Memory and Guilt

February 10, 2017:

Azalea comes to see Bucky and Jane in the aftermath, bearing a mission and a gift.

Brooklyn, New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, Jessica Jones, Peter Parker

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There were a lot of false starts. More than once she'd tried to think of the best way to approach Bucky, to find out if he's alright. Meeting with Steve Rogers had convinced her that he would be, if only because he certainly had the best of best friends. It had dialed back her urgency, but knowing what he must be going through had gnawed at her mind for weeks. Should she find him skulking around a supermarket somewhere, pondering the existence of cereal brands that seemed to go on without end? Maybe on a run - he was ripped, he /had/ to work on his cardio, right?

In the end she decided that surprising him, at least out in the open somewhere, might not be best. She thought back to that night, when they'd come for Bucky, and how his first thought once his control was broken was about /her/. About his /Jane/.

That was the right place to begin.

Tonight, Azalea Kingston is not dressed like a hero, just a college kid down on her luck. Jeans that are a little to baggy, some old t-shirt and her surplus army jacket to keep her warm. She does have a bag slung over a shoulder, small, but enough to carry what she needed.

She could really only hope that Bucky didn't have super hearing, or that Jane didn't have robot ears, because she lingered outside the door to that apartment for far to long before giving a short, terse series of knocks.

While one of the denizens of the apartment does have enhanced hearing, it's not enhanced enough that Bucky can necessarily hear slight scuffles out on the front porch. Especially not when he's focused on listening to other things at the moment. The other day, Jessica had mentioned something called 'YouTube.' Bucky put that together with Jane having mentioned something called 'Led Zeppelin' on a previous occasion.

He has temporarily stolen her laptop and headphones and is halfway through a crash course on both of those things. Partway through this, Jane found him, and has been enjoying the entire thing since.

Knocking, however, is loud enough to get through the strains of "Immigrant Song." Exchanging a look with Jane, he pulls off the headphones, checks his weapon in its holster at his side, and has an identifying glance out the peephole.

"It's Azalea," he tells Jane, before he unlatches the door and opens it.

He has a look at her, up and down, appraising health and general wellness. "No electrocution for me this time, I hope," he says. "Though I deserved it."

Jane Foster has been enjoying this a little too much.

Seated at his side, eagerly stooped forward, elbows on her knees, face cradled in her hands, she watches what is a crucial moment, an epic moment, a /precious/ moment: James Barnes' first introduction with the 1970s.

Hearing the muffled play of the music, small and tinny over the buds feeding up into his ears, her eyes brighten and smile widens to each and every familiar chord. Her widened eyes drinking down every last flavour and note of the look on Bucky's face, Jane watches on, and in her way — decides to help.

As the lyrics blast riotously to the Immigrant Song, she's mouthing them along, demonstrating years of having memorized every damn word and following along enough of the muffled track to know the timing. She speaks them along silently as they play, complete with dramatic gesturing, before she breaks into a wild and impromptu air guitaring — before not even Jane can handle so much of her own antics before breaking into quiet laughter. She thinks she's /hysterical./

Some of the sincere joy sobers out of her face only at the knock at the door — compelling her eyes finally off Bucky and away. He hears it too, suspends his education of Led Zeppelin, and gives her a look. She returns it with equal awareness what he expects her to do.

It's to wait, seated there on the couch as he goes to the door, her movement only a half-hearted hit of her laptop's space bar to pause the playing music. Jane holds there, at least until Bucky checks, and gives her a name. Her eyebrows raise.

And there she remains, somewhat sequestered in the background, perhaps shyness, perhaps politeness, seen farther back into the apartment, where the foyer melts into its main room. Jane stands only to linger closer, seated on the arm of her couch. Her expression and body language is gentle, welcoming, curious — though her brows furrow at 'electrocution.'

For all the shit Azalea puts herself through, she looks mostly okay, but Bucky might notice a slight bruise just behind her jawline and down her neck. Her greatest claim to heroic fame so far is 'Most visible injuries without dying to a metahuman', though you'd be hard pressed to find someone in Gotham who even recognizes her.

The way he looks her up in down is almost like the way she stares into his eyes to search for the man that bled through in the church, that emerged, triumphant, when he confronted his accuser. Azalea didn't understand the old man's laugh, or his suicide, but she knew Bucky had slighted him. Thinking back to it as she looks at Bucky against the backdrop of surroundings that are so very mundane seems strange, because somehow he just fits. Her expression falters in that moment, lips parting just so, a pain on her face.

His immediate joke pulls that expression out of the abyss, and even her Dark Passenger cannot drown out the wellspring of relief she feels, nor force her to renounce the urge that sends her leaping at him, one arm wrapping around his neck, the other his side and towards his shoulderblade, her eyes squeezing shut as she hangs from him in a pained hug.

"Sorry. I'm going to subject you to something far /worse/ this time. I /baked/."

Dear God. Protect these souls and guard them from The Devil, for she knows not what she has brought upon them with her banana bread.

That hold will be all to brief, and will begin to slip when she sees Jane, edging sidelong as her feet find the ground and her eyes widen. A hand lifts, a gesture far to casual and insufficient to really introduce herself to the light in Bucky's darkness.

Her smile brims, and she almost looks like she might cry, but she holds back, her remaining hand on Bucky's shoulder finally slipping away. "Is it alright if I come in?" Her gaze will pingpong between them both, an expression caught between hope and the doubt that creeps in when you wonder if you're just intruding.

His eyes don't miss the bruise. They linger long enough to alert her to him noticing it, but he says nothing. He is aware of what she gets up to, and he's not going to chide her for it unless he feels it becomes necessary, someday. Steve exhausted his 'trying to keep people from fighting when they want to fight' circuits a long time ago.

The way she looks at him, in turn, is familiar. Familiar enough it gives him pause and puts a slight shade of guilt in his blue eyes. Somewhere along the way, in the course of his life, he became a man that people had to inspect, really inspect, before they could determine the nature of what their interactions would be. 'Are you truly there, or is it someone else facing me?' is what those looks say.

He has temporarily placed a leash on the 'someone else,' but he is aware of its presence lingering still in the back of his mind.

For now, he is his native, natural self, and that self had no shortage of dry humor. The awkwardness of the moment punctured with a quip, he is nonetheless startled at the magnitude of the reaction. She can feel him tense instinctively as she leaps to hug onto him, though soon enough he forces the reaction away enough to put his right arm about her, patting her shoulder in a gesture mingling acknowledgement and apology.

"With as many times as I tried to kill you," he says, "it's only fair. Nah, I'm sure it's fine."

His gaze tracks between Azalea and Jane when the latter appears, his eyes softening perceptibly at the sight of her. Azalea asks if she can come in, to which Bucky simply glances at Jane. In his eyes is a clear promise that it is all up to her state of mind and willingness to see others, at the moment.

The ex-assassin is not the only one surprised by the hug.

Jane, from her little place of silent witness, widens her eyes. It's a shock, because is it — it is, it's probably the first time she's ever seen James Barnes hug another person. Definitely with tension, with askance, and with enough transparent awkwardness that even she senses it, but still… a hug.

Totally apart of all those shared looks people like them have, carrying darknesses of their own, carrying guilt, she's like a little sunbeam of innocence broken through so much cloudcover, stepping up closer with the nervousness of an introvert before the first introductions. But Jane's dark eyes are bright, even despite the insomniac shadow welling them, and her expression encourages nothing but warm welcome.

She tries her best to ignore things like 'times I tried to kill you.'

Putting on a gentle smile, far more reserved and withdrawn in the wake of abrupt hugs, Jane meanders up to Bucky's side, brushed up close enough to touch. She gets that look. He wants her OK on potential visitors.

"Azalea?" she calls, putting the name to memory. "Hi. I'm Jane." The woman outstretches her right hand, because goddamnit, she's going to insert some sort of normalcy in between electrocutions and attempted murders. "Absolutely, come on in. It's really nice to meet you."

There's always a moment of trepidation when she meets someone new and physical contact comes up, and she closes her eyes, however briefly, when her fingers curl around Jane's hand.

They pop open when her Devil Inside does not pull or tug or pry, giving a brief shake of Jane's hand and a long look that compares her to how she remembered the discombobulated woman in that Hydra Hellhole.

"Great to meet you too. Everyone calls me Az. Uh, I guess, except when I'm in costume. Then they…" Her eyes shift again, almost roll. /God/. Ever since Spider-Horse made fun of her name she's been so self conscious. She /knew/ her costume sucked. But /this/. It had come organically! A gang made it up after she beat them up! UGH!

"…call me The Dark Devil."

Unfortunately, she will wait to see their reactions to the name. Then she accepts the invitation and immediately begins to make herself nosy. There's a few steps inside, her gaze shifting around to learn what kind of lion's den this is. How much of Jane is here? How much of Bucky? Her nostrils flare, and she meanders her way into the living room where she will very quickly make herself at home.

Plop. This couch will be the hill she dies on, her rummaging motions in her bag finally revealing a foil-wrapped loaf of the aforementioned banana bread.

"I'm also.. I'm sorry to impose like this. I wanted to give you both more time. I'm kindof here on a mission."

Before everything… Bucky Barnes actually used to be a rather physical and affectionate person. He remembers being that way, now, even after seven decades of torture have left him unable to be as comfortable with touch as he once was.

Such it is that it's both deeply familiar and uncomfortably awkward to him, at the same time, for him to return Azalea's enthusiastic embrace after a startled pause. In the '30s, this would have been nothing for him; but here and now, she can feel the tension that must necessarily inhere in a man who can no longer trust that there is any nonlethality left in his touch.

Afterwards, Jane comes up beside him, extends her hand to shake Azalea's. There is a moment where Bucky gets transparently watchful, his blue eyes attaining the quality of a hawk as he observes to see whether anything… weird transpires. Azalea's… unique ability is something he has mixed feelings about himself, given his stance on people in his mind, and he obviously considers it off-limits for anything to ever be in Jane's head, regardless of motive.

Nothing does happen, and he relaxes. Enough to not even judge Azalea too hard when she proudly(?) states her name. "So you got a costume now?" he makes conversation instead, as he goes to get mugs of coffee. His obsession with the coffee machine knows no bounds.

Her remark that she's sorry to impose, but she's here on a mission, gets his attention enough that he pauses, however. "What mission?" he says, his posture attaining a degree of strain to hear that familiar word.

Whatever moment of tension or uneasy expectation Azalea holds for her Dark Passenger, Jane Foster remains largely and innocently unaware. In stark contrast to how Bucky becomes watchful, alert around the corners, she is blissful ignorance.

Taking her hand back, she lets it hang nonchalantly at her side; the other reaches comfortably to lay her palm on the center of Bucky's back, before she opens her arm to wrap his waist. She can feel his tension. Though she's unsure of the cause, Jane nonetheless tries to reassure it away with her contact, her gentle proximity.

In the meanwhile, Az announces herself officially as the Dark Devil, bracing for what she expects the laughs to follow.

Jane's still smiling warmly, levity dancing like light in her dark eyes; she can get the absurdity, but she's not laughing. It's not polite to laugh at people you've just met. "It's not that bad," she reassures, with a bit of a lopsided grin. "There's a lot worse out there. Like who in the hell actually calls themself 'Spider-Man'?"

She makes a face. (Poor Peter Parker.)

And then, welcome granted, Az immediately makes herself at home. It surprises Jane a little, that easy comfortability, but not some great creature of etiquette herself, she's not particularly offended — just curious in a way, observing, nervous on the periphery like any ex-loner would be, still getting used to the idea of… all this.

She spent years in the desert chasing storms with only her intern to talk to for the latter few months of it. This, with everyone, is probably the most social Jane has been since… since ever?

Bucky retreats to get coffee, and smiling a little lopsidedly after his growing deftness with the machine — it's basically his soulmate at the moment, she should probably be getting jealous — Jane lingers in the living room, her averted eyes amusedly turned on banana bread. "It's not imposing," she assures, but otherwise is quiet. Especially when Bucky asks about missions.

There's a long moment there, where she stares at Jane, and her memories run backwards. But it is different here, as if some parallel line keeps Jane from the worst parts of her psyche, or visual evaluation. Maybe it's that another predator is in the room. Maybe it's that link she had with Bucky, however brief, that puts Jane far from the intentions of the Devil Inside.

More than likely, she is just having a good night.

It isn't until she mentions Spider-Man that her mouth opens, and she points at Jane, emphatic in her exclamation. "Yes. YES! Exactly! Fuck that guy! Oh.. oh yeah, Bucky. I have.. well. You've seen… that is my costume." For a brief moment, she appears to be The Sad Devil.

The banana bread? She'll set that somewhere. Hopefully on the coffee table. Or maybe the end table.

Then she looks to it, her brow furrowing, lips pulling back from her teeth, her gaze shifting across the way to Bucky, and then to Jane. "Alright, real talk. I'd been planning to come here for so long, planning to, you know.. just check in. I've been worried about Bucky since I met him. And Jane? I only really just met you, but when I saw the way he looked for you after that horror show in Hydra Hell, fuck man. You're family to me already. And so.. I wanted to make you something. But then, Jess didn't have all the ingredients."

She almost snarls down at the banana bread, still wrapped. It does.. faintly smell of banana? That's promising, right?

"She didn't have the flour, and her neighbors only had crack pipes. I broke in and checked. So I. uh. I had to use ramen. I ground it up real good though!" The last part she says most emphatically, as she points, almost with chastisement, at her Banana Ramen Loaf.

"Anyway. It's.. I'll buy you something nice when I get some money." She is resolved. She'd spent so much time worrying, and thinking about this mission, this task so very important, after all. Eventually, Azalea waves at them both, as if to indicate they should come closer, to join her, and she pulls a folder from her bag.

"Yeah. It's.. it's important. Can I have some of that?" She nods to the coffee as she opens up the folder, the gravity of her voice undeniable. "It has to do with Steve."

Spider-Man. Bucky has a slightly different reaction to that than Jane and Azalea's levity. He goes a little quiet, a little pensive. Thinking about Spider-Man makes him think of how crushed the boy looked at the end of everything, and how deeply it affected him when the Winter Soldier did the things the Winter Soldier needed to do.

He recedes a little from that conversation, only coming back when Azalea makes her declaration. "Shoulda been me finding you earlier," he shakes his head. "To thank you for putting yourself on the line. Not just that once, either. Since we met. I should be apologizing for every time I tried to…"

He trails, having sensed Jane's earlier reaction when he spoke of how many times he tried to kill Azalea. He supposes it's not as 'morbidly funny' for people not involved in the actual violence transaction.

Nor as morbidly funny as banana ramen loaf. "…Well, I'm sure the bread is fine," he says with remarkable tact, before disappearing briefly into the kitchen to get the coffee. He's back shortly, handling three mugs carefully, one for each person. He's also retrieved a knife for the bread. "Pot's empty, by the way," he mentions to Jane. "Used it up."

Though he forgets all that the moment Azalea says Steve. "What about him?" he says, his attention immediately arrested.

There's a moment there, as if she's stealing herself against some terrible truth, her gaze moving to Jane because she's closest to her line of sight, searching her eyes, her soul, for the strength of the task at hand.

When Bucky comes with coffee, she takes hers while looking up at him, swallowing hard. In all their times that they met, Bucky will have never seen her so determined. Of course, the talk of their previous encounters garners a private smile. "Every time you tried to kill me, you saved me a little bit. Helped me find who I am. It's in the past. Can't change it. Can only make the best. But what isn't in the past…"

The folder opens, and there's a picture of Steve Rogers in there. Those chiseled features. Almost perfect. /Almost/.

"Steve has a problem. I tried to talk to him about it. No one really.. he just kindof brushed me off. Like I had just showed him a picture of aliens or something, and he'd decided it didn't look like anything at all." Azalea takes a quick sip of her coffee, then pushes the picture of Steve aside, revealing one of Peggy Carter.

"There are missions I'm sure you've undertaken, missions that were difficult. Painful. Both of you. Things that were harrowing, beyond challenging. Hell, I.. I have memories in my head from who knows how many lifetimes, and now in this moment, as confident as I usually am in anything I do.. this is going to take all of our effort. All of our combined strength. You, Bucky. You, Jane. Your mission, if you choose to accept it.. is to get this guy.. inside this girl. Or, you know. At least get them to /fucking/ kiss."

Her gaze cuts a hard line. Her teeth grit. "A first date. Something. Please. I touched her mind once. She needs him."

This had started out the same way that her venturing off into the night had. Distracting herself from the thing she has mingling with her soul. Giving it what it wanted, in so many ways. This mission was supposed to be a light hearted distraction, but something they could really focus on. Something /good/. But what she says at the end, she means. Azalea may not have meant to say it, even. It's possible she wasn't /supposed/ to.

But it's out there now. Along with the mission.

It is… not what Bucky expected, hearing that every time he tried to kill Azalea just helped her find herself a little bit more. But after a moment, he thinks he gets the picture. "Yeah… I get it. I used to… train other operatives, when I was the Winter Soldier. Train them by doing my best to kill them. Any less and they wouldn't have gotten hard enough to live when they were sent into the field."

It's not a pleasant topic, and the utmost seriousness with which Azalea leads up to this discussion of this Steve-related mission just makes Bucky even more on edge. He looks down at the pictures as she speaks about his 'problem.' What does she mean? Is Steve in danger?

The second picture appears. Peggy Carter. Bucky's expression lapses into an unmistakable 'oh' face.

"Kid," Bucky eventually says, "this problem is a problem at least five times older than you are. You don't need to tell me this is a problem or recruit me. Fuckin hell, it should be me recruiting YOU. I've been trying to solve this since 1930." He gestures vaguely with his coffee "You don't have to read her mind either to see she'd be all over it in a second if he'd just get his head out of his ass."

He pauses. He looks severely at her. "We should probably talk about you in people's minds all the time."

Those eyes of hers, crystal and blue, go wide when Bucky turns into Grandpappy 76 and she gives the most helpless, palm-up shrug in the world. "I didn't know! I mean, I met her, and we touched and.. /look/. I can't control it. It just happens sometimes. When someone antagonizes.. " A glance to Jane, then back to Bucky. Oh God damn it. She's going to have to explain /everything/.

"There's a thing in me.. a presence. Being. Whatever. It's old, it's angry, and it just does shit sometimes. It lets me survive a fight with someone like you, Bucky. Or help rescue someone like you, Jane. But sometimes it does other dumb shit, and makes my life a living hell. I promise, I don't do it on purpose. And I'm working on it."

She means it. She knows how terrifying it might be, the prospect of her getting in either of their heads. Anyone who's been turned inside out and re-made would be on edge at the prospect.

Even she is.

"Anyway. Consider me recruited! I told Steve that if he didn't kiss Peggy, I would. I'd meant it to be this whole… rousing thing. Kindof put it in his head how important this is. But he just kindof. You know. Steve'd." She barely knows the man, but after one mission and two conversations, she knows that armor he has, that way he can navigate bad language and lost references and, well. Even someone like Az.

"..that approach did not work. And since I am not a talking lobster with full command of Disney music, I figure.. well. Maybe something more his speed. I mean.. Bucky, if you've been working on this since the thirties.. what have you tried so far? Has Cap even taken a girl /dancing/ yet?"

That paternal sternness softens slightly when Azalea insists she doesn't /want/ to do these things, but can't control it. It just happens when she gets antagonized. He can understand not being in full control of oneself.

Especially when he finally hears more about the nature of her problem. His expression grows troubled when he hears that she has essentially… some sort of entity within her, occasionally taking control of her, granting her the strength to survive engagements with supersoldiers… but also exacting a price in other ways.

"I feel like this is a more urgent problem than Steve's love life," he murmurs dryly, but he seems to take her at her word that she's working on it. "If you need my help with that at any point…"

He shakes his head. She gets the picture.

What she seems to get slightly less is 'how to properly handle Steve Rogers.' Bucky looks horrified at the language of choice for 'persuasion' that Azalea used. "If you're too direct with Steve about that, it scares him right off," he says. "You got to move slow and not jump straight to the lewd shit." He folds his arms, clearly getting into a rather comfortable mindset reminiscing. "Any rate, the problem wasn't getting him under those skirts, back in the day. The problem was getting skirts to wanna go near him to begin with. I set him up a bunch of times. Hell, I'd take him on MY dates and bring an extra bird for him."

He shakes his head ruefully. "Honestly, come to think of it, now he's got a lady who's actually willing, it's probably just a matter of time. …You just got to give them, you know, a LOT of time."

It isn't really that she's afraid to talk about her problem, or that she avoids it. But it's the reactions that come after. Engaging with them is a minefield, because for her, the solution is simple. Fight and fuck her way through life like it's going to be a short one, and try not to ruin those precious connections she makes along the way.

Like the connection she's made with Bucky.

There's a bubbling intensity in the way she smiles as Bucky shifts gears, at his anachronistic speech, familiar to her in ways that should not be. All of her friends are women, and every time she's in a room with them there's an uncomfortable measure of memory, of inclination, and the guilt she feels for what /he/ did to women countless times over.

None of that matters with Bucky, someone who's proved a formidable opponent, and now a wise instructor in all things Steve Rogers. There's an exhale, and her smirk softens just a bit as she slumps back against the couch. "You're probly right. I don't.. I suck at this for myself, you know? I just.. you two." She looks after Jane, did she just go to tangle with the coffee machine? "..even when you weren't all yourself, you were /still/ making connections that he struggles with. Shit, that I struggle with. So.. yeah. Yeah. We need to give them time. I just.. we do dangerous work, right? Life's to short and all that."

Yeah, she realizes she just said that to the 90 year old, and she crosses her arms in annoyance at how easily those things slip out of mind. "I just mean, I don't want them to regret waiting."

Azalea seems to have purposely put off talking about her condition anymore, but finally, as the matter of Steve is /mostly/ answered, she relents. "As for me, I'm alright. For now. Mostly. I don't know if there's any solving it, really. It's like I said, about you trying to kill me. When I saw what you were going through, I figured, even if I can't go back to what I was before I got this thing in me, maybe I could bring you back. It was pretty stupid of me. I could have died, and probably should have. I realized towards the end of that journey that it wasn't really the end. Just like me, you're going to always remember that shit. All that's left is forward, and doing the things we do to make amends."

To say that The Dark Devil understands is an understatement. To say that she will be there for him is truth, absolute.

Finally she reaches into her bag, for something else, and frowns at the towel that she pulls half-way out. She didn't remember putting /that/ in there. Eventually she finds a smaller envelope, and rises from the couch to stand before Bucky, staring up and up. The last time she was this close, he'd shot her.

If it's reactions she fears, then perhaps Bucky may be the one person whose reaction is not quite as negative as the rest. Who is to say how much control she has over herself, when the monster within her drives her on? Perhaps it is no more than Bucky had, when the Winter Soldier guided his hands. How could he ever judge, in that case?

He is not aware of the other dimension of what makes him more comfortable company for her— the inherent awkwardness she feels now when too close to other women. That might be harder for him to relate to.

But in her typical impetuous way, she rushes on in the conversation, inadvertently blurting out in front of the centenarian that life is too short. That this applies, too, to her own problem: that there's only going forward, and trying to make the best of the time they have. He doesn't look affronted or anything about anything she says— in fact, his gaze gentles markedly when she admits that she thought she could at least return him if she could not return herself. But he does look pensive when she insists she just doesn't want them to regret waiting.

"Thing is," he says, after a long pause, "that's gotta be their choice to make. We can want things for them, but in the end they gotta determine for themselves when is right and what they want to do." He glances at her. "Just like the choice you made about me was yours, even if it might've been 'stupid.'"

He falls silent, however, as she digs an envelope from her bag and comes to stand before him. The positioning, the closeness… they are familiar. That memory does pass through his mind. It reflects briefly in his irises. The sound of the gunshot. The shock in her face. The satisfaction he felt.

"You got something there?" he says. His voice comes out a lot more strained than he expects, burdened under that memory.

But never before did she smile when he was taking satisfaction in his work, never before did she get to pass on something so private, and when Azalea looks down at the envelope, peeks over her shoulder for Jane's inevitably return, and then moves the envelope into his hand. She takes a conspiratorial tone, her gaze flicking back to his own when she begins to speak.

"Used to be, I didn't have anything to go to. When I was low. Something about.. I guess where I end and this thing inside me begins, I can't tell anymore. But I know where your memories end. I know what I saw. And ever since that day, I remember where you went, in the cold. I remember you staring up at the stars after you went numb all over, and the pain was gone. I don't know.. maybe it was just pretty. Maybe it didn't mean anything more than that to you. But sometimes I think about it when things are rough, and though it came from a time when you were without hope, it gives me some."

She swallows and steps back, shouldering her bag. "These are the reason I didn't have money for better bread. Tickets to see a man named Neil deGrasse Tyson speak at the Hayden Planetarium. It's a.. he narrates an overhead show.. it's hard to explain. But Jane will know."

Thinking about that moment, the clear sky after the snow had gone, before consciousness drifted away from her new friend, brings tears, but she keeps them from spilling, giving a little nod to Bucky. "Share it with her."

She'd planned to give them to Bucky with Jane in the room, but maybe this way is better. She never imagined how emotional it would make her.

He takes the envelope as it is put into his hand, though his gaze is distant and slightly troubled as she relates that one of his own memories became… a touchstone for her. One of his private thoughts, from his darkest moments, became something she would use to give herself hope.

This is something more volitional than the uncontrollable memory viewings, something more deliberate, and therefore not as easily accepted as her absorption of the memories in the first place. Maybe it's intended as something he should feel positively about— that his dark moments became something to help someone else— but… it makes him think of phantom hands on the inside of his head again, pawing in his mind, taking his thoughts and making them an open book for countless faceless scientists and handlers to read over and use. They were with him, watching him, in all the moments he had thought were private— personal memories. Now another person is watching too.

The discomfort in his features is transparent for the few moments it is there. Then he closes his eyes and wipes it forcibly away. It is not something he feels himself able to easily say after she goes on and talks about using all her money to buy him gifts.

"Thank you," he says, though he seems more subdued than one might expect. "I'll show it to her."

He is silent a few moments, turning the envelope over in his fingers. "You should make your own pleasant memories," he eventually says, "to lift yourself up with."

There wasn't an expectation, maybe she thought he'd be confused. Did they have planetariums in the thirties and forties? Who knows. But her story is what catches him, not her gift, and she notices his brief discomfort and the way it hovers like a ghost, even after it's gone.

Her gaze shifts down, away, and a finger comes up to push a tear aside. The silence is awkward when he tells her to strive for her own pleasant memories, and she gives a slow nod. "Yeah. One day. When I crawl out of my nightmare." Whatever Azalea is, she is not in a position to make happy memories just yet. Maybe soon, with a little help from her friends.

"I should go. I hope.. I hope both of you will be okay. My number is in that envelope, if you ever want to talk."

She'll be out the door as soon as she can, forgetting that somewhere along the way, her towel had fallen out of her bag.

Oh well.

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