Oh, Brother Where Art Thou

August 01, 2017:

Michael and Peggy sort of talk about their past and James Barnes' trial.

A Bar

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: James Barnes

Mood Music: [https://youtu.be/OdYGnAFaeHU "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow" - The Soggy Bottom Boys]


Fade In…

The Trial of Bucky Barnes has been in motion for a day or so. Peggy has already given her deposition as well as the classified information that she was almost certainly not supposed to give up during a trial in order to hopefully ensure the continued sanctity of James' life. Outside the courthouse, sequestered from the goings on inside, Peggy sits at a bar. There are no TVs here and a tumbler filled with whiskey is rolled about her hands, the amber liquid inside swirling as she looks into it as opposed to the people about her.

*

Michael had intended to let Peggy to come to him in her own time. It's by coincidence that he finds himself in the bar. Why he's been lingering near the trial is not really hard to guess. Chances are, his superiors told him to keep an eye on things. He spots her almost instantly amongst everyone in the bar. It may have been decades since he saw her, but the way she is now, is the way he most remembers her. He approaches slowly, quietly. When he's by her shoulder, he says, "Peggy."

*

Impossible to ignore, and seemingly impossible to escape, Peggy merely turns a chin toward Michael as he approaches. There's an immediate change to her posture. The shoulders turn back, the chin lifts. She looks at him like another agent might another of an unknown pedigree. "Michael." She tilts the glass back, not telling him he can sit, but also not telling him he should leave. "Recon?" she asks blandly. It's clear she has not yet either forgiven or accepted him yet. However, there is still not yet the punch to the face or the possible physical alteration he might assume is coming from their childhood. Instead, there is restraint and suspicion.

*

Michael nods slowly. No use denying it. "Not to interfere, just to report." He stands at the bar rather than sitting on the nearby stool. However, when the bartender comes by, he orders an old fashioned. "It's incidental. I'm not here for anything relating to Barnes. But as long as I'm here, why not give a first-hand account?"

*

"Why not?" Peggy turns only slightly in her barside stool to study Michael. The whiskey is in her hand and it is quite possible this is not her first one. "I see." She takes a long swig of her drink and then sets it down gently on the wooden bar in front of her. "And your thoughts on the trial?" She raises an eyebrow, almost challengingly. She thinks she can almost guess what Michael has to say about James Barnes as she still believes she knows him from the time she did: during the war. While she has read - slowly - the files on Rule Britannia, she cannot help this. The entire situation is not political or scientific: it is incredibly personal to her.

*

"My thoughts on the mechanics of the trial, or my thoughts on the situation as a whole?" Michael asks that carefully. He has noticed that the people close to Barnes seem to be very defensive at even the slightest implication of his culpability.

*

"Few but the lawyers are interested in the mechanics," Peggy tells Michael in a way that says that she assumes that he knew that. So, it seems as if she is asking his opinion about the trial as a whole. Whether on not she will be defensive about his answer is something he will have to risk. From his research and knowledge of Peggy over the years, he would know that she served with him for a few years and that she worked closely with his best friend, Captain America Steve Rogers. As for whether she might be offended at his reply is hard to tell. Much like a good spy, her tone is neutral. However, she swivels in her seat and takes another drink of her whiskey. A raised eyebrow means that she wishes to hear his thoughts.

*

Michael Carter pauses, looks down, and has a moment longer to consider when his drink arrives. He sips from it before he starts to answer. "We have a history. Or rather, his alter ego and I have a history. As you would expect from spies from opposing nations, we find ourselves facing off a few times." And if she knows about the Winter Soldier, she knows that 'facing off' means attempted murder most of the time.

*

"Yes. I could assume." Peggy takes a sip of her whiskey, finishing it. The glass is set on the counter and she indicates that she would like another. "I am sure the same is for the other woman who lived my years. But, even if he did not with her, he certainly attempted to kill me once. Only got away by shooting him." She just discussed this on the stand, so she does not feel disingenuous in telling him now. "So, you believe him guilty of the crimes he's accused?" She does not sound judgmental, merely curious.

*

"There can be no doubt that the man who is known as James Barnes and the Winter Soldier has committed many crimes. But…" Michael pauses with the drink halfway to his lips. "…whether he is culpable is the real question. And honestly, that determination would need to be made by a mental health professional and the rigorous examination of the methods used to control him." It's all very…logical.

*

Logical, sure, and Peggy takes it all in stride. As the bartender shows up with the same, she gives him a smile and a nod before taking another sip. "I see. So, nothing to say as Michael? Just the party line?"

*

"Peggy…" Michael takes a breath, "…how much of my file have you read?"

*

The hand grips the glass very tightly. Peggy looks at Michael without looking away. "All of it."

"All of it." Michael repeats. "So you know that my situation and Barnes' is not without their similarities. And I think once you know that, you have the answer to your question." He says all this carefully, with a measured tone.

*

"There is a bit of gap between similarity and actual kinship," Peggy tells Michael. James is on trial right now, while Michael remains free of such reproach. "And there is a difference between the written word and the spoken." Reading about her brother and what he has been through, plus what he has done, is very different from knowing and seeing it.

*

Michael inclines his head to acknowledge that point. "True. If…there is something you want to know that isn't in my file, something that you'd like to hear from me, just ask. You've been cleared to know quite a lot."

*

"Cleared." Peggy repeats the word with a shake of her head. "I see." While Peggy is still very much a part of the espionage circuit, there is a clear annoyance at Michael's words. "I just wish to know about you. Not your missions, not the reason why you are here. If you are truly my brother I wish to speak to him."

*

"Your brother's life has been his mission," says Michael. He follows those words with a healthy swallow of his drink. There's a sense that he's only really articulating that now, himself. "I haven't had time for friendships or relationships. I was in and out of stasis so frequently that people I got to know often aged ten years in what felt like moments to me."

*

The response finally brings up a clear emotion on Peggy's face: anger. "And that's—" She's interrupted. A man in a suit approaches Peggy and leans down to whisper in her ear. The distraction is met with a bit of annoyance, then a sigh and a nod. The anger, while still evident, is tampered as she looks back to Michael. "I realize the timing of this is not ideal, but I need to go sign a few more things for the trial." There's no apology, but she stands, leaving her whiskey behind. "Perhaps another time, then." Without waiting for a reply, she turns and follows the suited man out the door.

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