T2C: The Testimony of Captain America

July 28, 2017:

Captain America takes the stand as the Trial of Two Centuries Continues.

United States District Courthouse, Eastern District of New York

A historic federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.


NPCs: USA David Archer, emitted by Phil Coulson

Mentions: Quite a few.

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Clash of Titans. Archer: #JBB could have escaped at any time. Murdock: #JBB - brutally abused POW, rescued by heroic band of misfits.

Grisly enough to make serial killer blanche. Archer opening statements paint ugly picture, encourages jury to "know Barnes by his fruits." #T2C

Murdock Mic Drop: Archer expects you to believe Barnes willingly returned to cycle of physical and mental abuse again and again. #T2C

Standing room only at the Trial of Two Centuries.

Many members of the Proctor family— Bucky’s family— are on hand, including a female police officer out of Virginia in full dress uniform.

There are certainly reporters aplenty. And others.

Ironically, quite a few of Bucky's friends can't really be on hand to watch…witnesses are sequestered, disallowed in the courtroom until and unless it is their turn to take the stand. There are no cameras, but cell phones abound.

After opening statements, the prosecution called Agent Michael Celevos of the CIA, an older gentleman who testified to verifiable crimes committed by the Winter Soldier starting in 1955, discussing at length how they'd learned of the soldier and who he'd murdered.

A UN diplomatic negotiation team in Cairo. A NATO General in West Berlin. An Ambassador and 4 witnesses in Madripoor. A French Defense Minister in Algeria. An Algerian Peace Conference Envoy in Paris. A US Colonel in Mexico City. By the 70s, a US Senator, a KGB Defector, a US Ambassador in Afghanistan. It's quite the list.

Celevos had only a short cross examination from Foggy Nelson, where he clarified the thinking of the time on the Winter Soldier: that he might be an inherited role rather than a long-lived or cryogenically frozen metahuman, and at the time the government had no idea he was one and the same with Bucky Barnes.

Next, the prosecution called Agent Peggy Carter. Archer's initial questions, before he turned her over to cross, mostly centered around the murder of Mr. Shane Delloway on the streets of New York City on November 29, 2016. He never asked to treat her as hostile, and in fact was quite courteous with her.

Carter was then cross-examined by Matt Murdock, who proceeded to ask her about her initial meetings with the Winter Soldier and the events leading up to Ozone Park. Murdock rips off the bandaid on the Weirdness, prompting Peggy to delve deep into Hydra plots, ancient tomes, undead Nazis, and alternate universes. She does so with aplomb, divulging what was almost certainly high level SHIELD information in the process and giving Steve Rogers a run for his money on who gets the headline for the day. She also — after Murdock and Archer tangle over admissibility — relates in detail Hydra practices on conditioning and indoctrination, detailing the physical and mental traumas endured by Barnes. Finally, Matt asks her why SHIELD didn’t arrest the Winter Soldier after Ozone Park, as they’d been chasing him for decades. To which she replied: “Because after Ozone Park, we determined that there was no longer a Winter Soldier to arrest. Just Bucky Barnes.”

On re-direct, Archer began asking questions which focused on the interaction between Agent Carter and Sgt. Barnes. Was SHIELD a viable agency for Barnes to report back to upon escaping? Didn’t you speak to Barnes after the attack? Would he have had anything to fear from you if he’d turned himself into you then and there? It was all part of Archer’s strategy to try to make it clear that Barnes did not, in fact, escape at the earliest possible opportunity.

It’s hard to say how the jury took any of this, so early in the game, but Peggy herself was poised, professional, a veritable rock on the stand, impressive, clear, and quite obviously on James’ side. In this case, Archer simply treated this as if it were of no consequence to the broader issues of the trial.

And now the prosecutor calls one of the most iconic witnesses of the entire case. “The Prosecution calls Steve Rogers to the stand.”

While the war of social media waged on, one man intentionally has chosen his battles very carefully. Save the Trish Talks appearance and his official public statement, the war hero Steve Rogers has refused to take any sort of comment on the case, leading to speculation and rumors. But the time has finally come and the blond boy from Brooklyn makes his way up toward the stand.

Perhaps with a clear and intentional message, Steve is neither in a normal suit nor his Captain America attire. Instead, he is clad in his dress uniform from the war, which had to be reclaimed in a semi-awkward way from the Smithsonian where it was previously on display. But it fits like it did so many years ago, now adorned by medals earned in two different times.

Grimly, Rogers takes to the stands, his face somber and eyes thoughtful. He glances toward the jury and then the attorneys in front of him. He doesn't say a word, merely waiting to take the oath upon the Bible before he takes his seat. As he does, he settles the only thing that he has brought up with him, a simple sport size bottle of Deer Park, the ice cold condensation mirroring the lone bead of sweat that trickles down his neck.

Once Captain America swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Archer draws close to the stand. "Mr. Rogers, thank you for being here today," he says simply, with nothing but respect. The tale his heartbeat tells now is focus, though certainly Matt Murdock did indeed score some hits on his conscience during his stirring opening statement. Having been through several witnesses now, it's game on for the big prosecuting attorney.

"As I understand it, James Buchanan Barnes was captured by enemy forces twice during his tour of duty during WWII. Can you tell us about each of these incidents, both the one where you were able to heroically recover him and the one where he was thought lost for good?"

She is, understandably, nervous. As the opening statements begin and once Captain America himself is sworn into the stands, Zatanna links her fingers tightly in her lap. Ice-blue eyes occasionally wanders over to the defense, where Matt and Bucky are seated. She hasn't said a word the moment the proceedings were set to begin.

The question comes easy for Rogers. While he knows other questions will be far more challenging, a walk down history lane comes second nature.

"The first battle was in Azzano," Steve begins. Like a good storyteller, his attention shifts from person to person, seeking out eye contact and making hand motions. "You see, Barnes, or Bucky as I call him, was already fighting the war a good amount of time before I underwent the Super-Soldier Project. He had been fighting the Germans on the Italian front. His unit met with the Nazi forces in Azzano. During the fighting, from what we gathered from the reports, HYDRA forces that were allied with the Nazis turned, using their high powered tanks to not only rout the Nazis, but turn the offensive on the Allied forces there. In the wake of the turn of events, Bucky and others were captured by HYDRA." A short pause as is given. "At that time, I wasn't allowed to go into the front. As the declassified files have said, I was the only Super Solider at the time. However, when I learned of the captured troops, as well as Barnes being one of them, I knew I had to act. Acting on my own, I worked with others in order to save the POWs. Barnes was one of them. When found he had signs of torture and was in poor health. It was only his natural resilience and inner fortitude that allowed him to survive the torture, much less the arduous escape, as HYDRA forces were in high numbers and we had no troop support save the weapons I was able to muster. But we did it and helped most of the POWs escape." His eyes go toward Archer, a firm conviction and loyalty within his eyes. "Together."

Then the much more difficult question comes up. A swallow comes up as Steve drinks his water. The story likewise has been told many times, but there is no undercurrent of pride that went through the last one, just regret and tragedy. "The mission in which Barnes was declared KIA was a top secret one in which a Hydra train was moving through the mountains of Europe, attempting to supply sympathizers within allied controlled territories, in order to destabilizing them and pull back the front. In the mission, myself and Barnes attempted to commandeer the train to prevent the goods from the being damaged as well as find additional intel on HYDRA's main base that we were planning to assault in the near future. During the battle, I was almost killed fighting new Elite HYDRA troops. Barnes' resourcefulness allowed him to turn the tide of the battle, but was knocked off the train in the battle."

Rogers takes a moment to drink his water, his throat suddenly parched in the telling. "I had wanted to check the area, but was called on another assignment. When I had inquired into the search, I was told that he was declared dead and that a search for the body hadn't turned up anything. Considering the fall and the circumstances, I nor the US military had any way of knowing Barnes had survived the fall. We thought we had pushed HYDRA from that area so we had no idea their men were close enough to find him before we could."

Despite the previous eye contact, as the story goes on, the eyes drift more and more toward the floor. By the end, he is having a passion retelling with a thoughtful gaze toward under the defense attorney's table. "It was a horrible series of events that fill me regret every time I'm reminded of it."

From her place in the gallery, Kitty Pryde sits near the back. Though she met Bucky Barnes once while with Peter, she does not know either him or Steve Rogers well. However, she grew up on stories of the brave Howling Commandos and Captain America in particular. Her father was an avid fan of the man who stood up for what was right and was the literal poster boy for those who fought against the Nazis and those who murdered her people. Staying silent, nervous and watchful, she listens to the proceedings.

The said Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, titled the Winter Soldier, is, of course present. He is seated at the defendant's table, dressed and groomed appropriately. He's in a suit — it may be the first time most have seen him in one, and certainly a very long time since Steve saw him in one — and his hair has been cut short, in deference to the decorum of the court.

He is not handcuffed. There was a minor fight about that, which Murdock won.

The list of his crimes is read out. The trial begins. He keeps his eyes lowered, his gaze on the table surface before him, the entire time. He doesn't look up until Steve finishes talking, his eyes trying and failing to meet the other man's.

"The first— a harrowing tale worthy of Captain America, complete with both personal and professional risks, all to the cause of getting your dear, brave friend back. The second, a tragic loss, during which it sounds as though you and the rest of the US Military did all that you could to recover him."

Archer's tone is conversational, even as dark eyebrows lift towards his hairline. He stays focused on Captain America, as if he's simply having a well-projected conversation with the American War Hero. "That seems very convenient, really. Would that be a common trajectory for a prisoner of war during your era or any other? Captured, recovered, recaptured by the very force you and your men risked life and limb to recover him from once before?"

While there are definately people within the courtroom that Steve knows, he doesn't really look at any of them for the time being save Archer, working to keep himself as professional as possible during this critical time. "Such things have occurred in the war, more so for those that are within the front lines. Some soldiers were even captured three or four times," Steve rebuttals. "In both instances for Barnes, he was in a situation in which there was a hard fight without hope of reinforcements. In the first instance, he was one of many captured. In the second, I believe it was his ties to the Howling Commandos and his exemplary skills that made him 'worthwhile' to HDYRA, otherwise they would have left him to die."

It's a good answer, and clearly Archer has failed to land the blow he hoped to land with that question. But the man gives no outward sign of this. He merely moves on to the next question. He, too, is working to stay as professional as possible. It could all be very cordial. As with Peggy, he hasn't bothered to ask the judge to treat Rogers as a hostile witness…despite Matt Murdock's point that many of his own witnesses believe in Barnes absolutely.

He moves out of World War II, and gets on with something a little bit closer to the present. "On December 26, 2016 you encountered Barnes as the two of you struggled with a creature on the streets of New York City. Did you get a chance to speak with him at that time, or at any other time after that?"

The brows fur, perhaps it a little harder to recall the recent past instead of tales he's offered a thousand times. Thankfully, he remembers the simple wisdom of 'answer the question, don't give more than that'.

"While I didn't at the time, I was able to have a couple of conversations with him after the wake of the New York City attack" comes the simple reply.

Near silently, Agent May slips into the courtroom from a doorway that is not in Rogers' direct line of sight (she knows better than to be a distraction) and moves to sit somewhere in the middle of the gallery, just enough to one side to be right on the edge of Barnes' peripheral vision. She settles in her claimed seat, then seemingly idly reaches for her left earring… or more accurately, the comlink in her ear.

And the sparse answer from the American Hero seems to be just fine by Archer. He smiles a little.

"And in all those conversations, Mr. Rogers, did Mr. Barnes ever ask you for help?"

He projects a little more forcefully, though his tone never escapes the boundaries of decorum.

The questions come in measured bursts. "Did you try to ask him to come in with you? Did he ever ask to return to SHIELD, or the US Military? Did you offer him your protection? Did he ask for it? Was there ever a point, before Ozone Park, given you two carried on these conversations, that he could have come in from the cold?"

A very slight pause, and then: "And if he had, Mr. Rogers, would you not in fact have protected him, made sure he was treated like a returned prisoner of war, and not like a suspect, indicating entirely that he had nothing at all to lose by getting the protection of his old friend just as quickly as he possibly could rather than remaining at large where he risked— how was this put now— where he risked returning to the 'cycle of mental and physical abuse' once more?"

Noemi Nogueira is in a semi-nice businesswoman's suit sitting in the middle seats and covertly taking notes, apparently on the inside of her arm. This might seem charmingly discreet but she's writing very small.

Inwardly Noemi curses the lazy four-handed jagoff who she has agreed to help in filing his article for the M-town free weekly. She is considering demanding a byline.

Somewhere at one end of a bench or another, Obadiah Stane looks on with absolute concentration, his brow knitted as jabs and parries in words echo throughout the courtroom. He'sll glance over, mostly at Barnes, to watch for his reaction as men wage a war for his freedom somewhere on the battlefield of truth, perspective, and lies.

And all the while, at each and every counter and retort, Obadiah Stane feels a pang of need. Not for truth or justice or some desire to help one side or another, but simply for a cigar, a glass of scotch, and a better vantage from which to watch this epic contest.

Did he ever ask Steve for help? Why would he not come in from the cold to reunite with his old friend and seek asylum? Bucky's mouth curls briefly in a bitter half-smile, as if he found the fact this is being considered a feasible option he should have taken frankly astonishing.

Matt Murdock has remained seated and mostly silent during the back and forth between U.S.A. Archer and Steve Rogers thus far, his aspect Sphinx-like and inscrutable. A few times he's leaned over and whispered something to his shaggy-haired co-counsel, who apparently missed Bucky Barnes' memo on going clean-cut in court. It's only at this moment — when David Archer raises his voice and asks his scattershot questions — that the lawyer seems roused to the point of making an objection. His lips part, breath summons —

—and then he realizes how ridiculous it would look objecting to anyone — even the imposing U.S.A. Archer — 'badgering' Captain-fucking-America. His mouth snaps shut.

"I had," Captain America is forced to admit. "On multiple occasions. However, in speaking with Barnes it was clear that there were multiple facets in play that prevented the 'protection' from actually occurring. On one, Barnes was under HYDRA watch. There was no telling what could have occurred should I have attempted to taken him in without the full support of the government. One of my fears was that in bringing him in, that he would be placed in prison or placed on trial without being treated for his medical needs. As stated in the opening statement, Barnes was held captive by one of the most technologically advanced groups in our time. When we were fighting with bullets, they were fighting with cosmically charged weapons capable of disintegration. I didn't want to have him brought in, only to be killed by some poison in his brain or some sort of unknown device."

Steve Rogers says, “The second was the mental fragility of Barnes at that time. It was clear he was heavily traumatized and manipulated by HYDRA. I had hoped that in working with him peacefully with others, it would ensure as smooth as a transition as possible. I didn't see a point in forcefully bringing in a friend, only to drive his own chance of sanity from him."

"Finally, there was Bucky himself, who was struggling with his own identity, the fear of being used by more people as well as the confusion that comes from having your reality purposefully manipulated and dealing with the personal guilt and shame of having someone kill by using your own mind and body as the weapons. It took awhile for Barnes to move past that, and it shows his strength of character to show that he moved past it at all."

The eyes lock on firmly onto Archer's, the blue spheres working overtime to avoid the gaze of Steve. It's hard to talk in a way that isn't exactly flattering of one's friend, but the necessity to tell the truth and protect his friend mingle in a rather blunt presentation.

"In short, you asked me if Bucky had asked for the protection of SHIELD. The answer is no and that's because I didn't offer it to him. Not fully," Steve replies, emotion starting to cloud his thoughts. He is professional in his demeanor, but he is certainly going off the 'only answer the question' protocol. "Until I could be assured that SHIELD would be able to protect him, until I was sure that I could save him, I didn't want to push the issue. I made a judgment call… If I wanted him brought in, I would have through force. But it was dangerous for Barnes as well as dangerous for SHIELD to do so without fully understanding the situation, which didn't occur until much later."

There is a question that absolutely did not go as Archer expected it to go. The answer is frankly brilliant, and for a moment Archer just stops. He presses his lips together. And then he simply says, quite smoothly, "Your witness, Mr. Murdock," as he makes his powerful way back to the prosecution's table.

Matt's dark, bushy brows may inch ever so faintly upward at the final exchange between Archer and Rogers, but he restrains his urge to crack a smile. His features are schooled to neutrality as he pushes himself up from the defense's desk and traces along its edge as he walks — sans walking stick — towards the witness stand.

"You've known Sergeant Barnes for a long time, Captain Rogers," the lawyer says in his quiet, assured manner. "Can you tell me a little about your relationship before the war? Before you were —" now he does smile, wry but affable. "Well. You."

A pull of water is taken as the changing of the guard occurs. There is a small hint of relief that occurs when it's the defense, but well, this is supposedly the guy who wants Barnes to be found not guilty. When the blind man asks his first question, the First Avenger nods. "Well, Bucky and me went back. We grew up in the same area. We were friends. Not sure exactly why, part of me things out of pity on Barnes' part. I was always getting myself into fights I couldn't win, always upset about things that were not fair, and felt very much like it was me against the world. Bucky helped me. He watched out for me when I couldn't fight for myself, he listened to me when I was upset. He even made the offer to let me live with him after my mother had died." A glance is given toward Barnes for a flitting moment before going back toward Murdock. "He tried to talk me out of the war. He knew I'd get killed and didn't like the fact that I had tried to lie about my medical conditions in order to be allowed to serve. He was always there to help me, even when I didn't want it."

At the defendant's table, there is an eyeroll from Bucky at the bit about 'out of pity' remark.

The expression is gone again by the time Steve looks towards him. In its place is only a steady sort of look, a look that promises that nothing about the last sentence Steve says has changed, even after nearly ninety years.

"So he looked out for you growing up," Matt says with a gesture towards the sound of Steve Rogers' steady voice. "And then he went off to war, and you had your own transformation, and the next time you saw each other — it was you saving him." There's a faint, closed-mouth smile a at the irony before he presses on. "And you were Captain America by then. A supersoldier. And he was your second — all through the war."

A beat, and then: "Did you ever get the sense that he chafed at the role reversal? Did you ever pick up any bitterness or resentment on James' part?"

A moment of thought is given before Captain America answers. "Not in the slightest. Some of it might have been because the first time he saw me after the serum was saving his life," he admits wistfully with a slight grin. "Either way, he was always proud of me for what I had become and what I was doing. While he was on the front lines and a ranked officer, he was willing to throw that away to become our sniper. In essence, not only was he willing to encourage the role reversal, but was willing to take less of the lime light. I think he was okay with it as long as he was helping fight the war with everything he had."

"So the Bucky Barnes you knew before he fell off that moving train was protective, generous, patriotic and loyal," Matt sums up with a lift of his eyebrows above the round-red rims of his glasses — a gesture of mock-surprise, surely. The tone is informal, almost conversational despite the stately surroundings. It's all performance, in its own way, if less showy than Archer's. "And then, decades later, you found each other again, in Gotham City, correct?"

The lawyer's head tilts ever so slightly to the right. "How do you reconcile your childhood friend — of whom you speak so highly — with the assassin you saw seven months ago? Did it seem like the same man to you?"

The Man with the Star Spangled Plan hrms for a moment in wake of the questions, clearly giving it thought and consideration. Most witnesses struggle with their answers or seem rehearsed. It's little surprise that the man's testimony is more like an empathic declaration rather than a mere stating of the facts.

"When I was first told about Bucky still being alive, I didn't believe it. After all, there are mutants that have the ability to change their appearance, that thing that looks like people, but is really a robot… I think they called it a Terminatron or something like that…" The failed attempt at pop culture is given a hand wave. "Either way, I had to verify for myself and upon hearing that the Winter Soldier was seen in Gotham, decided to investigate the matter personally. When I was there, I observed the Winter Soldier attacking and killing a person for an item of interest. We soon fought and over the course of the battle, the Winter Soldier attempted to kill me. Of course, he didn't, but well, even with HYDRA, I guess you can't be the good old USA." There is an awkward laugh before Rodgers is brought back to the fact that this is a court proceeding and the face swiftly sobers.

"But the entire event made me rather concerned. For starters, Barnes had worked at a sniper and killed his fair share. But we always work hard to avoid the death of civilians, even those of enemy nations. It's easy enough to subdue someone, even make it seem like you were never there. Considering the resources and the abilities of the Winter Soldier, the decision to kill was merely because it was efficient. But the Howling Commandos never believed that the ends justified the means. Never." Blue eyes go out toward the jury as if giving a PSA moment. "When the situation was tough and required a moral compromise, we worked even harder to rise above it. It was clear the Winter Soldier's tactics differed greatly from Barnes. During the fight, Barnes recalled briefly his true self, but before then, the Winter Soldier persona took over and fled. The struggle between ultra efficient and uncaring spy was a stark contrast to the Winter Soldier persona. Enough so that I felt that it was possibly telepathic control, a clone, or some other than explanation than it was Barnes even after the attack. In time, and with subsequent encounters with the Winter Soldier, however, forced me to reconcile the fact that they were one and the same and that the Winter Soldier persona was superimposed over what was my best friend."

That all given, Rogers pauses to give a sip of water. "I hope that answers your question."

Matt receives that detailed answer with what seems to be cool and attentive equanimity, hands placed on his hips as he mulls over the details. This is a different exercise than other witnesses he'd had the benefit of truly prepping, like Peggy Carter or — eventually — Foster, Zatara, and Jones. Captain America was, out of principle, resistant to even answering questions in their initial meeting, much less going over the substance of the answers. In some respects it was not needed — he performed masterfully against Archer. But it does make even this more straightforward Q&A as much an exploration as anything else…

with all the potential perils an exploration entails.

"From brothers at arms to combatants," the lawyer says with a little wince. "That must have been rough. But for all that you were fighting — potentially to the death, if the Winter Soldier had his way — you say you saw little bits of Bucky come through. I imagine that must sound a little strange to the jury; how do you know what's going on inside a man's head? Can you tell us a little of what you saw that made you come to that conclusion for yourself, Captain?"

It's such a strange set-up, the way that this trial has forced Archer to operate. As has been observed, the parade of the 5 key hostile witnesses— a handpicked sampling of the unmasked vigilante superhero misfit busybodies that Matt referenced, the ones that Archer could get some sort of handle on— flips the script entirely on how these things usually go. The big man at the prosecutor's table looks up from where he'd been taking notes about Captain America's answers on cross.

His tone is cool, unruffled, and businesslike. "Objection, your Honor. Calls for speculation on the part of the witness. He's not a psychiatrist or psychologist, he's no kind of expert, and anything he thought he saw could have been tainted by his most understandable desire to have his friend back."

Matt head lifts and tilts at Archer's objection, like he's a cat catching a stray sound — before he turns his profile in the rough direction of the judge's bench. "Your honor, speculation is the opposite of what I'm asking," he says, just as coolly as his opposing counsel. "I am asking Captain Rogers to clarify his previous statements with concrete descriptions of words and actions that led the man to form his belief. And while he may not be an expert in psychology, it is safe to say he knows the man who was James Buchanan Barnes like no one else alive."

"Overruled," the Judge agrees. "You may answer the question, Captain Rogers."

It's hard to say what or why Rogers is so willing despite previous thoughts with Murdock. Perhaps it was a change of heart, or maybe that Matt is more persuasive than he thought. Either way, the real time may come later. Again, he doesn't control the situation, even as he attempts his best to due so by answering in usual congenial way.

"Thank you, your honor," Steve begins with the utmost respect for the law before turning from the judge toward Matt. "Well, as I said before, Bucky showed no hesitation in his attempt to kill me. I've fought a lot of men in my time before. The killing moves attempted aimed for the face region and nerve clusters suggested that he knew that I would be harder to kill with his organic hand, so he aimed for their while attempting to use his bionic arm to attempt grapple to choke or crush. The fact that he was willing to use killing moves against me without hesitation despite intentional attempts to call Bucky to attention was the first red flag." Most people forget that some of Rogers' skill is not only the training, but the rather in-depth hand-to-hand training he's received. He's no Batman, but he's far from a slouch either. (Though some people claim that Cap could and would take Batman in a fight, but that is a debate for another time).

"The second was the fact that until the end of the fight, there was little to no recognition of myself as his friend or anything save a 'programmed response'. There was no sign of recognition or anything to suggest that during the fight. But during the fight and conversations, there would be signs of inner turmoil. Pregnant pauses, signs of frustration and agitation due to certain word triggers, and similar expressions."

"The final sign was the heightened fear. When I dealt with Bucky, we dealt with a lot of scary stuff. New York wasn't the safest when we were growing up and the War certainly wasn't. We dealt with the fear with a calm stare in the mirror and a pat on the shoulder and we understood we could overcome just about anything. When dealing with HYDRA, it was a much different beast. Bucky was clearly worn by them and what they did by the fact that when a 'way out' was presented, his fear of their reprisal for defection was great, refusing almost every offer to be 'saved' until after the HYDRA cell that was his 'handler' had been dealt with. Previously, Barnes wouldn't have batted a lash at taking on someone much stronger than himself if it was the right thing to do. Heck, it's one of the reason why we're friends. For him to express fear of HYDRA and himself, it was a change from the man that he once was. But if you're captured and tortured by the enemy, that can do that to a person. We called it Shell Shocked but I suppose you all would call it PTSD. But I suppose that's more for your psychologists to discuss, not me."

Matt absorbs all that — lets the jury absorb all of it — with relative silence, one fist brought up contemplatively to his mouth. When he begins to answer his tone is careful, deliberative: "So in that first meeting of yours he tried to kill you — his best, his oldest friend — seemingly without compunction or even without recognition of who you were, but was unnerved by words?" Matt says with a musing bend downward of his lips. "And in this state of turmoil, conflict, remembrance even — you bested him, or at least fought him off, and he fled."

The lawyer draws in a breath and cocks his head. "But that was only the first time the Winter Soldier looked as if he were trying to kill you, yes? The jury has heard about most of the events of Ozone Park from Peggy Carter, but I'd like to hear your take. Especially your confrontation there with the Winter Soldier."

The chill that can be felt from Rogers is almost palpable. As the question is considered, the eyes narrow and Steve takes a long pull from his drink. Once every delay is given, Steve gives a short and concise answer, Murdock's willing and seeming skillful witness swiftly losing his will to be verbose.

"We had found that a HYDRA cell had reacquired Barnes and was planning to recondition him. While the evidence suggests that he was one of their best, constant redeployments had resulted in his programming seemingly to 'falter', which resulted in Bucky's originally personality to manifest. During this time, a scientist linked to SHIELD had also been taken, seemingly with the desire and intention of transforming her into a pawn as well."

A sigh is given, as if this is causing rage to build within him. It's unclear where that anger Cap has is directed to, however. "I mobilized a group of individuals which included Agent Carter, to deal with the threat. Within the confines of the underground base, we dealt with a variety of magical threats, such as some that made fictitious worlds in which HYDRA was in control of the United States. The team broke free of the attempted entrapping, freed Barnes and the SHIELD allied scientist, and was able to secure evidence that was able to show the process of the Winter Soldier Project."

"Yes, the jury's aware of the broad contours," Matt says his tone patient and mild, even as he continues on course with unwavering persistence. Most might forgive the blind man for missing the outward signs of Rogers' internal turmoil and growing anger, even if truth is that Matthew Murdock misses very little. He's not unmindful: just determined.

And so.

"I suppose I want to dig in on that last part," the man says with a brief half-smile that smacks of an apology. There's Matt Murdock for you: as relentless as he is relentlessly polite. "You went into the HYDRA compound. You say you 'freed' Barnes. How? This was a man who had been — willingly or unwillingly — subject to HYDRA for decades. Don't hurry past it. How was he freed, Captain?"

The magic question, the golden key of understanding. As soon as the incident offuced Rogers knew that he would receive it. Might have been in front of the UN's court or the like. But the tale is retold for Bucky's sake.

After doing his usual buying of time by drinking from his water, Rogers goes into the tale for perhaps the most important retelling:

"During the incident at Ozone Park, as stated before, there was a time where a magical was used in order to create a 'dream world' of sorts. During the time, I knew in order to save Bucky, I needed to press the issue. As stated before, due to the possible outcome of a mental break down, I avoided such things, but considering the situation and the possibility of lives lost, I did what I had to."

"As stated before, the Winter Soldier had tried on multiple occasions to kill me. I decided to allow him the chance to do so. When the individual was given a gun, I merely walked up to it, allowing the Winter Solder to kill me or Barnes to forcefully renounce the powerful 'demon' of sorts within him. He was successful with freeing himself and with the help of others, was able to be rescued in the same night we took down the HYDRA cell. It was a rather large gamble, but it turned out as best it could considering the situation."

Bucky has largely avoided looking at Steve the entire time Steve has spoken on the stand, in an old-world sort of courteous aversion to looking too closely at another man when he's forced to speak more candidly about private matters than he might wish. He's stared at his own hands folded on the table surface for the most part, head bowed.

He glances up briefly when Steve speaks of the moment he dropped his shield and gave the Winter Soldier full opportunity to kill him. The shame is briefly clear in his eyes, before it passes on back into impassive stoicism, and Bucky resumes his blank stare at the table.

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