Old Times

June 05, 2017:

Peggy visits James at the Raft.

The Raft


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Steve Rogers

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

By now, James Buchanan Barnes is approaching his fifth day of incarceration.

Given that he is isolated from the general population, except for the brief periods when the prisoners are allowed out of their cells for brief exercise, it has not actually been that onerous an experience — or at least, not as onerous as it could have been. The worst that happened on any visible level was the fight that had been picked with him yesterday, though ultimately that had not been physically challenging for him so much as mentally and emotionally taxing.

The worst overall, however, was neither the cold silence of solitary, nor the discomforts of his prison cell, nor the physical aggression from other prisoners when they were forced into close quarters. No, the worst was the silent judgment from guard and prisoner alike. Everyone and their mother has an opinion about the infamous Winter Soldier, and few trouble to keep it secret.

Peggy gets a little bit of it, too, as she's processed through the Raft's stringent visitor procedures. She gets a lot of side-eyes, a lot of pointed silence. Some people offer their sympathies, but the vast majority watch her with hard eyes that wonder just how complicit she might be. She was friends with him once, wasn't she? Clearly is still friends with him now.

That attitude persists as she's walked to the visitation area, a closed-in place with the familiar chair, phone, and thick bulletproof glass separating her from the matching chair and phone on the other side.

Presently a trio of guards escorts James in. The man looks both familiar and changed — changed in that his hair has been cut short, familiar in that this brings him closer to how he used to look when they first met. He's shackled securely in heavy cuffs, the fetters on his wrists and his ankles linked by a long sturdy chain. The men accompanying him wear expressions that range between neutrality to outright betrayed disgust. Most men do not like being proven wrong about figures they have admired since childhood.

They sit him down, then mercifully depart, giving some false modicum of privacy. Visibly tired, James lifts the phone from its hook, bracing it against his ear.


A woman with quite a bit of clearance and - at times - sway, Peggy Carter has managed to get a pass to the Raft in order to see James Barnes while under arrest and before a bail is posted. As she makes her way to the visitation room, she notices the stares, the silence, the judgement. However, as a woman who paved a path in the forties, she is used to exactly those same stares and pays them little mind. She knows why she is here and what she is doing. Anyone else's opinion? They don't matter.

Instead, the impeccably dressed woman strides confidently down the hallways, chin up, gait proud, she makes her way to the sad little chair in front of the thick glass and imperiously sits down. Her ankles cross under the chair as a hand rests on the table in front of her and she waits - not very long - for James Barnes to appear with escort. The hard lined exterior is still present as she watches the guards escort her friend forward and then give them 'privacy', however her eyes are softer as she watches the Bucky sat down in front of her.

Peggy picks up the phone and puts it to her ear, almost a mirror to his own movements. There's silence for a moment. She does not ask him how she is, as she can certainly read his exhaustion. Instead, she merely says, "I'm sorry I did not come sooner, James."


The sight of Peggy, imperious and confident, head high as always, brings a reluctant, rusty smile to James' face. Now that's a familiar sight, and one for sore eyes.

Seated down by his guards — and none too kindly, by the ones that look at him like they believe the media harping about treason — he gets himself settled as best as a man in bonds can. He rearranges his chains so they rest on the table's surface, giving him some more freedom of movement with the phone. His eyes hood to her apology.

"No need for that," he says. "You were out saving the world, no doubt. As you do. Figure you saved it pretty successfully, we're all still here."

He is silent a time, before he asks the first question that is always asked between these two: "Steve?"


Peggy certainly has a particular demeanor in situations such as they find themselves in now. Though Bucky has seen a much softer side of Peggy Carter than he was used to during the war, this one - the woman of iron and grit and flinty looks - was never far below the surface. It's clear to see now that they are very much the same person. However, through his friendship with her, the flint and grit is backed by the very same heart and softness that he saw on that park bench.

There's a slight roll of her eyes at his insistence that she does not need to apologize. "There was an incident at Stark Tower, yes. Just because there was a legitimate reason for my being absent does not preclude me from apologizing for not being here sooner." She is, after all, British. Decorum is a thing, apparently. "It had to deal with the Starks, so who knows if the world is actually saved or if we merely bought it more time."

As the question is asked, there is a pause on her end, as well. "He's…" The trail off might be telling. Despite knowing exactly what Bucky would ask her - the state of Steve - she still pauses. "He'll be alright. He's worried."

Her own question is one that she assumes is a given as she asks, "How is Jane?"


Bucky grins a little as Peggy informs him quite formally that just because she was legitimately absent does not excuse her from having to make an apology. "That's the most English thing I've heard since the last time I got John Constantine drunk."

He looks down at his hands. "And knowing the Starks, you probably just put the lid on something incredibly brilliant, incredibly revolutionary, and incredibly dangerous."

But he knows her well enough to look past the flinty, hard-nosed facade that she's had to develop to face the world. Knows her well enough to know there's a softness and concern for him there beneath all the professionalism. He's known her long enough, as well, to pick up on the tiny pause when he asks after Steve. His blue eyes say plainly that he understands all which that pause encapsulates. Steve is worried, Peggy eventually settles on saying.

"It'll be all right. He's got you," he says. Peggy would know both men well enough to recognize just how much it means for Bucky to say something like this. The torch of Steve's care is not one he readily shares.

How is Jane? Peggy asks in turn. It's Bucky's turn to look uncomfortable. He leans tiredly into the phone against his cheek. "She's… getting by. Just glad there's plenty of people to look after her right now. Somebody posted bail — somehow — so I'll be out soon, at the least. Can go home and be with her."


At Bucky's rejoinder, Peggy gives him something of a smirk. It's a crack in the facade he knows so well. They are technically alone, if not actually so, and as such a bit of her veneer slips. "John Constantine does not have the monopoly on Britishisms" she responds wryly. By the way she grins, it seems likely she believes that she was there first.

They are both people of war and of adversity. Somehow, this pair found each other and knew each other to be kindred spirits of a sort. It's most likely their immediate and ensured loyalty to Steve that tied them together. All the same, they are there, between the thick glass and attempting to reassure each other.

There's a moment when her eyebrows drop, her eyes widen. It is only a moment, however, as that happens. She understands the magnanimity of that statement, what it means. There's a touched expression to her face, but also a worry. That is not something James has said lightly, but that also means he might be attempting to pass the burden to Peggy. This is not something she will allow him to do, not yet. "He also has you," she tells him, just as firmly. "There is a lot of mobilization. We'll set this right, James."

The answer about Jane is met with a firm nod. Someone posted bail, he'll be out soon. That's, at least, a relief. She has people to look after her, to bolster her. "That's good. I'm glad you'll be able to sleep in your own bed soon."

There's a clenched fist. "I've been subpoenaed," she tells him. "For the prosecution."


Bucky grins back when Peggy all but says 'I was there first, John Constantine.' "No, suppose not," he says. "You were the originator of my exposure to them. Probably the only reason I understand half of what he's saying. That and the months stationed in London."

It says a lot that even here, in the Raft, chained up and shackled and spit upon, his entire life nailed up for the world to see and judge, and on his way to a very likely end of death at the hands of the very country he gave his life to serve… he finds some way to smile. And it says a lot that it's with Peggy Carter that he can do so. The two could not have been more unlikely as a pair, especially when they first met. No one would ever guess any sort of commonality between a tough, uncompromising, Englishwoman, career-minded in an era when women barely left their own homes, and a jaunty, womanizing, brash young man from the working-class streets of Brooklyn.

And then they met in the forge of war. Their shared love of Steve Rogers tied them together at first, and then they found other commonalities. They planned missions of life and death together.

Now, seven decades later, they sit and avoid speaking of James' very probable death. Seven decades later, he trusts her enough to give her something precious. The care of Steve Rogers.

She can read the potential fatalism in the remark, and she's not having any of it. She reminds firmly that Steve also has Bucky, because he's not going anywhere. He's not going to die. They'll set this right. "I hope so," he says, and while his expression stays broadly encouraging, there is something about the cast of his eyes which is dull and bleak: looking inward, at the countless memories of death and destruction wrought at his hands. "It'll be … it's tough. But I won't let myself just knuckle under. You know?"

She tells him, then, that she's been subpoenaed. He turns a startled look on her. "Asshole's calling up everyone," he says grimly. "For a guy who's just doing his job, he knows exactly how to hit people in the most personal places."


If there is a general skill of spies of a certain caliber, it is the ability to put people at ease no matter the circumstances. While Peggy is not exactly trying to placate Bucky, she does have a bit of her general espionage attitude on the table. However, a trained man like James would know that while she may have her woman of iron exterior still in place, there remains a person who is worried about him sitting across the glass.

It was unlikely and remarkable that they became friends - or perhaps even familial type relationship - in their treatment and protection of Steve as well as their interactions with each other. They are more than just allies in the 'don't let Steve do anything too foolish with his ideals' camp. They are friends and they care for each other.

"We will," she tells him, firmly. There is also another possible reason they are friends. The fire in her voice and the conviction that there is a way out of this is not feigned for his benefit: she truly believes this. It is possibly reminiscent of Steve's own convictions on multiple causes. "They may depose me as a witness, however I have a few tricks up my sleeve." Some are more costly than others, but she is refusing to take anything off the table when the death penalty is on the line.

"You best not buckle under," she tells him. "I mean it. I will track you down should you give up. We're all here for you, James. I know it's difficult, but we're here as best we can be."


Assuredly, if Peggy tried to use her skills to put people at ease upon him, he'd notice and call her out on it. As it is, he's got his head at a bit of a tilt and a half-smile tugging the corner of his mouth, because he can tell she's got some degree of spy game going on.

He doesn't say anything, though, because he can also see the earnest worry beneath the cool exterior. Especially when she firmly rejects his 'hope sos' and 'it's toughs' with an absolute assertion: they will get through this. And she'll kick his ass if he gives up. She'll find him wherever he is. In her eyes, he can see a mirror of the absolute conviction — the true belief they will pull through, not just a platitude — that Steve often holds on so many things, and not for the first time he understands why of all women, his best friend chose this one.

Her similarity to Steve is probably a reason they're such good friends, for that matter. Bucky has a definite type when it comes to choice in friends.

"Damn," he says. "Now I know I can't lose. You'll pull me outta Hell by my ear just to tan my hide for it." He smiles ruefully. "Handling Steve isn't a one-person job, anyway. Couldn't just dump it on you."

His eyes gentle when she promises everyone is there for him, as best as they can be. "I know," he sighs. "I wonder sometimes if… I'm worth all this. But I try not to spit on anyone's faith."

He leans his head against the back of his hand. "Or on you pulling out your bag of tricks. You got some good ones in there. I know."


Peggy generally adheres to the 'don't play a player' mentality. She knows should she try to put Bucky at easy as she generally would on a spy mission that he would immediately know what she was up to. There is a general professional - as well as friend related - respect in that she would not attempt to bolster him without warrant.

There's a bit of a smile, almost a smirk, as James says that now he knows he can't lose. "You know I will." It's not just a threat, it's a promise. The talk of Steve needing to be properly handled is met with a bit of a laugh. "Yes. Erskine believed the formula enhances personalities, including stubbornness." And Steve's dogged resolution before the formula was already something to behold. It's part of why she saw the future of Captain America in him.

The question as to whether he is worth all the trouble is met with a look. While she might say something flippant or obvious, she does not. Instead, receiver to her ear, she looks through the stained glass at him and nods her head. "You are," she tells him. There is no joke there, no elaboration. There is - as far as she is concerned - simply fact.


Erskine believed his formula would enhance personality traits, Peggy says. It's obvious that sure worked on Steve. Bucky grimaces with exaggerated put-uponness at that. "He was already a stubborn asshole," he says. "And you all made him worse. That's why I've conscripted you to help me with him. He's too much for just one person anymore."

There is a moment afterwards, however, where he grows more somber. "I don't know if whatever they put in me had that same kind of effect," he says. "It was a weaker strain, not the real thing, so maybe not. Who knows. I don't feel any different." He scrubs his hand through his shortened hair. It's not usual that he opens up to people, but then again these are unusual circumstances, and Peggy one of his oldest friends "I kind of hope that it didn't. I don't want something… changing me, mentally. You know? Even if for the better."

Such thoughts pave the way for a more melancholy frame of mind. Is he worth all this? Who knows. Peggy doesn't seem impressed with the question, however, judging by the flat stare and the equally direct answer. No frills, no jests, no overblown attempts to soothe. She feels it's a fact, and she states it as one.

He glances up at her eyes. The act takes his gaze from his hands, at which he had been looking. Looking, as if he could still see and feel the blood of countless lives on them. His left hand tightens with a subtle whir of metal. He does not remember all of what he did with it.

"Thanks," he murmurs. "It means a lot for you to say that."


Peggy can't help it, she gives a soft laugh when Bucky tells her that it's partly her fault that he's even more stubborn than he was before the formula. "Yes. I know. I guess we'll both have to pay for that." However, there is no apology, no actual tone of disappointment for her part in helping Steve become Captain America.

As Bucky becomes more somber, the mood also shifts for Peggy. He doesn't want to know if he's been changed, to know if the formula changed him. A part of her wonders if he worries that the formula changed him to become more susceptible to what happened. If it was always inside of him. There are many things she could say to reassure, to deny, but she goes for the truth. "I'm not sure," she tells him. "It's possible the formula did enhance certain things about you. Erskine believed it to be a universal and inescapable side-effect of the serum. It is why he was so adamant about Project Rebirth picking Steve. If that truly is so, I imagine it was your loyalty, your own stubbornness - even possibly your sarcasm - that was underlined."

She looks straight at James now as she says confidently, "The man I knew back in the front? I still see him. You may be very different in many ways, but I can still see Bucky Barnes."


Bucky groans softly. "Been paying for it ever since 1943." He doesn't sound like he regrets it either, though, and his features soften when he adds, "Still, it's a small price to pay to see him so healthy, after how sick he was growing up."

The mood shifts, inevitably, with thoughts of how and whether he might have changed too, from whatever bastardized formula was put in his blood. Perhaps it changed him to be more compliant, or more violent somehow — easier to turn into the Winter Soldier. Perhaps it permanently altered him in some deleterious way. Took way some part of who he was and made him weaker… or more cruel. He stares at his hands as he ruminates on it, the one flesh and the one metal. Both responsible for so much—

Peggy's voice draws him from his thoughts. Her quiet faith and staunchness remind him keenly of Steve in these moments, and he smiles ruefully as he looks back up. "My sarcasm, huh? That's what you pick out? I guess you couldn't possibly say two whole nice things about me without throwing in something else to keep my ego in check."

He's grinning, though, because he knows he certainly usually deserved it. Back in the day (and perhaps still now, to some degree) he certainly had more than enough ego.

Her confident conclusion brings him to silence, though. Silence and a somber, contemplative look. "I'm glad of that," he says softly. "That he's still there. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember who Bucky Barnes really was."


As a spy trained and attuned to such shifts in emotion and facial expression, Peggy can partially see the journey that Bucky takes from being happy for Steve and what the Super Soldier Serum gave him to the introspection of its contributions to him and then to the rueful smile that he gives her. Throughout all these shifts in emotions and thoughts, she says nothing. What can she tell Barnes that would have of any value to him in that moment? He needs to think this through himself.

At the smile, however, a grin that is very close to a smirk crosses her face. "You see? I knew you would pick that one out of my descriptors." With a a soft laugh, she adds, "We Brits cannot go too long being complimentary without quantifiers. It goes against our very principles. Though, I also cannot quite disagree with your own assessment of ego. Who am I to argue, after all?"

The contemplative look is met with her own smile dimming slightly. She still gives him a warm look, but her tone turns a bit more serious. "I did not know you as well as Steve did. However, there are things I still remember. I'd be glad to fill you in on the details, but I truly believe you still know some of them. You wore your hat at a jaunty angle. You were fearless in conquest: both in battle and women. You believed in your friends and were willing to give your life for any of them. I see that still."


There's a good-natured roll of the eyes at what the Brits can and can't do. "Spent enough time in the UK to pick up exactly what you people are and aren't good at. Making anyone feel too comfortable for too long is definitely not a skillset of your people." The reminiscing even graduates him to a grin, a faint echo of the Bucky Barnes who Peggy first met in the war camps of the Second World War. "Except some of the ladies, anyway."

The expression does not last long. He fades back into the more customary soberness he keeps these days, especially as Peggy's own tone turns more serious. His eyes soften markedly as she reminds him of the things she remembers about him, and which he may not remember well for himself. The way he wore his hats. His fearlessness. His loyalty. She sees them all still.

He briefly touches the glass between them, wishing for actual contact. "Thought you weren't gonna puff up my ego," he says, though his voice is gentle.

"You're the same as you ever were, yourself," he says. "The woman I'm OK with taking Steve." He cocks a severe eye at her. "That's the highest compliment I can give, but you know that."


"Of course," Peggy snorts at the mention of the ladies making him feel very comfortable for a period of time. As the mood turns more serious and he puts a hand against the glass, she gives him a smile. It's not pitying or sad, it's empathetic. Her own hand reaches forward - not toward the same spot where his was, but just forward against the glass.

That smile continues as she says, with a sadly tinged tease, "If you'd prefer I can tell you what a cad you were. I do remember quite a few stories about the time we were all embedded in a small French town in 43 for a week."

She gives a short, soft bark of a laugh when she is told that she is the same woman. "That is no large feat. I practically am exactly her. I didn't have to live through the intermittent years. I just appeared here." The mention of her being the woman he is OK with taking Steve is met with a smile, a bit of a blush and a quick look downward toward the metal holding up the glass between them. "You and I both know Steve can't be 'taken'. Though, I appreciate your approval." She knows just what that means to him. In fact, their first start toward a friendship involved a pissing contest in regards to access and closeness to Steve. To hear him so freely say how he approves of her feelings toward his best friend brings a warmth to her voice that she doesn't mean.


Bucky's soberness can't last long against Peggy's teasing. It's so familiar, such a callback to simpler and less fraught times, that it brings him to smile. The expression is rueful, and lacks a little in his usual cocky insouciance, but that he manages it at all is probably a feat considering his current situation.

"I was not a cad," he protests, though without any actual heat. "Now some of the other boys, I can't speak for them, but if the woman was a lady I certainly treated her as such." No mention of the women who were not ladies, or what treatment THEY might have received!! "You can't hold Oyonnax against me, at any rate. That was literally…" He counts visibly. "Seventy-four years ago, now."

He grows more serious as she speaks of how it was she came to be in this time, however. "I guess," he admits, "it wasn't for you, though. I confess I'm jealous… you not having to live all that time."

The serious tone persists as he tells her something it probably took the threat of death to pry out of him. Her answer seems to be the right answer as far as Bucky's concerned, because he looks down and laughs, his voice a little wry. "No, I guess not. But my opinion's certainly evolved since we first met those seventy-four years ago." She'd remember the exact circumstances of how they first met.


"You were most certainly a cad at times," Peggy rebuts, especially as he says that he only treated people he thought as ladies with a certain amount of respect." A raised eyebrow is given. "I can hold whatever I wish for however long as I wish, you realize Sergeant Barnes," she tells him in a tone very reminiscent of the woman he knew all those years ago. Moreso even than now.

Him being jealous of her situation is met with a flash of surprise and then a rueful look and a shrug. "Perhaps." There's a look upward and a smile as a hand runs through her hair. "There are people who think they know me, who think I am a woman I am not…has done things I have not done…" she finally looks at him: he might understand that.

"The first time we met you were a protective prat who thought I was out to steal and warp Steve," she grins. So, yes, she certainly remembers the first time they truly spoke other than after his rescue or when he hit on her in a bar. "Or did you mean the time you attempted to pick me up?" Their opinions of each other have certainly changed quite a bit from all those points in time.


A slight tilt of the head and one of those patented crooked half-smiles — the selfsame grin he used to break hearts across Brooklyn, Italy, and France — is his only answer to her insistence that he is most certainly a cad and that she shall hold whatever she wishes against him. In particular, he remarks on ladies and not-ladies. The expression has a slight self-deprecating aspect to it, entirely because he knows very well her feelings on chauvinism and he's signaling 'light teasing' before she stomps his balls off.

The conversation moves off that, soon enough, into more thoughtful waters. He professes a jealousy that she does not have to live with the weight of decades on her shoulders, but as she soon points out… she has some troubles all her own. His expression goes pensive, especially at mention of people thinking she is a woman she is not — attributing acts to her that she herself did not do.

"Yeah," he says. "I get that, for sure. Must be rough, looking at her, thinking… would I do that? Is that who I become?"

He doesn't push it. She'll speak of it if she wishes. They've always been more comfortable talking about Steve, between them, than they were talking to one another about one another. The familiarity of the subject brings a smile back to his features. "Steal him, sure," he says. "I just got him back, in this improved form that could finally actually keep up with me, and here shows up this broad to take him away. Typical, I thought."

As for the pickup? He shoots her a look. "The opinion I held of you at the moment I was trying to pick you up has NOT evolved," he teases, "but you're Steve's lady now so it would not be polite to go any further than that."


"Yes," Peggy replies to his questions about what she may be thinking. "Exactly that." She does not yet expand on that. It's not the time, especially with their current circumstances. Their friendship and safe conversation certainly did and does revolve around their relationship to each other around Steve. As for how he saw her own insinuation into the Howling Commandos, she smirks.

"First of all, I was not some broad. I was your intelligence liaison, in charge or organizing your missions with Steve." That needs to be said first and foremost, even though she knows that Bucky's trying to get a rise out of her. "I never tried to take him away," she tells him. "And, really, from what I could tell, in his point of view, he just got you back." Because he was the one that rescued Bucky from the Hydra base.

As for being Steve's lady, she rolls her eyes. "I'm not Steve's lady," she tells him. "I'm Agent Peggy Carter and your friend."


She doesn't expand on it, and he doesn't pry. Though they are 'close' by both their definitions of what it means to be close, their interactions are still much informed by their mutual relationships with Steve, and by the work to which they both dedicated themselves. A more personal connection is later in coming.

Perhaps it will be these extreme circumstances that help catalyze it, in the end.

Not that they're not comfortable with one another to the point of constant teasing, however. He laughs at her crispness as she takes him to task for his playful flippancy. This, too, is familiar, and it helps him temporarily forget where he is. Why he is where he is. "All right, all right," he gives in, temporarily good-natured. "You are the cleverest woman in the universe, you are always right, you're AGENT Carter."

His demeanor gentles abruptly. "And yeah, you're my friend. Sure saw enough war together to solidify that."

He falls quiet, his gaze averting briefly. When he glances back, his expression is sober again. "Thanks," he says. "Thanks for coming by."


There are multiple things that may catalyze the friendship between James and Peggy. For now, mutual respect and admiration carries them through.

"I'm glad you've finally acknowledged it," Peggy replies with a well natured smirk. "That is exactly it." The good natured and well meaning smirk remains, but the smile turns more meaningful in a few moments.

"And you are Sergeant James Barnes," she tells him firmly. "You're my friend, too." This is important, what they know, what they believe in each other. "And you're welcome. I'll visit whenever I can."

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