T2C: The Testimony of Dr. Jane Foster

July 31, 2017:

Dr. Jane Foster takes the stand and center stage in a grueling legal battle between USA Archer and defense attorney Matt Murdock.

United States District Courthouse, Eastern District of New York

A historic federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.

Characters

NPCs: USA David Archer, emitted by Phil Coulson

Mentions: Lots

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

@BenUlrich
Archer “hostile witness” strategy backfires as Captain America supports defense throughout testimony. #T2C

@TrishTalks
Cap. America makes it clear: #JBB traumatized and manipulated by Hydra, turning himself into SHIELD prior to Ozone Park unfeasible. #T2C

@MSNBC
Hydra. @RachelMaddow takes an in-depth look tonight at 9/8 CST. #T2C

Archer had some work to do if he was going to repair the damage that Captain America did to his case. It had been a gamble, calling the man as a witness for the prosecution, just as all of his “hostile witnesses” have been a gamble. There was no discrediting Captain America. There was only directing the conversation a certain way and hoping that he answered badly. He didn’t.

@NPR
"That man killed my father in cold blood." Raisa Ivanovich takes stand, recalls brutal 1975 encounter with The Winter Soldier. #T2C

So, Archer called Raisa Ivanovich next, a young woman who watched as Barnes stabbed her father in cold blood in the year 1975. Her father had been a former KGB agent defecting to the United States. The kill was confirmed in West Berlin before Ivanovich managed to make contact with his new handler, as if to draw the jury’s attention back to the brutal nature of the Winter Soldier’s work.

After it was over, Foggy Nelson said: “No questions for this witness, your honor.”

@SummerGleason
Members of Gotham Antiquities Commission describe frightening attacks by #JBB as they take the stand. #T2C

@LoisLane
Sam Wilkes testimony describes #JBB yanking vehicle bodily away from him as he tried to escape assassination attempt. #T2C

@BenUlrich
GAT members describe rescues from #JBB by some of the same "heroic misfits" that would go on to rescue #JBB himself at Ozone Park. #T2C

Next, the USA called members of the Gotham Antiquities Commission, having them describe their encounters with Barnes in basically straightforward terms. There was no avoiding discussion of rescues by various superheroes, so Archer merely tried to make the need for those rescues look as damning as possible.

On cross, Murdock revisited those episodes in detail, teasing out the heroism of the ‘misfits,’ but once again, did not try to exculpate Bucky from any of the crimes alleged.

With this testimony out of the way, Archer calls his next hostile witness, and this time he makes no effort to conceal the fact that she is, in fact, hostile. “Your Honor, I’d like to call Dr. Jane Foster to the stand. And as Dr. Foster is romantically involved with Sgt. Barnes I’d like permission to treat her as a hostile witness.”

The Hon. Judge Leong nods gravely. “Permission granted, counsel.”

A perfect antithesis to the way Captain America occupied the witness stand, tall and impressive and larger-than-life —

— Jane Foster arrives, very very small. She is a slip of a thing, always petite, always slight, and now these days, dancer-emaciated: telling of someone who has barely slept and eaten even less these past two months. The fitted blouse and slacks she wears, a lot of off-white and dispirited greys, makes her even tinier.

She walks into the courtroom with palpable nervousness, and takes her seat on the chair. Her little body barely even fills it.

Knees together, hands on her lap, her first look up is straight toward the defence table — a quiet glance for James Barnes.

Once she's sworn in, the USA gets up close and personal on the stand. He looms over her. Most tellingly, he moves immediately to block her view of James, as if well aware that she takes strength from looking at him. He folds his arms and stares down at her with displeasure. Real displeasure. With Barnes, there is a certain amount of sympathy at play. For some reason, something about Jane Foster gets right under her skin.

"Dr. Foster," he says, his tone frosty. "Tell the court about your very first interaction with the accused."

From the defendant's table, James looks back. Contrary to the way he spent most of Steve's testimony avoiding the eyes of his best friend, he seems set on watching Jane throughout all of hers—

—up until Archer blocks their line of sight. His eyes avert again, with a slight shake of his head.

John Constantine is…here. He's been here, but he's not seated anywhere near Zatanna — or anyone else known to be acquainted with anyone involved in the actual trial, in any capacity. Arms folded, sitting back, eyes lidded, and those blue irises of him drilling holes in the well-appointed back of David Archer, presently.

Noemi is still taking notes for her jerk friend at the free local weekly. She has shifted to using an actual legal notepad she managed to beg off of somebody instead of her forearm, though she did a rolling impression to transfer the ink onto a page first.

For the instant of a moment she can see Barnes's blue eyes, Jane gentles. She centers —

And Archer takes one step and makes a wall between them. The woman chills over, and takes in a deep breath, her dark eyes lifting to meet those of the prosecutor. Her hands curl briefly in her lap, before she relaxes her fingers flat.

"I met the Winter Soldier in my apartment late at night, November 29th of last year. I came home from work. He was already inside. He knew enough about my background, my specialization, to have found me — ne needed me to repair damage to his arm. I realized quickly it was a full sensorimotor prosthesis. The first I'd ever seen in my life. I completed the repair."

Tony totally gives Jane a thumbs up from the stands. SEE! Look! He's being supportive!

"You completed the repair," Archer repeats, the contempt in his voice deepening. He all but draws out every word of that sentence, letting each one drop to the ground like stones cast into the depths of a muddy well. "And why did you do that, Dr. Foster? Why did you complete the repair? Was this a B&E, with a side of coercion? Or was this a pre-arranged meeting? Did you perhaps expect to find an enemy agent lounging around your house waiting for you to break out your toolset?"

Matt Murdock couldn't give Jane Foster a reassuring look if he wanted to, though at least nothing about her is lost to him when Archer puts his imposing frame between her and the table at which he and Bucky Barnes are seated side-by-side. But he is, even if she is nominally a witness for the prosecution, her best defense against a contemptuous U.S. attorney, and so when he follows her terse reply with a slew of follow-ups, the lawyer pushes himself up to a sharp rise:

"Objection, your honor," he says, his voice ringing in clear command entirely at odds with its ordinary reserve. "Badgering and inflammatory."

The Honorable Dana Leong casts Archer a flat look. "Sustained. Counsel will rephrase the question."

"Very well, your Honor," Archer says, as if he is neither surprised nor bothered.

He even lowers his voice a little bit, and gives Jane a tight smile as he clasps his hands behind his back.

"Dr. Foster, please tell the court why you completed the repair?"

That first barrage of questions gives Jane visible pause. Her lips move —

— but quicker than anything can be said, Murdock objects. She goes quiet, eyes turned gratefully on him even if the lawyer cannot see it. She gets no clear view of James, so all she can do is have faith in his lawyer. And she does.

Archer rephrases, and her dark eyes turn back on him, stealing herself back into a practised calm. "Because the Winter Soldier ordered me to. He had a gun in hand." But she will not finish there. "He took me to my bedroom where my tools were located. I was able to locate and diagnose the damage to his prosthesis. I talked to him while I worked. It was just me and him. He listened. He even asked questions, though he seemed confused. He responded the most to me when I talked about the stars."

This is where James shifts in his seat, his posture closing up a little bit. His right arm rests its elbow on the table in front of him, right hand lifting to cover the lower half of his face. His left stays dormant, across his lap. He is visibly tense.

David Lee Archer is definitely not going to follow this thread about talking about the stars. Or at least, not in any particularly kind or helpful way. "A lovely little discussion about the stars. Ah. So would you say you were attracted to him even then? Just how many times did you make contact with Barnes prior to December 26, 2016, then?"

Now he moves out of Jane and Bucky's way. He leans against the witness stand instead, his back to Jane, giving the two lovebirds a clear view to gaze at each other across the courtroom if they so choose, even as he arches an eyebrow at the jury box, as if silently asking them whether they're hearing this lovey-dovey nonsense for themselves.

It hurts — to have something so private disparaged so openly. It hurts, and the emotion flickers across Jane's face, like a razor blade dragged down a raw nerve.

She looks down at her lap. A simple, neutral place, as those questions buoy past her hears.

"Not then, no," she replies simply, honestly. "The Winter Soldier made contact me with me five more times. I had no means to contact him. But if you're asking for contact with James Barnes, it was two times."

John's face may as well be set stone while he watches, but at least one person in the courtroom would know that all of that calm is a lie. The kind of chill that knifes its way across the astral link he shares with one Mistress of Magic is rare even for John.

Nobody's on fire yet, though.

"JARVIS," Tony's whisper is audiable only to a few people around him. "Make a note."

"Yes, sir?"

"Archer is totally an asshole."

"So noted, sir."

"And can you draw little devil horns on him in the replay? That would be awesome."

"I'm asking about contact with that man, sitting right there," Archer booms, casting a hand in Barnes' general direction, having none of this distinction between James Barnes and the Winter Soldier at all.

"So. Seven times. And you were a SHIELD agent. I looked and looked, Dr. Foster. There was no formal report to SHIELD anywhere. Wouldn't that have been your duty? Making a formal report about making contact with the Winter Soldier, to the government agency that signs your paychecks? Instead…"

Here, he pushes off the witness stand, and crosses the courtroom, pacing about it as if deeply disturbed by what he's about to relate.

"Instead, on December 31, 2016, you and he went on a date, didn't you? You put on a gorgeous dress and went to the Gotham Antiquities Commission ball with him. Am I correct here, Jane? No report, and a public date well before the supposed rescue at Ozone Park?"

Somewhere from around the defendant's table, there is a very faint sound. Kind of like the grinding slide of metal. Probably very few people can hear it other than the defense attorney, at least.

Oh god.

Zatanna's eyes grow wider and more horrified when David Archer's questions slip more and more into territories that most would fear to tread. There's a glance towards the defense counsel's table. There has to be a valid objection somewhere there, right?

Right???

With the last of David Archer's less-than-friendly witnesses, Matthew Murdock held back. Captain America lived up to his reputation, and needed no defender. It's the opposite here — not three questions have gone by, and suddenly the lawyer is rising for his second —

"Objection!"

Cold anger and outrage carries in the word this time as Matthew Murdock's chair screeching along the floor behind him as he pushes himself upward. "Relevance! And badgering. Jane Foster is not on trial here, and certainly not for any duty she owed her employer."

Noemi makes a helpful note for her jerk friend: 'archer = fashion critic??'

Archer is more than ready for this objection. He pivots on his heel and turns to face the Judge.

"Your Honor, quite a bit of the defense's case in regards to coercion and mens rea relies upon evidence that was obtained in regards to Jane Foster's treatment at the hands of Hydra. I should think how she conducted herself with someone who was an active Hydra agent at the time— whether or not we agree he was an active Hydra agent after the events of Ozone Park, is vastly relevant to the entire affair at issue. Additionally…you gave me permission to treat her as a hostile witness…she has motive to be less than truthful."

"Overruled," the Judge agrees. "The witness will answer."

If that Archer person were to notice, he'd probably find himself the subject of one of May's coldest stares. The kind of stare a shark would give a diver in a metal cage implying that there's only that tiny barrier protecting him from a VERY unpleasant demise.

Matt Murdock's tight, swallowed wince contains worlds of suppressed frustration as he nods his assent the judge's ruling and takes a seat. A lawyer's capital with the judge is limited, and it's best used wisely. He may be Jane Foster's defender, but he can't protect her from everything. Most witnesses enjoy the comfort of direct examination, eased into their position on the stand and guided the first part of the way by a friendly hand. David Archer's strategy has upset that the rhythms of that dynamic and thrown Jane Foster into the maelstrom right at the start. It may have been expected, but it's no less frustrating for it.

Words he'd told her a few nights past ring in his own head: You and Bucky, you both have crucibles to go through, he'd murmured towards the end of their last, grueling session of prep. But you're both survivors. You'll get through it.

He hopes to God he was right.

Again, that objection rises from Murdock before Jane can answer: though by the look on her face, it does not appear like one would be coming quickly.

She holds her silence, a wary, guarded one, and her eyes turn up on the Judge as she makes her decision. Overruled.

Her eyes turn, taking back an unimpeded look on James Barnes, across the courtroom, seated as the accused. Archer is right: she does take strength from him.

"Five times," she corrects. "Two times of those five did James Barnes, in some manner of presence or memory, reach out to me." Her jaw tightens, steels. Her eyes return to the middle distance of her lap, safety as she runs through her thoughts. "I don't consider myself an agent of SHIELD. I'm on contract with them. They followed my research since Puente Antiguo. They pay my bills and offer me resources so long as I share my findings and provide results. I've never been trained. I don't even know what agents do. I'm an astrophysicist."

And then the Gala. Jane's eyes do not deter from her lap. Her eyebrows furrow. So much she wants to say. "I attended the Gala."

The USA, it should be noted, is not paying the people in the stands any mind at all. No glares, glowers, grumblings, mutterings or anger seem to touch him at all. He cares about his witness, the jury, the judge, and opposing counsel. It's clear from his bearing, his focus, his general demeanor that nobody else exists for him right now. He is an eagle on the hunt, turning and turning in a widening gyre, diving after his prey in the witness box again and again.

There should be no doubt that he fully intends to destroy her in every way he can before this day of testimony is complete. And pretty much for all the reasons he just outlined as he explained his reasoning to the judge in regards to the former, hotly contested question.

He makes no contest of her clarification about her status with SHIELD. He smiles ever so slightly as she says all that, obviously feeling it's more helpful than harmful. She attended the gala, but doesn't admit to doing so with him. He contemplates making an issue of it, but decides, ultimately, his point is made.

He draws between Bucky and Jane once more, a broad wall in a pinstriped suit and impeccable white shirt today, and takes things in another direction now.

"Keeping in mind that you are under oath: did you ever witness James Buchanan Barnes murder any other human being after the events at Ozone Park? Did you ever participate in any murder?"

Butter wouldn't melt in James Barnes' mouth right now.

Matt's eyebrows shoot up as the U.S.A. asks that question, but what registers on his face is less an expression of surprise than disgust — indeed, the very sort of disdain that Archer registered for the witness on the stand not half an hour ago. There's no shouting this time, no indignation. Just something baffled, incredulous, even disappointed as he turns his aspect towards where the judge simply must be:

"Your honor, approach?"

The Judge nods her head. "Counsel may approach the bench."

Archer's look goes a little flat, but he comes to stand beside his adversary as he makes whatever case he's about to make, folding his arms.

/CRUNCH/ Munch munch munch. /CRUNCH/. Munch munch.

"JARVIS, second note. Invent stealth almonds. These are really loud."

Look. Tony Stark must eat. Its a moral imperitive. Espicially at moments like this. Its totally popcorn nomming time.

Bucky kinda looks over his shoulder because what the hell is that noise?

He has a specific expression for 'oh, it's just Tony,' which gets used.

Melinda May leans over and snatches the container of almonds out of Tony's hands without even turning to look at him.

"You know I totally have more," Tony hisses in a whisper.

"Are you seriously snacking in a courtroom," Noemi mutters sideways towards whoever-it-is who's going ham on some salty nuts.

"Did you bring spare snacks to a courtroom," Noemi continues in mild disgust.

And for a third time, Jane Foster is again cut off from testimony. Her lips draw together, her face unreadable save for the nervous back-and-forth of her eyes: the obvious look of someone who has never been any sort of party to a Court proceeding in her life.

At least with a now unimpeded view of James Barnes, she gives him a glance. The witness gallery escapes now of her attention for now, the tiny woman with a narrowed, sieve-thin focus, her eyes looking helplessly between the interplay of counsel and Judge.

"I bring spare snacks everywhere, but if people didn't take them away I wouldn't have too." Is Tony's whispered reply

Melinda May does turn to look at Tony this time, and her flat stare is akin Pepper at her most unimpressed. Times two hundred. "I will not hesitate to tase you and watch the rest of these court proceedings while you drool on the floor," she says almost too quietly to be heard, except by Tony, and of course the person or people listening in on her comm link.

Sidebar: that peculiar institution where all eyes in a public forum are turned towards a single private conversation that they cannot hear, and on which so much hinges. Matt Murdock makes his careful way — though without benefit of a walking stick — to the judge's chair, while David Archer strides commandingly to the same fixed point. The three of them — soft-voiced everyman, veteran prosecutor, and no-nonsense judge — engage in a conversation seems interminable. You can almost hear — or can actually hear if you're Matt Murdock — a hundred thumbs firing off tweets from touchscreens in the tense silence that occupies the federal courtroom.

Matt's aspect as he speaks is emphatic, even fierce; Archer's is equally insistent when he follows. There's back, and forth, and back again — and even a point when Murdock clearly, visibly, and angrily snaps at the the larger man, who bears it with cool equanimity. Archer turns, confident, composed, at the height of his form as he turns to make one more point to the judge—

—who seems instantly done with both of them. She whispers a few inaudible words and literally shoos both of them with a wave of the hand back to their seats before fixing her dark-eyed, skewering attention on the twelve men and women to her right to tersely say:

"The jury will disregard that question."

At the conclusion of this tense exchange, David Archer allows himself the luxury of grinding his teeth. It may only be audible to Matt Murdock, but the scrape of bone on bone speaks of a frustration within his own bearing that he's too professional to really show to anyone else. There is a tightening of his mouth though, before he merely straightens his tie…

And regroups.

He even modulates his tone a little as he takes sure-footed steps right back to the witness stand.

He speaks as if he'd never asked the question that produced such exasperation and contempt on the part of his opponent, speaks as if he hadn't just had his legal arguments shot down and shut down by the southpaw at the bench. There is little to do but move forward as if the whole court had literally turned back time and erased his previous question.

"Hydra sent the Winter Soldier to take you. He kidnapped you and held you against your will. Is that correct?"

"Are you /eight/," Noemi counters Tony Stark once the actual courtroom conversation begins again.

And just like that, the question disappears from the record, from the Court room, like a bullet redirected that was once aimed between Jane's eyes.

That's how it feels to her. She looks after Matt's retreat back to James's side, with surprise and transparent awe.

However, that relief does not get to last long.

Jane's eyes flinch back and up on Archer's face, on Archer's eyes, as he asks his next question. She was prepared for this. She walked into this room with the full expectation it would be asked.

It still comes like a punch to the gut. She feels momentarily breathless. Looking down at her lap can no longer do it. Even the middle distance no longer provides safety. She watches her hands curl and uncurl. She feels that phantom itch behind her left ear and wants to scratch at it.

"The Winter Soldier took me there," she repeats, voice low and thin. "We were both held there. They did it to both of us. They just took him first."

She tries to mitigate the impact of the question, does Jane Foster, and her reward for this loyalty is Archer's blithe next question. It's straightforward, spoken as if it's of no consequence at all. He goes back to leaning on the witness stand, looking down for a moment as he asks, "And…how long have you lived with James Barnes, Dr. Foster?"

"Are all SHIELD agents taser happy?" Tony grumbles as he settles in his seat. Then Noemi's comment from the other side gets a smirk from the billionare. "Eight? Thats better than normal. Pep calls me five. So I'll take it."

Jane's brown eyes lift, alighting on James Barnes from where he sits across the room. Tension pulls and worries at the four corners of her face, but, for now, she holds. "Just about six months," she answers softly.

David Archer does not thunder out the next question. He doesn't shout it. He was certainly setting it up with the last one, but he asks it in measured, conversational tones, again as if it's really no consequence. "So, kidnapped by Hydra, with a very frightening videotaped torture session to show for it…"

He then tilts his head, as if something is only just occurring to him.

"And yet you've lived with him 6 months. Strange."

He pauses. He's slow dripping this one. Like Chinese water torture. Or perhaps like a RED card that needs to be BLUE.

In fact, his tone is almost gentle, now. The tenderness is, of course, false, but it sounds ever so sympathetic, all of a sudden, as if he's just remembered she's his witness.

"So you’re cohabitating with the person who held you against your will? Who was the direct agent of all manner of terrible things happening to you? Help me clarify your role in all of this, Dr. Foster. Are you the victim of a kidnapping at the hands of James Buchanan Barnes, or are you a willing accomplice, a traitor to the United States of America who knowingly aided and abetted an enemy of the state?"

Which is it, Jane?

RED card?

Or BLUE?

James sits up in his chair. His eyes hold Jane's. There is a sense of impotent tension about him: a collared wolf firmly leashed from lunging.

His left hand, settled on the armrest as part of his motion, grips unconsciously, and the wood splinters. It takes him a moment to notice, but there is no particular remorse about it in his face when he lets go.

Up until the testimony of Jane Foster, Bucky Barnes' defense team had been uncommonly quiet. It had been the stuff of cable news segments and epic twitter threads. 'Time for some game theory about Nelson & Murdock…' one began. But here that dynamic was upended, with first chair Matt Murdock cutting up the court room and winning his greatest show of the trial so far — the scuttling of a prosecution question that, whatever Jane's answer, would have left lingering questions in the minds of jurors.

But now? Now Matt Murdock finds some of his prior zen, a stillness and ease seemingly incompatible with the high stakes. No objection sounds to Archer's question, and no head swivels to the sound of crunching wood that he may be the only person privy to. He puts his hand on the table between himself and Barnes. It lifts up, ever so slightly, above the wooden plane and silently says: 'Wait for it.'

"Your pep pep, huh," Noemi grunts with regards to Tony Stark, before near-visibly attempting to ignore him as she looks ahead. There is no game theory here - at least, not yet.

Her pen hangs over the unwritten page.

Mention of the videotape drains the blood out of Jane's face. She looks down, mortified to have it mentioned, and with nowhere to flee to, no means to even hide her face. Tears blink from her eyes and slip down her face.

Archer's words eat into her like a slow-burning acid, gentle, careful, tender, but mercilessly final.

Her eyes look back up, desperately searching for safety: and finding it. Jane follows James's face like starlight leading her out of the dark.

Breathe in. Don't get angry. Her trembling hands curl. James's face in her eyes and Murdock's lessons moving in memory past her ears. Red or blue? /Neither./

"I'm cohabitating with James Buchanan Barnes," she whispers, only the microphone to pick up her too-soft, splintered, broken bone voice, "the man who is the only reason I survived Hydra. I'm not a victim. I'm not an accomplice. I'm just a person who looked past everything they took out of him, and saw a man. I saw him the first night I met him, the way he looked when I talked about the stars. I helped bring him back, and he gave me a home. Hydra is — all of this. All of this. I barely survived two weeks with my head in their machine. They did it to him for over seventy years, and he did it /all alone./"

Her eyes lash back to Archer, more tears streaking free. "I cohabitate with the strongest man I've ever known."

May comes THIS close to replying to Tony's comment about being taser-happy, but mentioning violence in a courtroom is likely a bad idea. So she doesn't. Instead she merely nods slowly as Foster answers Archer's question, hoping the younger woman notices the moment and sees her silent encouragement and support.

For the first time since the session began, John's gaze drops. The muscle that straps the hinge of his jaw ticks once, but the moment there are tears involved, his eyes tilt downward, and they stay down.

David Archer watches his witness cry with an unreadable face. Watches her cry— a moment that many would mistake for a broken moment, but is in fact a moment of strength. Watches her stab a knife through his case with all of the true strength inside of her, all belied by that tiny frame and soft, splintered voice. He sees it, and in that moment the contempt he had for her evaporates.

It flashes across his mien, his bearing, in an instant.

Sudden respect.

He clears it quickly. He can't win with respect. He turns from the jury to cover it, walking back to his chair with slow, measured steps.

"Mr. Murdock," he says, with grave equinamity so very at odds with his antics to date.

"Your witness."

After U.S.A. David Archer's showdown on the stand with witness Jane Foster, and Judge Leong ordered an hour's recess before her cross-examination. And it's an hour to the minute that she calls the courtroom to order and tells Matt Murdock: "Your witness, counsel."

Matt pushes himself to a rise from his seat and, for all the moment's weight, looks far less on-edge than he did during those last few exchanges when the federal prosecutor and his star witness squared off. There's even a moment that's sure to be captured in the courtroom sketch artist's rendering of the trial: where the young lawyer takes off his red-lensed spectacles and casts them onto the table — directly contradicting dozens of speculative posts on an ongoing reddit thread — reveals two perfectly whole and healthy looking brown eyes.

When he approaches, it's with a smile: brief, subtle, but genuine. "Ms. Foster," he says with quiet warmth. "Thanks for coming back to us. I think Mr. Archer got a little carried away earlier and skipped ahead. I was hoping you could fill in some of the blanks about your relationship with my client. Starting at the beginning."

And she does. As Matt guides her along with open-ended, gently-voiced questions, she walks through that first time she found him in her apartment to their incognito appearance at the Gotham Antiquities auction and beyond, explaining Bucky's actions, her estimation of them, and her own reasons for making the choices she made.

And that's how it proceeds, amicably enough, until Matt says: "And then he… abducted you, isn't that right? How do you explain that? That the man you'd come to have such faith in suddenly took you to the masters who abused him?"

The comment that he's gotten 'carried away' should not get under David Lee Archer's skin. He's a veteran of this kind of jousting. And neverthless it visibly irritates him for a few seconds. He covers this irritation primarily by doing something that at least looks like a studious attorney taking a Very Important Note on his legal pad.

The truth is he's over there drawing a Mr. Yuck face to blow off a little steam, but he sure makes it look official.

And then he's looking up again, attentive and cool once more.

Returned from that brief recess, Jane Foster reassumes her seat at the bench, hands folded still in her lap the way they were before. Her eyes look lingeringly raw under harsh Court lighting, but she is calm, composed — centered.

Her first look is toward the defence table, and the brief glance she takes of James Barnes is one that both attests she's all right and wonders at the same time of him. One of those fond, constant glances she gives him, the kind that need no words to ask.

But as the trial resumes, brought forward with Murdock's approach to the bench, Jane meets him with a look that is silently girding. He's been preparing her for this, and she both knows and fears what to expect.

Under his guidance, she tests the preliminary steps of her story with Bucky Barnes. How he stole into her life. How his role slowly changed from a would-be aggressor to a staid protector. How, in the meetings they had, she reached out to him, and found pieces of humanity beneath all the conditioning and torture.

It reaches a pinnacle point with the events at the Gala, and then segues into —

"First of all, that isn't right," she answers quietly, her voice just as needle-thin. "Like I said before, he didn't abduct me. Not in the way you think it. They got to him first, and he was missing for two days. Hydra reconditioned him, and he was ordered to retrieve me. They wanted me for the calibrations I made to his prosthesis. Perhaps for my other work, as well. They told me they… invest in smart minds." Jane's eyes go distant a moment, her lips tightening, ruminating a moment on some passing thought she had forgotten for months. It almost stalls her, to remember here of all places. "We were both prisoners."

"I stand corrected," Murdock replies with a spread of his hands, though the admission doesn't seem to bother the lawyer much; the line between an honest question and a facetious one meant to draw out an honest answer blurs in any trial. "So Bucky was reconditioned, and brought you back to them under orders."

A long beat.

The next point — all of the points that follow — must be broached delicately. "According to Ms. Carter's testimony, you were found bound in Ozone Park, and the notes taken from their base that she read and recited to the court, it seems as though you were subjected to the same sort of — conditioning — that Sergeant Barnes was."

He feels a touch of bile rise in the back of his throat, setting off sensitive taste buds so strongly that he wants to wretch. But he keeps his composure, and keeps his voice even and mild as he says: "Can you tell us what they did to you there, Ms. Foster?"

Those revealed brown eyes capture Jane's attention; this is not the first time she's seen Matt Murdock without his glasses. He took them off for her once, weeks ago, when she told him her story — when she wept.

It grounds her. It helps.

"I was," she says to the conditioning. "It was similar. The only difference being how long I was exposed to it. Two weeks for me. Decades for him."

Her eyes lower. She watches the reflexive, absent way her hands curl in her lap, and she pulls on her own fingers. Can she tell them what they did to her?

Jane goes quiet. She doesn't want to. She doesn't want to tell the room, the Court, the world this. They don't need to know. They don't deserve to. This is her life. Her privacy. Her weakness. If if were her choice, she would live the rest of her life this way, and no one else knowing.

This is the moment, she tells herself, when her entire life changes.

"Everything," she answers quietly. "They did everything. They interrogated me — I don't know how long. It was in a room without windows. You don't get water, and you don't sleep. They inject you with something and —" Her voice falters. "You lose touch."

She bites down on her lower lip, letting go of her own hands to lay them flat across her knees. Stay calm. "Then they put me in a machine. You're in there a long time. You can't move. If you close your eyes, they have — " She forgot about that part too. It rolls back in, a tide after an earthquake, beaching the waterlogged wreckage of a thousand ruined lives. "They use wires and hold them open. They talk to me. I have to answer questions. I have to look at colours, pictures, places. They tell me what they're supposed to me. Not what they are, but what Hydra says they are. If you think wrong, you hurt. They hurt you until you think what they want you to think."

James is silent at the defendant's table. His hands are knotted together in front of him, tension written through the lines of his shoulders. He watches Jane steadily, letting her see the calm in his expression if she should need it, but there is a tremor to his hands as they twist together that suggests that this is not easy for him to hear, either.

As she said — he had decades of this.

There is a moment, over there at the prosecution table, where David Archer leans forward and steeples his fingers. He rests them against his mouth, and he watches Jane Foster. Listens to her, and tries to summon the cold dispassion he needs to make his own case. The man sits and forces his face into a ferocious scowl, sits in utter stillness, now.

It would take a master reader of people, of emotions, to see just how disgusted he is right now. At himself, at Hydra. He desperately hopes nobody on the jury can see it, that he's hiding it well enough, because he has a job to do. There are real villains out there, people who do these things, people he desperately wishes he were pursuing instead of the man with the metal arm.

Oddly, he wishes even one of them were verifiable here. It would be nice. It would be nice to feel like the only monster in the courtroom isn't sitting there at the prosecution table, by himself, now, his second chair having been sent off for reasons undisclosed.

May has shown up again to observe the proceedings, and this time has picked a seat where she's possibly in both Jane's and Barnes' line of sight. She doesn't nod to them, or otherwise offer any indication of recognition, but she is there nonetheless. And her commlink is present again as well, though neatly hidden by her hair over her ears.

Just like that, an entire courtroom — country, world — is plunged down into the depths of Jane Foster's trauma, and by some implied extension some part of that of James Barnes, too, and for the first time since the trial began, John Constantine wishes he hadn't come to watch.

He'd given her the option when he first saw her, a month — or was it two? — after it had all happened. Time during which she'd hidden herself away at home. She'd apologized because they'd not caught up since his own unfortunate abduction, and he'd shrugged that off: 'I figured you'd show up when you were ready,' he said. She had. And even then, she hadn't wanted to talk about it. Acknowledge it, yes. Talk about it, no.

Here they are, though, swimming in the shark-infested waters of horrific psychological abuse that a person doesn't just bounce back from. How close are they to triggering something she's been slowly correcting, with whatever stability Barnes can give her and whatever traction a routine can provide? Thin, unfed, unslept, shoved right up against the bleeding edge of her anxieties by the threat to the man she loves?

In the sitting area his skin crawls under his clothes. He started holding his breath somewhere in there, and hasn't let go of it. Hoping that what she said is enough; that she didn't see him there; that they don't have to dig any deeper.

Matt's eyes can't lock eyes with the witness — they may not be whites or the gaping ruins, but they are perpetually distant and unfocused. Still, they are an anchor for Jane, as he meant them to be. "I'm sorry," Matt says, two small words that still manage to work on two different levels. The first, public: I'm sorry for what happened to you. Trite and obvious. The second, private: I'm sorry for making you go through with this. He means both, but the latter is what he feels most acutely as he very gently forces a woman he likes a great deal to bare the worst thing that's ever happened to her in a public forum, where it will be tweeted out piecemeal with hashtags and all.

Her answer is perfect, of course. It conveys the facts without coming across as detached or distant, and she maintains her composure while still conveying the horror she — they — must have gone through. He feels it register with the jury — the way #5's heart lurches when she talks about wires holding open her eyes, or the sudden taste of saline in the air when she gets to the end — until they think what you want you to think.

"I just have one more question for you, Ms. Foster" the defense attorney murmurs with a note of apology, before he reaches into the breast pocket of his suit jacket and brings out a photograph she'll find familiar — even if it's lost on the man showing it to her. "Do you recognize this man?"

Very deliberately, Jane seems to avoid even accidental glances out towards the viewing gallery, and for a myriad of reasons: afraid to see looks of judgment, disgust, and quiet refusal of belief; afraid to see, even worse, the pity of eyes looking upon a victim. Afraid to know what familiar faces may be present, people who know her, care about her, and whom she'd never want to tell this painful part of her life for reasons of her own: afraid to know who's heard and who may think of her differently forever. If she recognizes anyone, she may lose her composure.

She feels the weight of so many eyes on her. Here and the countless more to come. The woman draws in, not one made for the spotlight — not one who ever wanted it pointed on her.

Jane remains quiet through Murdock's apology, her breathing slow and measured. She says nothing back, rationing her words, because she knows she does not have many more she can say under this forced calm.

Instead, she docilely glances up at display of that photograph, and though Jane has seen it once before, her expression flinches as if slapped. A dangerous shine brightens her eyes, and she looks away, by all means looking — and sounding — like someone pulling all the stops to hold it in. Her heart pounds triple-time, and a blink of her eyes rolls fresh tears free. She can't think for a moment, can't breathe, not until she turns her eyes to look deliberately toward James Barnes.

He calms her. The reminder he is here, and that man is dead. She holds his eyes as she answers, voice brittle, "He tortured me. He was the one. He was always there. He made me hurt."

Months ago, in the privacy of her Brooklyn brownstone living room, Jane Foster broke down at the sight of that photograph. Matt had never felt grimier, never more like a lawyer than when he presented her with the face of her torturer. There's some of that here, just as she still feels the shock of the dead man's face even in its repetition — but Matt is cool enough in the moment to affirm just how necessary the ugly preparation really was to make this very necessary moment in the defense of James Buchanan Barnes half-way possible.

"Let the record show that the witness referred to Exhibit J, a photo of the John Doe recovered in Ozone Park," Murdock says in a voice just loud enough to carry through the court room. And the only victim of Bucky Barnes arguably beyond the scope of the mental defect defense we're building.

There's a rule of thumb in criminal law: The best murder defense you can present is that the other guy (or gal) just needed killing.

Let's hope they decide that of John Doe, and not James Barnes, Matt says as he takes a breath, ducks his head, and says: "Thank you, Ms. Foster. No further questions, your honor."

This is the point where Archer could redirect if he wanted to. He tap taps his fingers against the table for a moment. He should redirect. She's fragile right now. He could lead her into any number of traps. Or he could allow the courtroom to witness her in all her steel magnolia glory once more. He could end up hammering home the whole 'that other guy' just needed killing thing in a way that he'll never be able to dislodge.

He could end up realizing he can't sleep tonight, or look himself in the mirror, ever again.

None of this uncertainty, none of this conflict, none of this turmoil shows on his grim, cold face. He could be carved out of onyx. He says just two words.

"Prosecution rests."

For all those moments, Jane's dark eyes do not leave James Barnes. She looks on him as if he were the eye of a storm, a single place of calm wind and blue skies where all else wants to whip and rend and have her become lost.

Finally, at Matt's declaration — no further questions — she briefly, almost gratefully, closes her eyes.

With enough procedural instruction, knowing not even that cues the completion of her role here, the woman remains seated, tensing from head-to-toe the instant control lands back into Archer's hands.

Already stripped down to a single, raw nerve, not even Jane knows how much more she can suffer and endure.

But two words absolve her. Prosecution rests. She lets go a breath she does not realize she's been holding.

Her eyes find James one last time, a silent, fleeting glance that speaks tomes, then Jane simply rises free from her seat. Her tiny little self is escorted out of the Court room.

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