Blood to Root Him Down

June 12, 2017:

A small ray of sunlight breaks through the clouds of darkness and uncertainty surrounding the lives of Bucky Barnes and Jane Foster. Members of the Proctor family, the branch launched and mothered by Bucky's younger sister Rebecca, show up on their doorstep to offer a whirlwind of love and support.

Bucky and Jane's Brooklyn Apartment

Ground zero for one very Southern Hurricane.

Characters

NPCs: Ida Proctor-Salk, Scott Proctor, Becky Proctor, Adam Proctor, Jimmie Proctor, emitted by Phil Coulson

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Families are rarely quiet.

This is especially true of Southern families, no matter what end of the economic spectrum they land on, and there is certainly a multiplier to be had when one starts adding "extended" members to said family. Thus, it might be possible to hear the racket up the stairs of the brownstone before the firm knock on Bucky and Jane's door. There was a call ahead to warn them both, of course— courtesy is a thing, and Bucky had already spoken to his neice over the phone. They are not arriving without warning, but boy are they arriving.

"Oh, watch your step Aunt Ida, that one's steep." Male voice, warm, measured.

"Don't you drop that macaroni now." Smoke roughened, cantankerous, older, feminine.

"I wanna knock on the door!" Child's voice, male, super young. "Momma, I wanna knock on the door!"

"Well, they have a bell, so it's more polite to use the bell. Here, go ahead, push the bell." Female, patient, younger than the first female.

"Come on, Adam, let's put the phone away."

The first male voice.

"Ok Dad, sorry— I was just— sorry." Uncertain male voice, teen, young.

There's a moment before the doorbell actually rings, punctuated by Patient Female: "No, you didn't push it all the way in. You gotta try again."

DING DONG!!!

"There you go, that was good."

"I did it?"

"Yes, that was good."

Ready or not, here they come, a passle of Proctors, the blood relatives of James Buchanan Barnes who have decided, for good or for ill, that they want to meet— and perhaps support?— their uncle. Or great-uncle. Or great-great-uncle. Or, in the case of the youngest of them all, their great-great-great-uncle, though it's safe to say the kid who is having trouble operating a doorbell probably doesn't really understand much of what's taking place here.

—-

James Buchanan Barnes has been dreading this for a full day now. There's no reason to dread it, but he has been nonetheless. He's been jittery nonstop, possibly to a degree to drive Jane quietly insane.

There is little risk of hate or censure, for these are the few members of his family who have actively chosen to show up. Those who might want nothing to do with him, resent him, actively despise him, or simply… don't care enough about a distant ancestor to get mixed up in the media firestorm, have refrained from appearing. A few called with their reasons for not appearing. Most said nothing at all.

Despite the low amount of actual risk… Bucky is nervous as hell. It's going to be awkward as fuck, and he has no idea how to diffuse the awkwardness.

The bell rings, and the door opens almost too quickly. As if someone were just pacing in front of it, nervously waiting. He had already talked to his sister's daughter — his niece, for God's sake — on the phone, but phone conversations really did not prepare one for the immediacy of face-to-face contact.

He's tried to dress as contemporary-normal as possible. He doesn't want to freak people out.

"Hi," he says, and immediately feels intensely lame. Seventy years of being thought dead, immortalized like a bug in amber in dusty family photographs, and he's back, and the best he can come up with is 'hi.' "Please — come in."

—-

Jane Foster, for her part, has spent the past many days in a perpetual fugue state. Even her bear-trap memory has issue sorting out so much detail that all bleeds together. She might be in shock, but what can you do.

Well, what can one do is listen on with quiet surprise when one phone call bears Bucky Barnes the gift of an entire family in-waiting. As someone without family, the idea of blood relatives is precious to her, and Jane is out to support whatever it is to make this a fruitful reunion.

It's finally something concrete she can do, so she's gone a bit overboard. The past eight hours have been spent vigourously cooking and rigourously cleaning, until the tiny brownstone is immaculate and the sparse kitchen counterspace packed with sandwiches and a pot of chili.

When the doorbell rings, Jane rouses from autopilot, eyes turned from whatever middle-distance they were staring. It's showtime.

She's not at Barnes's side at the front door. Hanging back, the woman lingers in one corner of her living room, hands stuffed in her jeans pockets, looking a little like a guest in her own home. She tries to tow that awkward line between present and supportive and not wanting to intrude on something that doesn't really involve her.

—-

Ida is first. Strong-jawed, with clear, bright blue eyes that take in everything. "Hi yourself," she says, straightforward but not unfriendly. Everything about her is brisk; a matron who is too used to managing too many personalities for their own good to take much guff or to give much warmth naturally, though there's nothing cold about it. "Hello yourself, Uncle James," she says.

Jane holds back, but the older woman just beelines right to her. "You must be his belle? Dr. Foster? My, but you're a pretty one. Now we brought you some of my homemade baked macaroni and cheese, but you can just put that right in your freezer for later, because that chili sure smells divine— we just couldn't see fit to show up empty handed is all. Now, this was the recipe as mother taught it to me, and she said her own mother taught it to her, so Uncle James, you'll just have to tell me later if we got it right, and if it is I'll make Adam e-mail you a copy of the recipe if you want it. Brought peach cobbler too, though it was so all-fire hot today that we decided not to risk the ice cream. A body can sure get lost navigating all these subways. Didn't want to arrive empty handed, y'all have enough to manage, I imagine."

Then a man who looks almost like Bucky comes in. 40-something, with the same strong jaw, but his hair is a lighter shade of brown, almost blonde. It's cut quite close to his skull, though what remains there seems to wanna fluff up. That hairline is receeding, and his face has gone a little careworn, but his smile is bright. He offers a hand for Bucky to shake, that will, if the man allows it, turn quickly into a hug. Ida is busy trying to overwhelm Jane so he just shoots her an apologetic smile as he introduces himself. "Scott Proctor. It's so nice to finally meet you, Uncle James!" If he's put off by the fact that he looks twice Uncle James' age, he has the strength of personality and character to avoid letting any of it show. He seems…adept at just letting chaos roll straight off his back.

The four year-old squirms out of his mother's arms. He has a touseled bunch of brown hair. It's possible to see Bucky in his rounder, softer features too. He clutches an Optimus Prime doll, and looks between the big, imposing man his grandfather is trying to bear hug and the petite woman his great-auntie is babbling at. He trots directly over to make his own introduction to Jane. "I got Optimus Prime," he announces, thrusting it up for her inspection. "He turns into a truck and fights bad guys."

This causes a look of sheer exasperation from the fit, trim brunette woman with the pixie cut. "Jimmie, that's not polite, you're supposed to introduce yourself. Hi Uncle James, Dr. Foster, I'm Becky, I'm so sorry, he's just a real handful all the time but he doesn't mean anything by it." There's some understanding in her eyes that keeps her from trying to repeat her father's hug trick, but her rueful smile is warm. There's no wedding ring on her finger, and the lines around her eyes speak to a certain level of low-lying, constant exhaustion.

Finally, there's a skinny kid who somehow got burdened with two tupperware which he was apparently juggling along with the phone. His hair is shaggy and long, and he looks to be about 19. He almost trips as soon as he gets in the door, catches himself, clears his throat. He awkwardly closes the door behind them, and looks around in panicked fashion for where all this food should go. He finally just sets it all down next to the chili pot, capped, still, and hangs back on any sort of introduction, looking like he can more than understand being awkward and overwhelmed by virtue of sharing the exact same emotions.

—-

There is a point where Bucky realizes, through his own nervousness, that Jane is just as nervous as he is. The frantic cooking and cleaning is his first hint. He abandons his pacing to draw close, sneaking up behind her where she stands at the stove, slipping his arms around her and leaning down to kiss the back of her head. It's a rare gesture from a man broken by decades to fear physical contact, and that in itself speaks to how much he wants to comfort her.

Even rarer is the fact he lingers, his presence folded around her silently. Perhaps a concession he may not have much longer to live, so if not now, when?

The sound of the bell draws him inevitably away, however. He looks back at Jane as she hangs back, shy and uncertain, but he doesn't seem to want to force her into anything. He shortly has his hands full weathering the businesslike frankness of his niece. He falls silent as she looks up at him, calling him Uncle James. He had wanted this, but with a child who he could watch grow up.

Even at her age, however, he sees so much of his sister in her face that the familiarity strikes him like a physical blow, recognition immediately in his eyes. "You look just like her," he says, taking her gently by the shoulders to kiss her forehead.

And acts just like her; with familiar bossiness, the worthy matron mows over towards Jane with talk of old recipes and the weather and the labyrinth that is the subway. Hearing his mother spoken of brings him to stricken silence, a brief yearning coming and going in his gaze. "Rebecca would have gotten it right," he says. "I'm sure it's just the same."

The man who enters shortly afterwards causes a slight double-take; it's like looking at himself in ten years, an eerie and messed-up sight considering it's his own great-nephew. The shake is accepted, as well as the hug — though he can be felt to tense palpably at the close contact — and he diffuses the brief stutter in the interaction with a speculative, "Army?" as he leans back and has himself a look.

Then a small missile blows past in the form of an excited four year-old. Bucky watches the child with a faint wistfulness, an expression that passes when the boy's mother apologizes. "No need for apologies," he demurs. His blue eyes assess Becky — her hand, her demeanor, the look in her eyes — in one sharp instant, with a spy's instinctive fluency that shows — for the first time — the awkward edge of his past, and the reason they all know he's alive now.

Those sharp eyes notice the teenager, as well. Bucky leaves him alone for the moment, but his gaze is briefly thoughtful.

—-

In their few moments left of privacy, Jane exhales into the way James's arms slip around her. The tension locking up her tiny body relents, and lets go, and she stops — stops everything. Stops cooking, stops moving, stops working, stops thinking: Jane just lets go, her eyes drifting shut against that kiss she can feel against her hair.

Her hands draw up to cover his, her fingers curling to hang on. She says nothing. She just breathes in and out, slowly, gratefully, letting herself slip under the surface of his presence and be drowned. Trying to give him back everything she can of herself too.

Then it ends, and she lets him go, using the last few moments to try to fix herself up, pulling her dark hair behind her ears, smoothing the wrinkles from her plaid button-down, and waiting uneasily on the wings.

All at once, James Buchanan Barnes has family. It's more family that Jane's ever seen, or ever had at her best — when she was very young, and in her memory had a few still left alive. But for the most of those years, it's only ever been her father and herself, two against the world, and her discomfort is palpable. Solitary Jane Foster, just not used to crowds so familiar with each other. And especially familiar with her.

Caught there like a deer in headlights, and with absolutely zero defence against Southern Hospitality, Jane Foster falls victim to Hurricane Ida. She has no idea what to do save to smile weakly, her brown eyes gentle. "It's Jane," she corrects formal use of her name, flushes at the compliment, and absolutely sinks like a rock to the rest of the coversation deluge. "Thank you," are her feeble interjections amidst the torrent of words, "oh, oh yeah?" and, "thank you again," and, "I still get lost on the trains too."

Only belatedly realizing her hands are still stuffed in her pockets, and feeling like an idiot, Jane hastily proffers one to shake.

"It's Jane," she says again, almost plaintive, when Becky is also using the 'Dr. Foster' nonsense, appending the request with a hint of a smile, while her eyes busily count the sheer number of attendees filling the tiny apartment. Part of her wonders if she has enough chairs. Oh god, she probably doesn't. She's the worst. She's a monster. "And help yourselves — to everything. Food, sitting, stuff, please. Feel —"

There's a four-year-old trying to make conversation. Jane, attention diverted, tilts her head owlishly down at little Jimmie.

Her nerves soothe. Children can knot up so many sorts of people, but Jane?

She hunkers down and accepts Optimus Prime, turning the toy over in her hands. Now that takes her back. "I had an Optimus Prime when I was your age too," she confides. "But my favourite's Bumblebee."

—-

The kiss to Ida's forehead and the compliment that she looks just like her mother softens Ida and makes her smile warmly. "She still loves you so dearly, and I wish she hadn't been too frail to travel with us." she says, "But she loves you, and so do we." Firmly, that is that, she can just decide the family loves a man they barely know simply because he's blood. But she says it with so very much conviction, and certainly there's not a flicker of reaction from even a single family member to naysay her. And she certainly seems more than pleased at James' confidence in her cooking.

Jane corrects Ida, and she smiles. "Jane, then," she says, just taking that right in stride. She shakes the woman's hand, and when directed towards the food goes for the chili and finds a place to sit. She takes a bite immediately, and says, "Yes, this is mighty fine. I'm gonna need this recipe, yes indeed."

"Yes sir," Scott says with the respect due of an elder of the family, and a hint of pride. "Warrant Officer, 1st Brigade Stryker combat team, served in the Gulf War, though I'm well out of the active service now. Now I run myself a little car repair garage down in Alexandria." He has what might be some understandable pride about launching and maintaining this business. He does not linger long on his service, understanding that it might ultimately be a touchy topic, saying, "Got four or five guys now helping me out, though it started as pretty much just me rolling around with my tool kit getting under whatever SUV or mini van or whatever anyone would let me at."

Blue eyes assess Becky, and spy training tells him he's looking at two things. A single Mom, who is not single because she chose the lifestyle, but who is in fact, a single mother due to some painful event. And a cop. Of some rank, in fact. She's at least a Detective. And the way that she's carefully navigating issues of touch and space might tell him that she might not be homicide, or narcotics, or even vice, but perhaps someone who works with the victims of various traumas, some sort of special victim unit. She stands like a cop, used to wearing a radio and a gun of about the right weight, even when she's in plain clothes and unarmed. The look in her eye is the look of someone who has Seen Some Shit and is still seeing it, unlike her father, who has Seen Some Shit and moved on to a new version of normal, where he directs young men to fix other people's cars. "Thanks," she says sheepishly. "This is a nice place you two have. Jane," she agrees, careful to use the moniker that the lady requests. She comes over and partakes of a bowl of chili, then finds a place to perch, as if hoping that by taking advantage of Jane Hospitality she will put the woman somewhat at ease.

The teenager, for his part, gazes about the scrubbed and cleaned apartment. He retreats to an edge of the kitchen, out of the way, and perhaps much to the exasperation of his father, pulls out his phone. But…he's not pulling it out to text on it the way an average teenager might. With an expression that says he is just trying to carve out a moment of space in this chaos before trying to find a way to interact with it, that says he will probably put himself forward when it's settled a bit, he withdraws a small pocket screwdriver. He pops the back of the phone out and proceeds to pry a circuit board loose, in favor of withdrawing a second one…with about 10 more capacitors on it and a more complex chip array…and popping it in there in the old one's stead. Told to help himself to food, he absently swipes a sandwich.

Jimmie lights right up when Jane comes down to his level though, and he asks, "Can you make him change? I can't make him change. It's hard. I like Bumblebee too! But Mom said I could only bring one so I had to bring the mission leader cause he has to keep everyone safe." See, this makes perfect sense to him. "I have Ratchet and Jazz too!" Jane is now his new favorite person, and he seems more than content to monoplize her if she'll let him. Wisely, his mother decides not to try to put a stop to it.

—-

It is a brief, sweet moment, one he is determined to offer her despite his manifold issues with prolonged physical closeness. It goes on many long moments, James relieved to feel the relief in Jane's small body in his arms. It is good to hold a woman in his arms, this way, without an intent to slit her throat.

Soon enough, however, it comes to an end, and he goes to greet the arrivals. The group tides over Jane, unused to large families, and to be honest it tides over James a little bit too. He's more used to clans, born in a time when family stuck close together, but since he left his parents' home he's been alone so many long decades that he is no longer accustomed to the crush and chatter of many enthusiastic relatives.

He reacclimates slowly, but inexorably, half an eye kept on Jane to ensure she's not overwhelmed. The child finds her eventually, and an indefinable look crosses James' eyes to watch her engage the little boy. How different his life could have been. How odd, the vagaries of fate.

He's told his sister still loves him dearly — that they all do. He is momentarily and transparently unable to speak. "These are the things I regret most," he admits. "Missing the remainder of my parents' lives. Missing Rebecca's. Missing yours." His eyes move over the assembled. A small showing, all told, from a family he knows is much bigger than this. If only —

Useless to think of that now. He pays attention to what he can be there for: namely Scott's proud response to his observation. It's a pride that mirrors in James' eyes, though that expression suffers a slight hitch when Scott speaks of the Gulf War. Bad memories flicker in his eyes. Thank God he did not kill his own blood descendant. His sister's own grandson. "Sir, nothing," he manages, after a too-obvious pause. "You're liable to outrank me. I never got past Sergeant, and I'm told the ranks have shuffled around since '45, so God knows where I am now. Doesn't matter, anyway. I get through this, I'm asking for my DD-214. Seventy-two years late, but I'm asking." He shakes his head. "I'm glad you're out, in honesty. Lot to be proud of, starting your own business instead."

His gaze turns to Becky. "And with a detective for a daughter." No one told James that. The look in his eyes, for the matching troubles in her own gaze, is gentle.

He crosses the room a moment later, because there's a last person who has yet to speak. A person who's been lingering awkwardly around the fringes, saying nothing and keeping to himself. He approaches from an angle where the kid is sure to see him coming, before resting a hand on his shoulder. "You remind me of somebody I knew," he says. "Adam, I take it."

He doesn't intrude on the kid's space any longer than he's wanted, however, having an oddly uncanny sense of when to leave an awkward young man alone: a skill forged in his own childhood. Instead, he turns more generally to the assembled, clearly needing to say something.

"I am… sorry it's under these circumstances you meet me," he finally says. His left arm is heavily covered, a glove disguising both the hand and the monitor bracelet locked about the wrist, and he obviously is trying not to move it much so it won't make its inhuman, grinding-metal noises, nor click its plates. He unconsciously holds it a little behind himself, trying to hide it. "I would have made it earlier, but I was not…" Ready.

—-

"I think I can make him change," Jane answers readily, with the touch of a self-deprecating smile that most children wouldn't understand why. It's been years. Years and so many memories.

But as Bucky engages with the adults at hand, the scientist takes a momentary sanctuary in little Jimmie, something so safe and geuine about a child that even Jane feels her anxieties loosen and her bearing center. Some people can't get kids, can't relate to them, but she's always been able to. They're all the best parts of human nature — learning, discovering, exploring — that rarely carry on into adulthood. She looks on as he speaks. God, she sees James in him.

"Let's see," she begins, still low in a crouch, her brows furrowed as she turns the toy in her hands. It gives even the genius astrophysicist a few moments of analysis. "You know what? Actually, you can make him change. I'm going to show you where to start and you'll always know how." She bends down poor Optimus's head and contorts the toy a few turns, before handing it back to the little boy. Her voice comes clear with fact. "Nothing is too hard for you, OK?"

A peek in on a Jane Foster of a different permutation. Possibly one finally settled of all her wanderlust, or having made the decision to take one eye off her destination and settle. She's a natural teacher.

Perhaps feeling his eyes on her, she glances up, briefly meeting Bucky's eyes. Jane's pinch slightly at the corners, as if to tell him wordlessly: Look, you have a family.

Feeling a little more at ease, between the unintended effect of Jimmie and the fact people are sitting and eating — oh good, there's space, and Ida loves the chili, Jane was terrified it would have been terrible — she draws a little bit from that initial shell.

And checking again whether she should force sandwiches on everyone, Jane catches telltale movement in the kitchen. Adam, and a — circuitboard? She hangs back as Bucky approaches him first, knowing the last thing a teen wants is to be overwhelmed by too many eager adults —

— and listens instead as Bucky makes his formal declaration to — to his family. It hits her, calcifies in that moment: all these people, every single one of them, bear his flesh and blood.

They look like him. They are him. However lost he's been for so long, he has blood to root him down in this world. Her eyes soften; she adds nothing verbally, and Jane does not miss the way he tries to hide his left arm.

—-

Ida's eyes soften more at James' confession. "Well we'll all just be here for you now. We're all here till this business is done. We'll be right there every step, showing the world that James Barnes' family stands by him." And if it's not all of them, it might be enough, a subtle tip to turn the tides. "And we'll all just get to know each other, and that's that."

Jimmie looks up at Jane with perfect trust as she starts to analyze the toy. And then she says he can do it. And his eyes light up. He'll always know how? Jane is his hero. She shows him the head and he beams. "Nothing is too hard for me," he repeats, and then he tilts his head. He watched her do it…he bites his lip at the truck, then slowly reverses what she did. Then he starts with the head and changes it again. "I did it!" he exclaims, loudly enough for his childish voice to cut across the entire room. His eyes bounce and he grins at her so very proudly, then offers her this tiny little fist. Tiny fist bump.

Scott smiles at his daughter fondly, even as surprise flickers across Becky's face. She takes in that gentle look and gives him a soft smile, accepting he was able to figure it out. It smooths away a look of sudden uncertainty; law enforcement, after all, might have been a touchy topic too. As the one most familiar with the justice system she is also the one who is most nervous for James' fate, the one with the least faith that all will be well in the end…but she also is the one who knows the value of the support, the impact on juries, the press, even judges.

"A Marine daughter too," Scott says, gamely missing all nuance, far more amiable than he is astute. "She'd be here too but— orders." He digs out a picture though, of another woman, this one a little younger. "That's Vikki," he says. Vikki's hair is cut into a sharp bob, and she's in uniform; she's a more delicate and pretty picture than Becky, though her clear blue eyes still offer a serious study. Amused, he says, "She chose the Marines when they told her that Marine women get a 13th week of Basic for make-up and hair so they can present that quote-unquote Marine look. Can you imagine?"

But he gamely lets James go see his son. Adam looks up with surprise, as if he's routinely forgotten at these events and expected that to happen now. "Yes sir," he says. He's soft spoken. "It's nice to meet you, Uncle James." It's sincere, though; he doesn't shy from the touch and even offers a smile, appreciating that his shyness wasn't taken amiss. And he appreciates the space too. Jane comes over, and he says gently, "It's nice to meet you too Dr. Jane." He can't quite drop the Dr., because…well. It's something he rather respects. He tells her, "Um…I figured out how to boost the signal to two or three cell towers past the norm…and the coverage on our network isn't really good out here so this should um…help. It's um. Just a little thing."

They all fall silent when James speaks though, the whole gaggle giving him their utmost attention. Even little Jimmie, who can sense that the moment has some manner of import even though he just clearly has no clue what the heck all. Though he whisks his Transformer back and forth. He just refrains from making the mouth sounds that might normally accompany such play.

Perhaps it's not so surprising that ultimately, Becky is the one they look to, not Ida, on this particular matter. As if Becky had made some sort of statement of her own on the long drive down, had impressed something upon them that they ultimately decided to respect. "You don't have anything to be sorry for," is what she says, her voice ringing both with quiet authority and with gentle reassurance. She has the drawl, but in her own speech it's tempered. The voice of a woman who has sat by the bedsides of crying, broken people, comforting them and taking their statements in the same breath. "We're glad to have you in our lives now, in whatever capacity you are comfortable having us here. We won't always descend as one big group, either, and respect any need you might have to approach us in your own time, or to have space after we leave here— we just…couldn't wait to meet you both today, we wished to show our support in the most tangible way we could, and hope you'll both forgive us our enthusiasm."

And while the others avoid looking at his arm in several different ways, trying to be ever so polite, well…Becky's cut from a slightly different cloth. Becky takes in her Greatuncle squarely, not exactly staring at that which he so carefully hides, but not joining in any attempt to shy away from it either. It's part of him, she's aware of it, and she accepts it and him unconditionally. She has a way of doing that which walks firmly past polite Southern fictions without losing the compassion such fictions are, in general, meant to attempt to support and emulate.

—-

The outpouring of support is overwhelming. It makes it even harder for him to heed that voice in the back of his mind, the one that asks him: does he not deserve this? Should he not pay for the sins his hands have wrought? That voice would be stronger, so much stronger, he knows, if he had nothing and no one but the anger and the vengeance and the hatred. If he had no one waiting, and nothing to fill his mind but the seventy years of ill use to which his body was put.

For a long time, he kept himself in that position. Then there was Jane. Then there were all the others he met along the way. Now… there is family. A family that has proliferated from his surviving sister.

So many of them. He takes the photo Scott hands him with a sort of reverence. "Ha," he says, though his eyes are gentle, "I'll take her, even though she is a Marine."

He is gentler in his approach with Adam, having experience in handling the awkward, the shy. Gentle, but not so much so that he impugns the young man's pride. That, too, he learned long ago.

Soon enough, however, he feels it necessary to… make a statement of some kind, a remark to those who chose to come see him despite the circumstances. To receive one in turn. "There is nothing to forgive," he murmurs, and he draws Jane close lest she feel this to be his moment, his blood, his family, and not hers now as well. "And everything to thank you for."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License