischeivous twinkle - he is too busy focusing to actually notice.

"I… feel… fine." And tired; he doesn't say it, but it's pretty obvious.
-

"Upgrades, then."

She was no doctor. She could patch someone up and issue stitches to her own body if need be. She knows how to use neosporin and tape on a bandaid and to stop the flow of blood with a lick of flame and anything else. She also knows how to incite a reaction. That is what she does best. Cause people to react in the worst or best possible way, just to make sure that they were alive and kicking.

He was still in a state, so she doesn't conceal her movements, one knee drawing forward to press in between his, nudging them apart so that she could carefully settle down upon his knee. She was light, of course, keeping the pressure balanced so that if his leg were to falter, she wouldn't roll and tumble.

She carefully reaches up to feel along the mask, fingers hooking just beneath to remove it from his face. That's if, he didn't stop her. If he did, her fingers would extend, curling into a fist and opening again, working out tiny little blades of sharpened glass from her nails, which were soon wiggled in front of his eyes.

"You're going to feel something strange." She warns him; the strangeness that he would feel is an exposure of his abdomen to the air, and a drag of her glass nails across the middle to incite pain and awakening. It wouldn't be fast either, it would be torturously slow. For assuming that he would actually let her, she was determined to make it hurt.

Rise and shine!
-

Confusion remains the Winter Soldier's initial reaction, empty eyes narrowing and expanding and scanning over Fracture as he's mounted. The movements aren't so readily apparent, but the added weight, the pressure… some things can't help but be noticed.

This is not how debriefings are supposed to go.

"Upgrades," he agrees as his eyes return to hers and his mask is pulled away without a fight. His arm twitches up as if to offer support - as if his hand isn't bent at an impossible angle - before dropping and swaying beside his chair. "SHIELD are not the only ones with schematics."

Since she's kind enough to wave the glass under her nails right in front of eyes, he can't quite miss the light bouncing off of their sharp edges, but it doesn't even begin to occur to him what they might be for. It's a safehouse, after all.

"I already… feel…" he begins as his jumpsuit is torn open to reveal taped ribs and old bruises peeking out from the borders of the binding. The tape is no more a match for her nails than the jumpsuit was, and his flesh is certainly no different; drops of blood ooze out as she begins to mark him.

The narcotic veil is peeled back inch by bloody inch, opening his eyes wide and curling his toes. He shakes - they shake - but he doesn't cry out in pain, in anger, or to beg her to stop.

Instead, after a few seconds of enduring and being woken up by the cutting, he tries to end it with a sudden surge forward and a demonstration of why SHIELD elected to keep his mask on in the first place: if Fracture remains close enough once he begins moving, his jaws will part for just a moment before clamping down on her arm.

-

It couldn't have been all /that/ bad! He didn't scream, there was no tears in his eyes or a reddening of cheeks. There was only the bodies reaction to pain, the widening of his brown eyes drew a slight look of sadistic pleasure from her own. "Wake up." Yes, he was operating through pure fog, if there was one thing that would clear the haze.. pain.

And she dealt pain well.

Though, he does something completely unexpected, the lurch forward has her leaning her head back to avoid the clash of forehead to chin, yet instead.. he bites her arm.

He's biting her arm.

HE'S BITING HER ARM!

"AUGH!" She shrieks out, her hands immediately moving straight for his hair, mindful in the fact that she had glass for nails which were immediately withdrawn with a quick *SNICKT!*

Her fingers sink into the brown locks to give a light tug and pull, her feet immediately planting upon the ground to try to lift herself upright to a stand. She /does/ cry out, because it hurt. And it was purely strange. She's never been bitten before.. well, not like this. "I give! Stop!" And then.. laughter?
-

The biting was a defensive response, an instictive - if savage - reaction to be assaulted by someone in arm's reach of him while his arm is out of play. The drugs are about the only reason he waits so long before doing it; his measured response to her wake-up call speaks much more to the rigors of KGB counter-interrogation training than her ability to deliver pain.

Since she has to stop cutting him to grab his hair, he stops biting right afterwards and snaps his still-wide eyes up to hers as his head is drawn back, searching for a threat and finding a comrade instead.

A comrade who made him bleed, yes, but one who— seems to be— laughing— instead of taking another shot at him.

"Wh…" he exhales, panting and glancing between her eyes and mouth. "''Why''— hhn— " A heavy exhale, and then he looks down at his chest to survey the damage.

"— didn't intend to bite you," he adds less forcefully. "It— wasn't funny?" His enunciation still leaves plenty to be desired, but he sounds somewhat less like he's at the wrong end of an all-night bender now. "You… ''cut'' me… nnh. I'm awake. I'm more awake." A moment later, he adds a quiet, "Thank you." His attention shifts towards her arm, his eyes narrow on the semi-circle of red marks and his brows knit together.

"You— will need to clean that."

-

At no point does he show any concern for the blood around his mouth, but he does get up and drag himself to the sink to spit out whatever's in it once he's done talking.
-

His letting go allowed her to let go, even as she looked down towards him, his bloodied mouth draws her gaze back to her arm, and back to him as well. He was coming around; he was reactive, he defended himself.. the look within his eyes no longer held that fog but clear alertness and action. Her job has been done.

She steps away from him, her hand gripping her arm, twisting and turning it slightly as she gives a shake of her head. "I thought it was funny. How many times has someone drawn up and bit you? I bet you can't count on one hand.."

"Bad choice of words." She mutters, moving towards the island proper to snatch a few paper towels from their place, pressing it against the bitemark as she watches him spit away the blood. "Are your bites poison? Do you carry venom in /your/ blood? Perhaps I should bite you, just to see.." But she wouldn't. "Now that you are awake. What is next for us, Tovarishch?"
-

After a few carefully placed pushes from the heel of his palm, cold water comes on and soon enough, the blood is swirling down the drain.

Before sticking his head into the stream, he states, "Wouldn't have been effective if you'd been expecting it."

Everything else is filtered through running water as he tries to shake the strands of fog still clinging to his thoughts. Even his answers come without straightening up, at first: "No, no," and, "no," all in monotone as water pours over his head and leaves his hair hanging in wet tangles.

The last is an exception; he gives himself a little while longer under the water before snapping himself upright and approaching the island with a thoughtful frown. "I have to report to my— employers, to see if they'll make me another arm," he begins, deliberately moving his eyes towards the paper towels, then his cut, then finally, to Veruca. "Unless you have a stockpile of equipment, we need weapons, armor; SHIELD has most of mine. You might want to be careful— to maintain a low profile for a little while; let them think that you're running from them instead of…"

Right about here is where the Winter Soldier runs out of plan, leaving him looking at her for an uncomfortably silent moment.

"… planning… for whatever… comes next," he finally concludes. "For His death. For whatever vengeance you— " He pauses to study her as something occurs to him.

"What happened to you?" he asks, head tilting. "I heard that you were— gone sometime after it happened, but not why. Or how; what do you owe them?"

-

The cut that she gave Winter was nothing too deep. All superficial, which would leave a tiny line of where she left her mark. It bleeds, yes, but not as bad, just little bubbles that form upon the surface. Those cuts? They sting like a bitch.

She places her own paper towel down upon the counter top, reaching to snatch a few more from its place, leaning against said counter to offer it up with a hand though she makes no more moves to get close to him. It wasn't that she was afraid, she just respected personal space.

"If they were smart, as I assume. They will give you a new one." That reminded her, she had to check in with her own people.. and that thought alone had her thinking. They possibly didn't know that she was missing, or captured. Score one for communication! Her cover was still in tact.

His question though, it had her thinking. Her lips bunching briefly as her shoulders lift faintly. "I can only speculate. I tried to touch point with my contact in the Kremlin. Asked for a meet so that I could .." the thinks carefully about this. ".. leave their services. My only guess is that SHIELD intercepted, took whomever my people sent and came in their place." As to what she owes them?

"A few broken ribs. Possibly a neck. But my reach of vengance is going to span far and wide. For I am in the dark now with no information as to how they found me."

She settles back into the chair now, one leg crossing over the other as she thinks. "There should be canned goods in the cupboard. Water in the fridge. There are clothes upstairs from it's previous owner in the closet and working showers and a bed. But before you contact your people, leave this place. I don't need it compromised for either side.." The League of Shadows.. or Hydra. A girl has to keep /something/ secret..
-

The Soldier stares at Veruca and the paper towels both for a brief spell before reaching up to snag the latter between crooked, semi-functional fingers and press them against himself; his lips press together tightly the whole time in a show of unvoiced discomfort.

His expression is otherwise blank, until a certain pair of words narrows his eyes and draws a hiss of air through his teeth.

"'The Kremlin'," he repeats as soon as that last request is made. "You are— were— a contractor? An agent?" Gears grind behind the Winter Soldier's eyes; he hasn't the first clue what, if anything the present administration knows, or cares to know about him, just that his previous employer had no real faith in its vision of Russia.

"I have someone in SHIELD," says in a quieter voice once he's finished with his calculations and relaxed his features, "but he isn't entirely reliable; poor clearance. Low rank. We could see what, if anything, he knows about your rendezvous… but the results would be untrustworthy, if not non-existant."

The paper towel falls to the island, dotted with a few bright red spots. After a quick glance down to make sure he's clean, the Soldier stands up a little straighter and assures, "I'll… dispose of the arm far away from here, too; I can't promise that our arrangement will remain a secret from them for much longer, but I'll do what I can to minimize your exposure."

-

"Yes." Veruca tilted her head a little, her shoulders lifting in a faint shrug. "In a way." She admits. "There is someone inside that I am connected to; the information that the Kremlin gives this person trickles down to my employer. And my employer and this person hold the reigns. I sought to sever that. Possibly too soon." She waves her hand a little. "It's an odd combination.. trust me."

Though, hearing that someone was in SHIELD typically on their side? It.. gave her ideas. She sought to be independant of herself yet with another group, a group that she had no loyalties to save for one. And she did this all for that one and.. look where it got her. She should be mad, but she was glad. She came out of it with a brother in arms. Enough musing!

"And what are you going to do without your arm?" She questions now, taking those steps forward to inspect his damage, even reach out to touch along the ribs. "This place is yours as well if you need it. But keep it mum. Make sure no one can track you here and.."

She was forgetting something. "Thank you. For the rescue. I do not consider it botched because we are both out." She wanted to say thank you for keeping her involvement at a minimum, but that was a given with her previous words.
-

There's another sharp intake of air at the touch along his ribs. Bruises cover his ribs and sternum, stretching towards his clavicles. They look to be days, if not a week or more old; there's a good chance that he already had them when he went into the prison.

"I don't know," the Winter Soldier says, tension leaking into his voice while contact is maintained. "That will depend on what my commanders do after I get back. I'm… going to tell them that a valuable source found himself in SHIELD detention and needed to be liberated."

Contact or no, there's even more tension as he begins to talk about flat-out lying to HYDRA. Or— creatively massaging the truth, if he keeps the pronouns vague; whichever way he thinks of it, it still means going against his very nature as an instrument of HYDRA's will.

"I will have to tell them that I failed or that the asset died— spectacularly enough to lose my arm, in either case," he continues. His eyes fall towards the floor, briefly, but swallowing, they return to Veruca and his voice comes back up to its usual volume. "I couldn't let you stay there while He still…"

"There is too much for us to do," he amends after trailing off into a drawn out exhale.

"Do you think that your contact, or your employer— one of them was unwilling to let you go," he then wonders, "or that they were turned?"

-

"Unless you have medical facilities where you commonly go to recoup, you may have to stay here a few days, at least until the bruises turn a bit yellow." She doesn't press and prod too much, not until she pokes at where the scratch was that she gave him, tugging just a bit to make sure she didn't go too deep. And she hadn't.

"I wonder.. if I could have made it all the way through carving my name into your chest." A light tease of the situation, she hadn't seen Winter smile.. not yet.

She didn't know the significance of him hiding the truth from his employers, she had done it many times over.. claiming to have an alliegance to none. But she does sense the tension, and this made her frown, but his words did not give her too much worry. It seemed.. that he was going against everything he was made for.

All for him.

"I don't know, honestly. If that is the case, I suppose that I will have to leave the states for a very, very long time. T'is hard work getting into the Kremlin now a days, and I suspect that they wouldn't see me coming."

She grits her teeth a little, icy blues gazing into his as she asks the question. For he was the one who brought it up.

"During your capture.. who did this to you? Was it him? Did you see him?"
-

"I— "

The Winter Soldier's lips momentarily curl downwards at the tug.

"— do, but I need to rest and let the remnants of the drug fade. Maybe breathe a little easier." The tease puts a wrinkle in his brow, but his lips don't twitch save to offer his analysis on the matter, and even that ends up being put aside when she moves past it.

Her joke might not have summoned a smile, but the question that comes not long afterwards pulls his face into something between hatred and discomfort. Fire flickers in the cold depths of his eyes, even as his lips press and rub together in barely understood anxiety.

"He was there," he soon gets out. "Waiting for me outside of the cells. He hit me here— " A couple of fingers graze across the middle of his chest. "— with his shield, but he didn't do this; someone from Atlantis came to me because of her king's murder, before I knew about you. ''She'' did this, believing that I was— someone else." Dark pupils expand as he gets to the part of this story he likes the least.

"'James Buchanan Barnes', his dead partner," he rattles off as if ripping off a band-aid. "She was misguided," he sharply adds. "So— so is he."

Once that's out, he makes an effort at drawing the conversation away from Captain America and Bucky by returning to his earlier, not-quite-forgotten analysis while walking away to search for a glass to fill with water: "Given a higher dosage, or my mask and better bindings: yes, you could have completed your name; whether or not I would have remained conscious for it would have depended on which name you chose, though."

No smile; these are just facts for him.

-

Veruca listened to him in whole, unwavering attention, one that a student may give his or her teacher. There was no interruptions, only allowing those few moments to pass, her eyes pressed to his back as he searches for a glass. She leans upon the counter top again, his entire mannerisms revealing, the obvious display of comfort, the pause in wording, the structure..

..Perhaps she should seek these people out herself just to sate her own curiousity. She just might.

Despite the fact that the conversation was turned to her earlier chidings, one finger extends as well as the glass from her nail, lightly tip-tapping upon the counter top, more teasing brought out to throw him off. He seemed dipped in fact, she had that and probabilities sake. "Possibly my real name. Scrawled across your back. Etched deep to form pretty scars." There was a pause there, to see if she could get to him. "You should let me do this. Willingly."

Of course she would do it! Especially if he let her, but she was not about to fight for it. They had a very, very long day.

"James Buchanan Barnes." She states clearly, chin now resting upon her hand as the other tip-taps away at the counter top. "Why do they think that you are him?" There was a thought. "Tell me your name. Your real one. And I will tell you mine. A show of trust if you will, though neither of us should trust anyone."
-

Finding a glass isn't all that difficult; it's just a matter of finding the right cabinet.

Holding it and filling it, though, that's something else. The whole process is a drawn out one, but he manages— eventually. He's a professional; he's received comprehensive training to help him function under a host of suboptiml conditions.

If only the KGB could see their baby now; they would be so proud!

All of this keeps his back faced towards Veruca, though the steady beat of glass against the countertop draws a bemused, over-the-shoulder squint in her direction.

"My— commanders would have questions," is his only response to the request that accompanies the tapping; his eyes lower to study her tapping fingers as he speaks. It isn't a refusal so much as a few cautionary words, and ones that aren't really followed up on as he resumes working with the glass and the sink shortly afterwards.

Not long after she says that name, the glass begins to overflow, forgotten due to what comes afterwards. Forgotten for seconds, even— seconds that begin rolling into minutes as he stares down into the sink and tries with limited success to keep his breaths from getting too rapid as he considers the answer to the question that brought him to her to begin with, and has only gotten more complicated since.

"Do you… remember what you said when we first met? How a hero could kill you - ''really'' kill you - if they wanted to?" The Winter Soldier breaks his long silence with a question of his own; by then, his breath rate has begun to stabilize— by falling in sync with the tap-tap-tap on the counter. "That is— he his ''partner'' murdered my sister, me; I was brought back with his tissue, somehow, I do not— I am not a scientist; I only know what I've been told. But whoever I was before then… he is lost. Dead. All that I have left of him is his murderer's face."

He finally turns towards Veruca again, lidded and faintly terrified brown eyes meeting icy blue. "My name is 'The Winter Soldier'," he concludes.

-

There were points in her life where she would think it better if she kept her mouth shut. If she would just sit down to listen, to not test people, to not push them to the limit of uncomfortability, for she may just wind up killed for it one of these days, despite the thrill of the moment, even though this was just a simple little conversation two people share over a glass of water that was attempted to be acquired. Her finger taps again. "Say that it's the name of the whore you had met to relieve yourself after you've escaped." A raise of a brow with a twitch, and the subject was dropped completely.

For it was the silent second that turns to minutes that catch her attention, how he remained there, the water running, spurning her own thirst into play, but she doesn't move from her spot, not just yet. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop and it came towards her like a light in a dark place.

The information he gives is valuable. Even though the answers begat questions upon questions it was valuable none-the-less. So much that she saw herself grow weak with thoughts to actually assist him in finding out his.. true name.

"That is all?" She asks, stepping back a little, a chain drag sit upon the chair with one foot resting upon the seat. Her hand lifts, glass and all to rub against her face, finger scratching at the top of her ear as her gaze averts to another part of the kitchen instead of his own.

"Person to person." She states now, rising again, making her way towards the sink to pluck the glass of water from within, other hand reaching to shut the knob down so that waste not want not becomes an option. The glass was dangled with her fingers briefly, a drink soon taken which causes the glass to become half full. But she does not offer it to him, yet he's welcome to take it. "Why." It was a statement. "You will know more about yourself the more you know who and where you came from. Who you were before, who you were then. It can shape who you are now." Her brows furrows, leaning in close, standing upon the tips of her toes so that they can become eye to eye. "You are not some mindless drone, Winter. Do you want to know who you are? Truly? Completely?"
-

Veruca might've caught the curious twitch of his eyebrow in the lingering moment before he resumed Operation: Thirst-Quencher; whatever time he spent weighing that intimate new deception and considering it within the framework of his still-shaky resolve to massage the truth for his commanders' benefit was brief, though, thanks to that name.

Now that he's looking her way again - now that he's (re)introduced himself - he watches her carefully for a reaction.

Warily, even; her Kremlin connection teases the edge of his thoughts with the possibility of barely conceived, but no less malicious schemes.

He is not a man who's accustomed to sharing pieces of himself with others. Basic conversation is within his parameters, sure, but this level of openness with a human being who doesn't say 'Hail' on a daily basis is tantamount to sharing classified information.

"That is— " he replies, pausing briefly to focus on Veruca's incisive finger, "— all." He doesn't move to bar her way or clear it when she comes for his water, but he does squint at the glass on its way up.

He wanted that water! And he worked so hard to get it, too.

Veruca gives him something(someone) else to focus on soon enough; if the terror of grappling with the unknowable wasn't already evident while she was seated, the slight, but rapid eye movements and yawning pupils should be obvious, this close.

"I have to," he quietly replies. There's a quaver in his voice, but no hesitation; his upper body even darts a little closer to hers as he speaks, ostensibly to assert some control over the space she's violating. His twisted hand coems up a moment later and he tries to capture the glass between his semi-mobile thumb and forefinger so that he can have a gulp for himself.

"No matter— no matter what I have to do, it must be done. I'm— not a drone, but I am a soldier. A fist; nothing can be allowed to hold me back from striking."

Wherever the glass is, that's where his eyes go as he then says, "Help me understand— please."

-

There. Right within his eyes. That same hint of emotion that doesn't pass his gaze, that doesn't draw muscle within face save for the glint that shines within. She's seen it before. She's heard it within his voice. The passion to know, no matter the cost.

Her space violated, but she doesn't move, not at first. There was only a deep frown as a slow step is taken back, but not too far, to create the same space she held previously. The glass hand is even drawn back from his grasp, her expression turned curious. Which is a dangerous thing.

"I will." Is all she could offer for the moment, another step back taken, her empty hand reaching for the drawer upon the cabinent that was now placed in between the two. She pulls it out to reveal… a row of straws. One bendy apparatus snatched from it's place, pulled at the tip with a clutch of her teeth so that the ribbed middle stretches and bends by her direction. It was plopped into the glass, the water offered up for him to take, a slight moment of whimsy mixed with a bit of..

…bendy.

"My plan is this. To approach this, Captain America." And, that was it. She had nothing left after that, to see where the road takes them. It would be chaotic, it would possibly be dangerous. She may even be captured again but.. she herself wouldn't be there.

"Our.. connections need not know about this pairing." She was going to sever hers briefly to keep them all quiet, and unannounced. "After that, I have no idea. Whatever I try to gleam from Captain America will be ultimately left up to you." There was a pause of thought there, lips pursed into a slight pucker that scrunches her face nicely. "Unless you want him brought to you, so that you can find out who this James is."
-

Nostrils flare when the glass is drawn back. The Soldier reaches again, but he won't get much further than grazing the glass with his fingertips before the straw comes out and it's actually offered to him.

*Slrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp* goes the Winter Soldier as he lifts his eyes to Veruca's and listens. A chill passes through him as she lays out her plan, such as it is; brows knit at the notion of her feeding herself to him without more robust preparations. Anticipation glimmers in the emptiness of his eyes when she mentions bringing the Captain to him.

"Approach him together, you mean," he quietly states once the glass is empty. "With cover for you, to mitigate the risk; he's //danger— //"

Eyes narrow as flashes of their last minutes in the facility filter through his thoughts; he was reasonably sure he'd hallucinated the other hers, but maybe… just maybe…

"Would— *you* be approaching him at all?" he wonders with a tilt of his head. Moving right on from that question, he then shakes his head as he sets the glass under the tap and starts fiddling with the cold water knob.

"I want to see him. Yes. He has tried, either himself or through his allies to convince me that I am this— this person; I want him to admit, finally, that 'James' is dead, and his manipulations were all for nothing." The Soldier's whole body shudders as he braces a hand against the sink; for the first time, he almost feels ready to meet the Sentinel who's haunted him for the past few months.

"Before that… as long as he survives long enough to see him again… you have frustrations of your own with men like him, don't you…?" The water comes on and begins filling the glass as he turns his eyes and a slight, taut smile towards Veruca. "If there's anything you'd like to glean from him… for you… I would understand."

-

"In a sense."

Those words were thoughtful, for the most part, her gaze falling away from him to carefully inspect the kitchen, to make sure that nothing was out of place. It was never too late for something like that. Though, his question, it actually makes her smile a little, her head shaking almost timidly. There was the intent and want to show him, that she could split herself in two, or three, possibly four, but there was no need. The way she shook her head, and finally looked to him, that smile she gave was all the answers that he needed if he chose to pay attention.

That was no illusion, for illusions sake.

There was a thought, however. He said he was a soldier, a fist.. a tool. But what if? "What if, he was telling the truth? What if your name is really James, and you really are.. someone that he used to know. What will you do, then?" There was a wonder why she didn't ask that question before. The what if. The possibility. "Would you follow him as you do your current employers?"

What she wanted.. however.. there was a thought. There were years upon years of her, even to this current day, doing something other than what she wanted to do. So much that when she moved, it was for other people, to get to other places, others designs that weren't her own. What could she want from him, truly?

That was the question that took her aback, so much that she steps away to lean against the counter top, her arms folded along herself, uncomfortable. Mostly because.. no one really asked her something so specific. And it was a little jarring to hear.
-

The smile is confirmation enough of the Winter Soldier's theory, which makes it something of a relief.

He would really rather not have to mount another rescue attempt, at least not without getting a little time to recuperate from the last one.

The water goes off as she contemplates him, then pounces on the thread dangling from his patchwork psyche. The question doesn't send him spiralling into another multi-minute marathon of silence, but his eyes do contract in dismay as they fix on the glass and study it for the handful of seconds it takes him to weigh the question in his mind.

Not because it's never occured to before him, but because it has, often, and the implications are shattering.

After watching a droplet fall from the faucet and send ripples coursing across the water's surface: "He fights for corruption, to fatten the bellies of those who've never known a moment of want or hunger with the blood and sweat of the People," the Winter Soldier whispers as a dozen different lectures on the sins of the West bubble in his memory. "For degradation, for pain, for death and madness… no. Even— even if my blood is American, even if that name is mine… the rest of me has evolved."

It's an answer he's honed and rehearsed, even if this is his first time daring to try it aloud— to give the question it springs from that kind of power.

"I would have… questions for my current employers, though."

That part of the answer is new, and surprise ghosts over his features after it comes out; normally, he tried to avoid thinking on it too deeply after addressing the Captain.

With a shuddering breath, he scoops the glass from the sink, turns his head towards Veruca and squints at her shift in demeanor. Stares, even, his eyes tracing the lines of her arms and the visible discomfort in her frame for several silent seconds; he can tell, broadly, that something is amiss, but the 'what' of it is hard to pin down. He continues to study as he approaches to offer the glass and more questions: "Did I… misanalyze your feelings?" he quietly wonders as he enters her space and the glass is lowered for taking. "Would it be easier… more efficient if you simply brought him?"
-

"Would those questions for your employer set you free?" She asks, a quick glance in his direction.

She still remains silent, however, her hand drawing up to lightly pinch at her lower lip in thought, tugging and pulling, even drawing a thumb along the surface as her gaze remains upon the ground. She was thinking.

It could be that since she's met Winter, her modus opperandi has changed. This new League that she ran with, her current ties to the unknown, her previous mantra that she kept when she ran unchecked, /their/ meeting and the answers she gave, all of it came into question. Perhaps those questions she pushed at the back of her mind, or perhaps they were always there, yet focused and true. Her jaw tightens visibly as she finally looks towards him in a double take, which has her reaching for the glass to politely take from his grasp.

"No. No. Not at all." A rare moment of affection crosses her, the glass shifted hands so that the one closes to him could reach and lightly touch his face if he didn't back away. T'was a quick one.

But the hand is brought back down as she realigns herself, standing up straight to take a sip of the water, then lifts the glass towards him in a brief toast. "There are many ways that this could go down." She states.

"I could approach him alone and give him an offer to lay down his arms and come with me. If you really are who he says you are, he will be compelled to follow and honor the rules we've set aside for him. In which you would question him, and kill him." She takes another sip, then offers the glass towards him. "Or we can take the clandestine approach. Trap him, corner him. Kidnap him, question him, find proof of his words and /then/ kill him."

Then, there was a shrug of her shoulders. "It's all open ended. There is no tactic to it. The main gist should be.. we want him alone and we shall get him alone at any means necessary. Solid and fortified plans only leads to disappointment. Disappointment.." She pauses a little. "Makes me angry."
-

The hand on his face is studied, but not backed away, or even flinched from. His muscles tense at first - especially if she's using the hand she was tapping on the counter with earlier - but that fades when no blood follows from her touch.

"He has allies," the Winter Soldier notes as he captures the glass. "In SHIELD, at the very least; he may even be affiliated with them. He tried to question me in their prison, and he was there today. No matter how we approach him… it would only be a matter of time before things became complicated. We would either need to move very, very quickly, or stack the deck against him - them - first: identify whatever network he might have and cripple or delay it. Otherwise, we might not have enough time alone with him."

The lack of a good plan cost him his arm and her some blood(which, okay, is technically his fault, but they might not have been in that situation if he hadn't been caught…); embarking on this endeavour without one could cost them both even more dearly than that.

Such would be unacceptable, at least while they still have the luxury of choosing how much or how little to prepare.

"Our employers don't know that we're working together," he adds as his hand(and glass) raise to mirror her affectionate gesture - right down to the timing and pressure, even if he's not as precise as he'd like due to the broken hand - and then offer the water back to her, "but SHIELD does; if we moved on him, of all people, we could be inviting their attention even if he isn't one of their agents. Plans… are important; they're rarely ever perfect, but they're a guide. A foundation to stand on when things go wrong."

He takes a step back from her once that's said and lets his mind drift back to something she said earlier. "And— as for my employers and those questions… whatever happened from there would depend on their answers," he quietly says as his eyes fall towards the tiles. Afterwards, he thoughtfully chews on his bottom lip a little before letting up and giving his head a brisk shake.

-

With her hands free from the glass, she was back to drawing herself in. She had her own problems to deal with now that her hand had shown, and it had nothing to do with SHIELD, or the superheroes that she claims to hate. "He was there with that woman when I was captured. And an unknown person who was very, very handy with arrows. I would like to say that it was a woman named Kate. But I am unsure. This one means to put me into the ground, and those arrows were only meant to capture." Those were her thoughts on the matter.. approaching him would have to be met with care. Perhaps, the Captain could be routed to an undisclosed location. Perhaps.

"Things are already complicated, Winter." She points out. "Their eyes are upon you. Identifying whatever network that man operates will have to be done from the inside."

The affectionate gesture, it wasn't missed, but she didn't react immediately to it. Such wasn't her way. But he was right, all eyes were on them after all was said and done. What could possibly be a good way to take them both out of the equation? "We need a second plan in place. Something that would direct their eyes the opposite direction, away from us." Someone needs to take the fall for something… or something needs to /fall/.

She grows silent however, the last of his words drawing her to turn fully towards him, still creating that lean with a half cocked hip, a lowering of her brows as she considers. "I'm going to stay here for a while. Once you contact your employers and fix your arm, I want to take you somewhere. Possibly New York.. maybe somewhere in Gotham. A little field trip. Would you be able to get away for a few days?"
-

"They'll need to be addressed," the Winter Soldier quietly says of those women. "Somehow." There's an unspoken question when she mentions the conflict between 'Kate's' desires and her actions, asked with an arched brow and contracting pupils; leaning his hip against the counter for a measure of support and considering what she says afterwards takes precedence.

"I'll find a way," he replies to the question she leaves him with. "I'm allowed a measure of freedom in carrying out my most recent assignment. Was— allowed; I don't know if things will… change, after this." This is the sort of thing that could easily leave him shackled up with his therapist for a few days, if not frozen in storage for months, or years, or however long it takes for someone to decide he's worth the trouble of thawing.

It is, of course, his employers' right to commission or decommission him as they see fit, but the possibility sends a shiver down the spine all the same.

"But I'll find the time," he promises, looking up at her once the fear's gone from his face. "I will begin devising auxillary plans in the meanwhile; you should do the same. We can compare, the next time we meet. Especially if you have an idea for infiltrating his network." The notion of identifying it from the inside was intriguing to him, even if it's hard to imagine such a thing coming to pass.

His own luck with relying on inside sources leaves something to be desired, after all.

-

"Eventually." She states. They do need to be addressed.

She moves away from him now, arms still folded, her gaze a little heavy at the turn of the events. There was so much to think about, and in her mind.. she had a lot of time to do so. There were, as always, loose ends to tie up during ventures like these. And she intends to knot them quick.

"Good. And once you're away. Come here. I will be around, or possibly watching, in one fashion or another." That was certain, of course. But in truth, Veruca was of the chaotic sort, when it comes to planning, she fails at it, and often times it works out good. If not, the good often times comes out dead. All the more better for her, she's lived a decade without planning.

Rushing to die, is what they called it.

"I'll work on something. Possibly turn someone. Something will give, all we need is time." She begins to walk away from him now, heading towards the foyer.. yet stopping to spare him one lasting glance. "We always have time, Winter. Nothing is done in a pinch. Remember that." And then a pause. "There's food in the cupboard and the fridge. A cellar downstairs if you choose to partake in wine. Clothing in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Do /not/ go into the Master bedroom, unless you intend to blow off some much needed steam." She weighs him now, critically. "Though, I suppose you wouldn't be the handsy sort tonight." There was a slight crackle drawn from closed lips in the form of a laugh, even though she remains slightly straight faced.

"Get rest. As much as you need. I'll be gone in the morning." And with that, she disappears around the corner. A good shower was needed to cap the evening.
-


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