Silent Corner. Chaotic Mind.Started by James 'Bucky' Barnes at Aug 06, 2020 5:09 AM
December 2, 2023
Unassuming. Hidden away. Quiet. The only way to access it via a button beside the old bookshelf out front.
The 205 Dry in downtown Binghamton, New York was the kind of place Bucky needed right now and no doubt many a few more times in the future too. Where he was sitting in the high-back, leather chair wasn’t as dark as he would’ve preferred but it was still in a tight corner away from the bar and everyone else. Bucky’s demeanour gave off that of someone not wishing to be disturbed unless being offered another drink, so it’d remain that way for as long as he wanted, too.
Although he’d come a long way since, well, everything, there was still the need to remain as inconspicuous as this rather well thought out bar and restaurant that looked like it’d come right out of the 1920’s, a time he’d started to remember some time ago. Bits and pieces of his memory jotted down in one of the many journals he would most likely always carry around in a backpack with him. It was those pieces of the real him that kept him sane and helped to put him at ease when his mind was trying to beat the heck out of him for all the things he’d done in the past. Sometimes, though, even these types of aids weren't enough.
Like now, just staring at the glass of whiskey sitting on the coffee table in front of him, leaning back and automatically sliding down a bit further in the chair, almost like he was trying to disappear into it. Sometimes he felt it would’ve been easier had he remained dusted. At least dead he didn’t have to deal with the overwhelming guilt so many had already tried to assure him wasn’t his fault. He knew that. He really did. But he remembered the faces of every person whose life he’d taken and doubted he’d ever truly find a way to cope.
Inwardly groaning, trying not to lose himself in the vivid images completely, he broke the stare to actually lean forward and grab his drink. “Not doing this now,” he said, words barely audible. Taking a sip, and in an attempt to distract himself further, he glanced at the bookshelf directly beside him against the wall. For now, he didn’t know if any of the titles were familiar. From before his life had basically been stolen by Hydra.
There he went again. Off on the path of no return. He’d been told he had to at some point forgive himself for what he had done. But, how could he? There was far too much blood on his hands. Add to that the unsettling need to look over his shoulder in case yet more forms of retribution came from the family members whose loved ones he had ended the lives of in such a cold and calculated way and…
He sighed. Maybe being alone wasn’t such a good idea. Gave him far too much time to think.
For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to do what was right.
Silent and thoughtful steps brought the 112 year old Steven Rogers to the 205 Dry in downtown Binghamton. It was a place which seemed to come out of the past. How many times had he been called a man out of time by his peers? Countless. Not anymore. Now his appearance was closer to his real age and he had lived a whole life. But at what cost? He knew what he was doing when he made his choice to go back, but he didn't know it would be painful in ways he couldn't imagine until he lived through it all and arrived once more at this time where the future had become the present again.
Yes, there was the happiness of love and family, but he also had to let horrible things he knew were happening happen as if he was unaware. If he had tried to change anything of importance, the future could be a different place or there could be no future at all. When he returned the Time Stone to the Ancient One as Bruce had promised, she had explained to him that changing key facts within an universe would cause it to diverge and create a new reality with a new unpredictable future. There were no guarantees that it would be a good new future. If he did anything based on his future knowledge, he could end up creating a reality where Thanos couldn't be defeated and be himself trapped within it to suffer its fate.
Was it being selfish that he wanted to return to his friends, albeit older, and find most of them alive and as he remembered them? Maybe, but that was what he wanted and so he had to let Bucky be brainwashed and Hydra infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. among many other things that now filled him with remorse. Did his happiness come with too high a price? As he entered the bar & restaurant, Steve's thoughts were dwelling on the things that he could not change because he wasn't allowed by the universal rules. Knowing so didn't make things easier. Knowing Bucky had given him his encouragement when he first came up with this idea after volunteering for the mission of returning the Stones to their rightful times and places, now made him guilty.
Was Bucky under the impression that he'd be able to save him? He wouldn't blame his friend if he were because he was too when he left on his mission. Things turned out differently though as he realized later. Steve gauged the room on habit alone. He didn't expect to find anyone nor trouble there, but his eyes found someone alone at a corner. His guilt increased when he saw Bucky drinking. Should he approach him? Would the other prefer to stay by his lonesome? There was only one way to find out. He would understand and leave if Barnes asked him to do so.
"Want some company, Bucky? A cent for your thoughts." He offered in a friendly tone. He wanted to help James if he could now that the universe would allow him to do so again. He didn't take a seat nor made any other move. He just waited patiently for his reply.
Each year the world gets a little bit smaller, and that fact frightens me.
I find my peace at sea, under a blanket of endless stars.
When Ireland tells people that she doesn’t have a 9-5 job, or set work hours, most people imagine: late mornings, long lunches, afternoon movies with an occasional email or phone call. Despite all that loafing around somehow “magically” Ireland makes a living. They assume that her business basically runs itself via the staff she employs. Those assumptions couldn’t be farther from the truth.
True, the store managers at each of her two locations handled the day-to-day tasks of keeping the stores running. She didn’t have to worry about time cards, work schedules, bank runs or making sure the stores were locked-up each night. The daily reports that she received from her managers, and the notifications she got on her cell phone from the security company, was typically the limit of her focus on the shops each day. Aside from a weekly phone call to check-in or the occasional ‘drama’ that had to be addressed, from her perspective the stores do run themselves. Collecting inventory and working with private buyers was where all of Ireland’s time was spent. When your marketplace is the world, you have to be available at all hours for phone calls, video conferences and meetings. That’s what “no set work hours” meant for her.
Because of that demand Ireland has become a master of sleep. She has the uncanny ability to shift from a deep sleep to wide awake in a matter of two rings of her phone. She can also go from sleeping in bed to being video conference ready in 3-minutes. When her mind is set on ‘sleep’, Ireland can be out like a light within a minute of laying her head down. Without those well developed skills, and many others, it wouldn’t be possible for her to do so many things on her own. As to how she made that work look so effortless? Well that is an easy question to answer, she loves what she does!
Today work brought her to a speakeasy 3.5 hours northwest of New York City to Binghamton. She found a parking spot down the street from the storefront. As she got out of the car she pulled her coat closed and adjusted her hat against the chill December wind. Reaching back into the car she grabbed her briefcase before closing the door and double clicking the locks.
It only took a couple minutes to reach the front door. Once inside she found a side table to set her briefcase on while she took off her jacket and hat. The mirror near the front allowed her to double check her hair, before collecting her things and moving towards the actual bar. Moving through the hidden entrance she paused a moment as her eyes adjusted to the lower lighting and the ambient noise that came with a bar and restaurant. After getting her bearings she moved to the far end of the bar. She draped her coat over the back of an available chair, before putting her briefcase on the seat as well. Then she sat in the chair just to the left.
“Evening, what can I get you?” came a male voice from behind the bar.
“Oh. Hello,” Ireland replied with a surprised smile as she looked up to the bartender. She hadn’t expected to be helped so quickly, “may I please get a Honey Pie?”
The bartender smirked lightly at her surprised look, but quickly moved past it. “I’d be happy to. Can I get you anything else?”
“A menu would be great, but before that could you please let Mrs. Laughlin know that Ms. Chase is here?”
The bartender looked honestly surprised by the request. People didn’t ask to see the owner during business hours. Most people didn’t even know who owned the establishment anyways. After the initial shock he flashed her a smile and nod that carried with it a certain level of respect, from someone else who was on the inside of a secret circle. Having been given his task the bartender moved away from Ireland, “If you need anything the name is Nathan.”
“Thank you Nathan,” she replied as she watched him step back into the never ending dance a bartender does.
There was a time James ‘Bucky’ Barnes would’ve kept a keen eye on every single person coming and going from each of the places he happened to be. It had been especially necessary when he was framed for the bombing of the Accords conference in Vienna all those years ago now. Thankfully, it wasn’t something he had to worry about as much in the nine months since his return. There would always be the chance of someone coming after him but he wasn't about to let that consume the freedom he had achieved. There were enough memories already trying to do that on a regular basis.
Still, he’d always have that military-trained mind, the one that would take stock of the entire room every so often just to see who had entered and so on. It wasn’t catching sight of him in advance that alerted Bucky to a familiar presence, though, but his best mate’s unmistakable voice asking if he could join him that made the skilled soldier look up from where he’d been staring into the pages of a book he’d finally chosen off the shelf. The look of surprise on his face was palpable, Bucky managing a small smirk. “I don’t care how many times it happens,” he began, placing the book under the lamp on the small table beside him, “but I’m never going to get used to seeing you so old."
Steve decided not to mention Bucky's choice of literature at first, but it was so very him as he came to know when the title of the book became clear after his friend had placed it upon the small table under the faint light of the lamp. Thankfully his eyes wouldn't be very affected by reading at such a low light environment. That was one of the perks of being a physically enhanced human being. Aging slowly and still not feel old was another in his case. "Especially since you have always been the oldest between us, even if just slightly so, right, Bucky?" His smile was friendly and elderly. Rogers stole a glance at himself on the small oval mirror above Bucky's armchair before taking a seat across his friend. His armchair was really comfortable. Something his back would be thankful for later. "Interesting choice." He finally remarked indicating the book.
While that was true, Barnes being technically a year older than him, 113, really wasn’t something anyone who didn’t know their story would ever believe now. The understanding that Bucky would always welcome his friend’s company needed never be said, least of all ever queried, watching Steve sit down and show interest in what he was reading. Bucky glanced back at the fading leather-bound cover, “Ah, no, not really, just using it to distract the mind,” lifting a figure to tap the side of his head. “Just staring at the pictures, really. Not sure if I even care about the ins and outs of building cars. Motorbikes maybe but not cars,” he leaned forward to take a hold of his drink.
“Oh, and, Rogers," he said, catching his gaze and raising his eyebrow. "You know you never have to ask to join me, right?”
His smile widened. "It's just good manners, Barnes. My mother taught me to be polite and I'm old fashioned..." He let his voice linger a bit to reinforce his point. For a moment, he even forgot his own guilt over the unchanged past. There were so many good parts to it as well. "As for the intricacies of vehicle building, I can see you enjoying it for some reason. You've always been meticulous." He offered to reinforce his earlier point. Bucky needed to find something to do with his mind and his hands other than what the circumstances of life and then Hydra forced him to do with them. That was as good a choice as any.
For a moment Bucky’s face went blank, thoughtful, trying to recall whether his own mother had taught him the same. Shaking off the uneasiness not remembering always caused him, he picked the book up, open it and showed him the picture on a page discolouring from age. “Doubt it’s done like this now,” he commented. “Besides, I already tinker with my bike. Now that I can have one properly, that is.” The one thing he did know. That at some point in his life, he'd discovered the love for two wheels, an open road, and speeds not many others would ever be able to achieve. Or, at least, he thought so.
“So, what brings you here?” he asked, then gave his friend a look he’d know well. “And out of every speakeasy across New York State, it just had to be this one.”
"Does it matter?" Rogers replied to James' comment about technology having evolved since that particular book was written. "The important thing is to find something that you like to do and dedicate time and learning effort to it." His voice was brotherly and caring. A hobby would be very helpful to Bucky as it had been to himself during all those years he had to lay low as he aged. "So you're a mechanic already." He was glad his friend had found something he liked to dedicate some of his time to already. "The past?" He offered as a reply to what had brought him to that particular speakeasy. "Memories guided my feet here. Many of them..." He continued, but his voice trailed away.
The mere mention of memories, no matter who they belonged to, always affected Bucky the same way. He simply shut off. Even if it was only briefly, just staring past his friend at the bar. “Yeah, well, funny that, same here,” he managed, his tone clipped, almost whispering.
Steve knew that the subject of memory was a difficult one for Bucky, but he would never choose to lie to his brother of the heart. He offered him nothing but his sincerity. "We've been here before you left to England..." He wondered if it was the same memory that had brought them both to that place, but didn't ask directly. He had also been there with Peggy several times after his return for their dance.
Bucky looked at him. So that was why he’d paused when walking past the entrance to the 205 the first time. Actually stopped, backtracked a little and like so many other times, just gazed beyond the glass. When he’d eventually entered he’d felt such a sense of familiarity they’d had to let him know the restaurant and bar would be closing soon he’d stayed that long. Rolling a metal hand into a fist, the unique sound muffled beneath the gloves hiding it from view, Bucky used that to snap himself out of melancholy inevitably starting to once again settle in.
“Did you find what you were looking for all these years?” he asked, genuinely interested. Nothing to suggest he held anything against him, simply a somewhat desperate need to hear, even as his life had been taken away from him and never returned, at least the same couldn't be said of his best friend anymore.
"Yes. Mostly. It was a good and happy life, but..." There was always a but, didn't it? Steve didn't know how to enter the subject or even if he should do so. Why bring it up? Why not? "I missed you not being there..." He finally blurted out in almost a whisper.
“I would have missed you too, had I been able to…” Bucky replied without hesitation. It was clear how much he cared about this now much older looking man sitting across from him. He was like a brother and maybe at one point, Barnes had thought he could’ve changed things, rescued him from all that Hydra had made him do. He didn’t fully understand it, and never would, but he knew messing with the delicate fabric of time and reality was just not a good idea. He’d also come to the realization that he would never have met, let alone befriended, most of the people in his life. Would he have even heard of Wakanda by now?
“Don’t regret anything,” he suddenly said. “I’m okay now."
"Knowing this was what made the hard parts bearable..." Steve said honestly. He would be forever thankful to T'Challa and Shuri for the little miracle they had managed to do for Bucky. They didn't have to do anything. Barnes wasn't their responsibility, but his. Still, they offered their help and had pulled his best friend out of that nightmare that used to be his life.
Each year the world gets a little bit smaller, and that fact frightens me.
I find my peace at sea, under a blanket of endless stars.
While Ireland waited, she took the down time to read through some emails on her phone. Making sure she was up to date with what she needed to be. She wasn’t paying attention to those around her. Thankfully, instead of saying something Nathan silently set down a cocktail napkin followed by her drink. The motion drew her attention away from her phone and towards her drink, which caused her to smile. “That looks delicious,” she commented leaning forward slightly to better examine it.
“Well hopefully it’s second impression is as good as it’s first,” Nathan commented. “Mrs. Laughlin will be down in a few minutes. She apologizes for the wait and insists that you have an appetizer on the house,” sliding the menu into a better view for Ireland and opening it to the appropriate page.
Ireland looked up to Nathan, gave him a nod of understanding and then looked down to the menu. “How about the cheese and meat platter. It seems the safest for my clothes. As tempting as the poutine sounds, I just know I would drop some on my outfit,” she sighed in a defeated manner.
“You’ll just have to save it for another visit,” he pointed out.
That caused her to chuckle, “Ever the salesman.”
Nathan laughed and held his hands up in surrender, “Ya’ got me.”
Ireland shook her head as she watched him move away. Looking back to her drink she pulled it closer and savored the first sip. Smiling to herself, happy to learn that its taste matched its look.
For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to do what was right.
Unaware of Ireland's presence as he had his back to her and the mirror in front of him wasn't focusing its reflection her way, Steve continued to focus his attention on Bucky. There was one thing he had touched upon that was left unanswered. There was a reason for it. Steve didn't want to further burden his best friend with his own troubles, but it also wasn't fair to leave James wondering what he thought about it either.
"I try not to regret anything, but you know that's more easily said than done." A couple more wrinkles appeared in his old features as a shy smile accompanied Steve's words.
Bucky caught his gaze. If anyone understood just how true that statement was, it was him. "Yes, I do, and I'm going to keep having to say it just to remind you," he said, a small smirk creeping into his features. "You know I will do that, over and over until you finally get the point, right?"
Unlike Steve, the once Winter Soldier had seen the rather striking woman enter the 205, too distracted by the arrival of his friend to take much more than just a casual notice of her. Occasionally, he did glance past his companion to take a stock of the bar and when his eyes fell on her briefly Bucky just knew she was a looker even without seeing her face properly. Seemed she was well known by the bartender as well. Shame he wasn't as yet confident enough to approach a complete stranger, let alone try to pick up a beautiful lady at a bar. He did remember being good at it once, the look on his face changing to one of thought.
Steve allowed a muffled laugh to leave him. He knew Bucky's words to be the most absolute truth. "Oh... I know..." The positive nodding reinforced his own words and his smile grew. Someone who saw them together would think those were just two friends having a good conversation or a grandfather with his grandson considering the apparent age difference between them now. No onlookers would be able to guess just how deep was their conversation.
Steve had noticed the fact that James looked past him on occasion towards the location of the bar. He knew well the layout of the place and had only seen the bartender there before taking his current seat. However, upon his friend's look changing to one of thought, he could no longer keep his own thoughts to himself. "Something wrong, Bucky?" He wouldn't dare to intrude more than this. If Bucky wanted to share his thoughts with him, he would by his own choice and not by Steve's probing.
"I don't know what's worse," Bucky suddenly said after a few moments of complete silence. "Not being able to remember anything at all or knowing I used to be capable of it and now am unable to even fathom ever doing it again." He knew his friend wouldn't have the slightest idea exactly what he was talking about but he hoped he would still get the gist of what he was trying to say. "Look behind you at the bar, Rogers, and tell me that is not a bombshell sitting right there."
Steve arched his eyebrows while trying to uncover Bucky's secret code while his friend gave him a piece of his mind. "Ah..." That and a wide-open mouth were his only reactions when it became obvious his companion had been eyeing someone at the bar. Now, it was just too impolite to simply look behind his shoulder to check someone out, but he couldn't deny he was curious as to who that could be. He ended up caving after a while and looked back while raising a hand as if to call the bartender.
"Wait... Isn't that Gabrielle Reese?" Steve's thoughts were scrambled as he asked the question more to himself than to James as he turned back to face Bucky. How could that be? She looked exactly like someone out of the past. Someone of whom his wife Peggy Carter was never a fan.
"Who?" Bucky initially asked before he was at that very instant lost in flashes of memory. He reached for his backpack to pull out one of his notebooks and a pen, soon jotting them down as quickly as they were coming to him. "No way," he said, eyes wide and looking back up at Steve. "Not possible." Bucky glanced back past his friend, this time really looking at the blond-haired woman of interest, unknowingly leaning his head a bit to the side. "One of us needs to ask. Alright, no, not just go on up and ask if she's Gabrielle, that'd be way too weird..." words trailing off, James again looked thoughtful. "You're far too old. She'd think you're a pervert or something. But I can't do it!" the guy now rather worried.
"Gabby... She just gave me a kiss out of nowhere when we were actually young once upon a time..." Steve was smiling now, more because of Peggy's reaction than the kiss itself. "As for asking... we could ask if they are related. She could be a grandchild of hers." He was himself trying to find an explanation. Some times some people just resembled other people without even being closely related at all. Also, if both of them approached the woman, it wouldn't look as weird.
Bucky looked visibly relieved, nodding. "Both of us. That's good," he agreed, still not moving to get up just yet. "Exactly how do I do this again?" he asked, shaking his head and sitting back, putting his right hand up to his forehead and then rubbing it down over his face in embarrassment. "With all I've been through, you'd think this would be easier?" He finally stood up. "And, seriously, she kissed you? When and where?" he demanded.
"Sure. You can say I'm your gramps." Steve joked as he tried to get Bucky more relaxed. "That's easy. Just be yourself because yourself is great or I wouldn't be your friend." He encouraged his best friend to just go with him as he stood up, soon being followed by Bucky. "Good. Now it's just a question of walking and speaking. Nothing difficult." He continued and turned towards the bar, the memories flooding his mind as he looked at Ireland again. "Yes. At the base after the procedure..." Nothing more needed to be said for Bucky to place the fact in the correct place and time.
He let Bucky give the first step by himself and then placed an encouraging hand on his shoulder and walked beside him the small space towards the bar. Steve took a seat to Ireland's left. "Hello, water glass, please." He kept the bartender occupied as he turned to Gabby. "You remind me of someone I used to know. Gabrielle Reese? US Army? WWII? I wonder if you are related to her somehow. It's alright if you're not." He started, hoping Bucky would continue.
Steel-blue eyes looked the lady up and down, Bucky not very discreet in this, unable to remember if that was actually how he had once been or if he was just too nervous at the moment to think of acting less obvious. It was plain to see he thought she was gorgeous and when Rogers stopped talking, he instantly said, "You've got to be related. You look just like her. Just as stunning," this said in complete earnest, nothing untoward or perverse about it. He chose against sitting down on her other side, not wanting to make her feel uncomfortable in any way. Instead, he went around to sit on the stool beside Steve, asking for whiskey before glancing past his friend to really take a look at her again.
“Great Aunt,” she replied casually to the male voices she heard. “Any reference to her is taken as quite the compliment. Thank you. She was an adventurous woman,” her head was still aimed down towards her phone as she spoke, “Apologies. I just need to finish reading this email.” Ireland added, oblivious to who was talking to her. Though there was something familiar about the scent of cologne the man now sitting near her was wearing. With as causal as her response was, it seemed that Bucky and Steve were not the first people to associate her to Gabby.
It took Ireland another 20 seconds to finish what she had been in the middle of reading. With a click, her cell went dark as she set it face down in her lap. Finally raising her gaze to the gentleman sitting next to her. Firstly, she noticed Steve, even though he was old now she still recognized him. After all, the underlying architecture of a person’s face never really changes. “I’ve seen your picture before. Captain,” smiling at him brightly. “Aunt Gabby showed me one taken during the war of you and a group of other soldiers at a bar she said most of the people on the base visited. I always thought she was making it up. The fact that she knew you back in the day.”
Her gaze shifted passed Steve to the gentleman sitting next to him. “You look like one of the men in the photo too,” Ireland pressed a finger to her mouth as her mind reached for the name. “Sergeant…Barnes I believe … are you his grandson?” She asked curiously.
Steve heard the woman's explanation and his nature was one to be believing of another person's words. He didn't see anything weird in her take on the matter. Their resemblance being remarkable explained by a blood relationship. He was shy about interrupting her. He hadn't noticed the mobile as he and Bucky approached, thinking she was drinking something instead. Obviously he gave the woman the space she requested and discreetly elbowed Bucky after his ungentlemanly remark.
When Ireland gave her attention back to them, Steve was fast to apologize. "I apologize for interrupting you, miss?... I hadn't noticed you were busy. Old eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be..." He was honest, as usual, though there was nothing really wrong with his eyes. Maybe it was just some nervousness about potentially meeting someone from actually back in the day and figuring out that she wasn't really Gabby, but just a relative of hers dispelled it. "Captain Steve Rogers. Pleased to meet you, ma'am." He introduced himself as the glass of water he had asked for was given to him. "Thank you." That was aimed at the bartender before he took a large sip from the glass, returning his gaze to Ireland. "She was telling the truth." He added to confirm as if needed.
Bucky gave his best mate one of those, 'Seriously, what the heck was that for?' kind of looks. If the dame was pretty, what was the harm in saying as much? It wasn't like he was capable of being a sleaze or anything. Maybe that type of forthrightness wasn't as welcome as it was back in a time so different from the one he'd been released from Hydra's conformity in to now.
"Yes, apologies for interrupting," Bucky agreed. "And if..." he paused to nod a thank you at the bartender when his whiskey was placed down in front of him, "if I said anything out of place. Really didn't mean anything by it." He then fell into deep thought again at how exactly he was supposed to answer her question as to whether he was the Grandson of Sergeant Barnes she knew. Easy enough for her to understand Steve was old enough to be the same Captain America everyone knew and loved. For him, on other hand, was he to say he was also that very person, he'd then have to go into some sort of explanation as to why.
Precisely what part of "Oh, I was captured by Hydra, experimented on, brainwashed, frozen, unfrozen from time to time to do horrible missions for over seven decades and then finally started to remember who I really was when my best mate here spoke my name while I was in the process of trying to kill him in the middle of downtown Washington," was the kind of thing anyone wanted to hear?
"Ah, not exactly," was all he said, distracting himself from having to say anything else by taking a mouthful of his drink.
TAGS: Ireland in a new post under her account.
Each year the world gets a little bit smaller, and that fact frightens me.
I find my peace at sea, under a blanket of endless stars.
Ireland made a small dismissive gesture with her hand as they apologized for the interruption, “While I appreciate the apology it is not needed. I rather enjoy an excuse to ignore work for a while and enjoy a good conversation.” She shared with the same charming smile she had ‘inherited’ from her great aunt.
“Captain Rogers. It is an honor to meet you. Ms. Ireland Chase,” formally introducing herself as she extended a hand for a handshake to complete their introduction. If a highly attentive person was to look down to her hand they would notice the faintest scar. The scar was between her thumb and forefinger, a location prone to cuts and pinching depending on the items you hand in hand. It would take more then a stack of papers to leave such a scar. Most people never noticed the scar, especially in a bar when the focus of the lighting is to set a ‘mood’. Its not the first time Bucky had seen a scar like that. He had tended to one that Gabby had acquired during their time in the service in the exact same spot.
Ireland's smile gave Steve a weird sense of deja vu, but her resemblance to Gabrielle had already been explained. Even though he wasn't as naive now as he had once been, he'd still prefer to believe in what he was told until it became obvious it was a lie.
Enhanced and trained eyes, though tired by age and hindered by the lighting, did notice a faint scar on Ireland's hand. Steve decided not to make too much out of it for now and shook the offered hand while smiling gently. He unconsciously pointed at the scar for his friend to notice it as his hand released hers. He moved his body back slightly while taking another sip of water from his glass to let Bucky also shake hands with Ireland.
With a questioning look on his face, Bucky briefly looked at his friend, his hand already moving to take hold of Ireland’s and gently shake it. Thankfully, it wasn’t his metal arm he had to offer her, not that she’d be able to see it under the motorbike gloves he was wearing. The difference in feel would’ve been there all the same, though. “Nice to meet someone with such an interesting conn…” Bucky’s words trailed off as he discreetly glanced down and caught sight of what Rogers had been pointing at. The sense of familiarity was suddenly strengthened five-fold, then ten as a memory flashback began appearing in his mind.
“Come on, not now,” he said out loud, removing his hand and all bar inhaling his drink. It wasn’t enough to stop the images, Bucky unable to do anything about it as his face went blank and he recalled the time in another bar, having a drink with a certain lovely lady, the two of them interrupted by someone who didn’t deserve to call himself a soldier trying to get Gabby’s attention by putting his arm around her shoulders, the guy obviously drunk and words slurring.
“Come on, Darlin’. How about showing a little attention to me.”
Gabby didn’t physically respond to the man. She kept her composure, her hands folded as they sat resting on the table near her drink. “Konner, you know I don’t enjoy your company when you’ve been drinking. Please let me be,” she voiced in a calm but direct tone. Though her tone was calm she made a point of not looking towards the drunk, and her hands grew tense against the worn wooden surface beneath them.
The look on James’ face had instantly changed to one of disgust, getting up off the stool and pulling the guy’s arm away. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to treat a dame like that?”
“What’s it to you?” the guy said, stumbling a little as he pointed a finger and then began poking Bucky in the chest. “Not your woman. Not your problem, is it? She’s comin’ home with me tonight,” and he’d watched as the soldier had then once again put his arm back around her, leaning in to plant a kiss on the side her cheek.
Feeling him come closer Gabby quickly moved her hands up trying to block his lips from touching her face, "Konner I said NO!" As close as he was she could feel the strength and tension of the arm he had around her. His hot-whisky drenched breath choked the air around her. She was doing her best to hide the fear she was feeling, knowing full well that his strength was far greater then hers.
“Hey, that’s enough!” Bucky said, raising his voice. “Get off her.”
“Make me,” the drunk slurred.
“No problem,” and James had grabbed the guy, this time pushing him back further away from his friend, now standing in-between them his look now one of just you dare.
Noticing the obvious change in Bucky's behavior and having experienced his memory recollections before, Steve started to question Ireland's words. His thoughts didn't tend to completely disbelieve her yet, but just a similarity wouldn't trigger such a strong reaction from James, or would it? "Is everything OK?" The worry evident in his words as he placed a hand on Bucky's shoulder.
Thanks to his mate’s question of concern, Bucky was able to gain some sort of control over the flashback, it still there but not as strong. Blinking a few times and shaking his head, he once again began to focus on the here and now. “No,” he said, looking straight at Ireland. “That scar cannot just be a coincidence,” so sure of what he was saying, his tone was now deadly serious.
Bucky's reaction caused Ireland to pull her hand back. She wasn't sure what triggered the man's recoil, but it caused her to worry just the same. "Is your friend alright?" She asked with honest concern. He hadn't actually introduced himself, and even if he had the general public wasn't aware of what he had gone through. The last she knew, even as Gabrielle, was that Barnes was killed in action. The Winter Solider's real name had never been released. Perhaps it was tucked away in the Accords somewhere, but that was a document Ireland was never interested in reading through.
"What about the scar, Bucky?" Steve was now visually worried about his friend and his protective stance now became obvious. He was ready to stand between James and whatever harm this Ireland Chase if that was even her real name, was capable of doing to him as it didn't seem like he had remembered a nice memory to his estimation. He still hoped the situation wouldn't go that far south somehow, but he was now ready for anything.
Bucky wasn’t able to look directly at Ireland, for now. Not without the chance of it causing yet another all-encompassing recollection. It must’ve seemed very strange to someone who didn’t know his story when he went blank like that. As annoyed as he was that he just knew he was once again being lied to in some way, James knew he couldn’t exactly be angry with Ireland when he himself was hesitant to be forthcoming with his past as well. He sighed, staring over the top of his glass at the drinks lined up on the shelves at the back of the bar.
“You looking the same and having the same scar can’t just be a coincidence,” he repeated, noting Steve’s tenseness between them via the mirror feature wall behind the bottles. “It’s okay, Steve,” he said. “It’s nothing bad. I just don’t like being lied to is all.” Without looking at the woman he knew was Gabby, he simply said, “I’m not Sergeant Barnes' Grandson. I am him.”
Ireland did her best to be as unintrusive as possible during their quiet exchange. She considered turning away to give them some privacy until she heard Bucky speak. She looked down to her hand, her thumb brushing the faint line of a very old scar. Most of the time she forgot it was even there. If she had thought about it she would have extended the other hand, it was careless of her. Thankfully there were few people who knew of the story behind the mark on her hand, and up until now, she thought that person was dead.
She raised her hand, slightly trembling, to cover her mouth. For a moment she just stared at Bucky with disbelief. Once she dismissed the disbelief as truth the feeling was replaced with a surprising amount of joy. The kind of joy that almost brought a tear to her eye, if she wasn't as skilled as she was at keeping her feelings in check.
"Nathan," she finally voiced. Her voice smooth as silk, as she turned towards the bar and focused on the portfolio in front of her. Looking up she smiled politely to the bartender who was now on the other side of the bar. "A rather pressing matter has come up. Please give this to Mrs. Laughlin and have her call me with her opinion. Due to the sudden scheduling conflict, I made a note that I'll discount my fee for the inconvenience," closing the booklet she slid it over to Nathan. He gave a nod before retreating through a doorway that lead to the back of house.
With the business portion of her visit wrapped up, she slid her purse closer to Steve. Placing a hand on his forearm in a gentle manner as she got up from her seat and moved to Bucky. Normally she would have spun the chair around to give him a hug, but considering how uneasy he seemed to be she thought it best to be a bit more gentle.
She gently put her hands on his shoulder, her hands then slid down his arms before wrapping around his chest. Giving him a squeeze as her chin came to rest on his shoulder. It was the kind of calming hug Gabby had given him before, even her perfume had remained unchanged after all this time. "I'm sorry I lied to you Bucky, but up until now, I thought you were dead. I'm glad to see Peggy was wrong," she whispered. Smiling warmly as she focused on his reflection in the mirror, to gauge his response. "I'm more than happy to fill you in on my story, but it's not a conversation to be had at a bar," she added. Leaving the option up to him.
Steve followed closely all of Ireland's movements and words. None of them seemed to be aggressive in any way. By the contrary, they were rather tender. If Bucky didn't act against them in any way, neither would he interfere in any way. Actually he was ready to leave them alone if asked to by his friend.
Bucky couldn’t help but finally glance at how Ireland was reacting to his admittance via the mirror. Her features were a little distorted enough by the shelving lines that it didn’t cause him to again start visualizing anymore of the many happy memories he could now feel they’d had together, even if he as yet couldn’t remember them all. The memory of the bar did have a bad side to it. The glass in Konner’s hand had ended up being lunged towards him and in an attempt to grab the man’s wrist and push is aside, a combination of drunkenness and the sudden momentum had sent it flying down and smashing all over the bar just behind him, right where his very attractive friend had been sitting.
At the feel of her genuine cuddle from behind and the honesty in her words, Bucky visibly relaxed, metal and flesh shoulders releasing as he managed a smile. Finally, something wanted from his past. Something he could hold onto as a good memory outside of his very close friendship with Steve. “Yes, I guess you would have,” he admitted and he glanced at Cap. “Mine isn’t the type to discuss in front of others either. And it’s quite a long one,” he raised an eyebrow at Steve. “Shall we go back to the privacy of the corner then?” Bucky didn’t make any attempt to turn around still a little bit lost in the moment of the familiar embrace from a very beautiful woman and friend.
"All of us seem to have had something unusual happening to us at some point." Steve then nodded at their words. "The bar is definitely not the place to talk about this as I can see where this is going..." He gave his two cents and nodded his agreement to Bucky's plan of returning to the corner where they had been before. "Would you want some time to talk alone? I can drink the rest of my water here and then join you." He offered kindly, now knowing Ireland was no stranger nor a threat.
Feeling Bucky’s tense muscles eventually ease Ireland gave him another squeeze, leaning her head against his for a moment. When she heard Steve’s response it seemed as if they were all in agreement to move their conversation to a table. Ireland released Bucky from her forced embrace. Tucking a hair behind her ear she gave Steve a crooked smile as she walked back over to her seat in order to collect her things, “Whatever I tell Bucky I’m sure will reach your ears shortly after, so you may as well hear it from me. Besides I’m fairly certain I owe you a drink and a long over-do apology for that kiss I stole from you.” Blushing ever so slightly at the distant memory, “I was so brazen back then.” Shaking her head at herself, purse in hand as she waited for the men to lead the way.
It was only when Ireland, or Gabby, let go of him did Bucky even look to be wanting to move from the stool and away from the bar, slipping a leg off sideways and turning around to finally look straight at her again. He prepared himself. No more memories came. For now, at least. He doubted he’d have that luxury once they were back in the quiet corner discussing exactly how it was both of them still looked precisely as they had back then, minus his now long hair of course. He nodded in agreement with her words. There was no way he’d be hiding anything about this from his best mate unless she directly asked him not to and since she’d just extended her own permission, Bucky knew whatever was coming was fine for the both of them to hear.
He wasn’t sure how far into what had happened to him he would go, giving Ireland a small smile as he began to walk towards where he and Steve had been sitting before. He would have to see how the conversation went and whether he could really trust even an old friend as her with the darkest aspects of his life. “Come on, Rogers,” he called over his shoulder. “Don’t hold us up now,” the quip obviously directed towards his age.
Steve nodded in confirmation when Gabby mentioned that Bucky might just tell him everything later. It was a good possibility, but he'd never pry in order to know anything he wasn't told naturally. "Don't mention it. Though Peggy wasn't happy about it for quite some time." The memory brought a smile to his face. "Like I ever would." He quipped back at Bucky and with agility unmatched by any man of his age, he stood up and took the glass of water in his hands before leading the way and retaking the seat he had occupied previously.
Before walking away from the bar Ireland stepped back towards her stool; having almost forgotten her coat, hat, briefcase, and drink. It was obvious to her that running into these two caused her a great deal of distraction from details she would otherwise be on top of.
It only took her a couple of steps to catch back up to Steve as they moved to the trio of high-backed lounge chairs. “Some might say that my kiss helped Peggy realize just how much she liked a certain solider,” she offered in a playful manner. “So perhaps you might be the one owing me a drink,” Ireland added. Smiling to herself, as she shook her head ever so slightly. She draped her jacket on one corner of her new chair, before hanging her hat on the other corner. “My goodness how quickly I fall back into Gabby’s disposition,” it was a curious feeling for her. “I’m always so focused on moving forward and distancing myself from old identities that tonight is a first for me,” She admitted as she took a seat and tucked her briefcase next to the chair and out of the way.
In retaking his seat from before, Bucky smirked at his friend. “Impressive,” was all he said, leaning back in the seat and turning his attention to Ireland. He chuckled at the mention of her kiss being the reason for Peggy finally realizing just how much she really did love Steve. That had been plainly obvious in one incident he’d recalled a few months ago, where he was answering everything she was saying but the gorgeous redhead only had eyes for Rogers. Oh, how the tables had turned. He’d become invisible. He’d been both thrilled for his mate and somewhat lost, considering Steve had always needed him up until he’d become Captain America.
He remained silent, interested in simply observing, that voice in the back of his mind constantly going on as to how exactly he was supposed to explain his side of things without going deeper into the 70 plus years he had lost.
“Yes. I might owe you a drink.” Steve agreed as his old features showed a broad smile. He wasn’t sure by which name he should call Ireland, so he used none. “So... between us... is it Gabrielle Reese or Ireland Chase?” He decided to address the elephant that now stood over the little coffee table surrounded by the armchairs they now occupied. “Why the name change?”
Ireland smiled as she watched Steve smile in response to her comment. As he asked after her true name her smile faltered. Her heart rate began to quicken as she struggled internally with what to do. As her thoughts cycled her face became neutral as her gaze focused on the coffee table. Exactly how truthful was she allowed to be? What risk was she opening herself up to by being honest…for once? Was she even capable of being honest?
Honesty. The word replayed in her head with a sharp tone to it. It caused her to look over to Bucky as she recalled his comment at the bar. “Full transparency,” she finally voiced. Realizing that was the only option if she wanted to rekindle her old friendship. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves she looked over to Steve. She was too nervous to look at Bucky as she admitted her string of past identities, knowing that it was a longer list then either man realized. “I go by Ireland Chase now. Before Ireland I was Jessie Sawyer. Before that I was Cora Linn Browning. Before that I was Gabrielle Reese, but the name I was born with… was Chance Sullivan,” her voice started out confident. Though as she went on her voice trembled slightly the farther back into her past she went. Just saying her old names made her feel exposed and vulnerable.
Before either could ask why, she continued. “You remember how odd it was,” her finger tracing over the scar on her hand. “How long it took for my cut to heal. You were worried that the glass had cut deeper than you originally thought. You even tried to talk me into going to the medical tent and have a doctor look at it, but I was dismissive of your worry.” Her gaze moving over to Bucky to see if he remembered. “There was something about me I didn’t want the doctors, let alone the government, to know. I have a condition that causes me to age slowly. For every 7 years I age a single year. It also means that my body heals just as slow. A cut that would take a normal person 10-day to recover from takes me 70-days, the very opposite of a certain super solider,” looking back to Steve with a faint smirk. The smirk was the most she could muster with her nerves on edge, holding her breath to see how the pair reacted to confession.
Tags: Bucky, then Steve.